Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memories of Writing

My parents tell many tales of the stories I would tell when I was a little kid. Stories of super heroes fighting against villains, brave knights slaying the dragon to rescue the princess and sometimes super-heroes aiding the brave knight to defeat the evil wizard. Often, these stories involved whatever toys I was playing with at the time, so at times the evil wizard was the Cobra Commander figure, and my brave night was my teddy bear.

While I love these tales, and my parents tell them with obvious pride, I often wonder how unique it is. I mean, don’t all children tell stories with their toys as they play? I know my kid does. It’s part of playing with toys, isn’t it?

So, I don’t often really consider these tales part of my writing life. But, looking at them now, I realize that they are. Even if every kid in the world makes up stories for their toys as they play with them, the truth is, the difference between a writer and everyone else is, we never stopped telling stories when we stopped playing with the toys. (Okay, I never stopped playing, either, to be honest).

My first real memory of writing, though, was when I was in elementary school. Our teacher had given us an assignment that involved writing a short story of approximately 500 words (at least, I think that was it). Most of my classmates groaned. 500 words was a lot! That’s nearly two pages written out in nine year old script. But, me, I couldn’t keep my story within that confining limit.

My Dad remembers this event, and likes to say this: “The teacher just wanted a few paragraphs, but my poor kid had a whole novel in his head.”

And so I did, or at least a novel for a nine year old. I even remember what it was called. “A Shot in the Dark,” and it involved a murder. I was really stressed out over it, though, and didn’t know how to confine my story. So my mom told me to ask the teacher what to do. And so I did.

The teacher smiled at me. “Chris,” she said, “the 500 word limit was a minimum. If you want to write more, please, write more!”

I think now that she was just excited to have a kid that actually wanted to write. And write I did, until I had a full ten pages of story written out. I got an A+ for it.

I don’t really remember writing it, or even what I wrote. What I do remember is the excitement I had in putting words down on paper. I told what I felt was a complete story, though I couldn’t tell you know how much structure it had, weather there was a real plot, or if I built as much suspense as my nine year old brain thought I did. But it didn’t matter, because I had written it. I was so proud of those line, loose leaf, stapled pages with my scrawling printing in pencil. I had written a story, and no one could take that away from me.

Years later, I would experience that same feeling when I finished my first short story, and again when I completed my first novel. It’s a feeling I get almost every time I write sometime.

I wrote this. It’s mine, and I am proud of it. And there is nothing that you can do to take that away from me.

It’s a feeling I try to hold on to, each and every time I sit down to write.

Because I think that without this feeling, none of this would be worthwhile.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Are Writers!

So, lately, I’ve been reading lots of ‘how to write’ books and blog sites. Everything from Steven King’s On Writing to Bird by Bird from Anne Lamont and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and several blogs from authors I follow on Twitter and Facebook. These writers cover a wide spectrum of genre’s. Everything from horror, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, erotica, fiction literature, poets and even a few non-fiction writers.

And one thing struck me about them all today.

They’re all writers.

It may sound like a “dur” statement, but here me out. It didn’t matter what genre they wrote in, or even how long they were writing. They were all writers. And would have been considered writers by everyone else, too. There’s just something about writers that other writers recognize, and it’s nice to see that it’s genreless.

We are all writers.

We’ve all had shitty first drafts. We’ve all gotten rejection letters. Many saw low sales at some point in their careers. We all struggle to get that first sale. We all dream of that day when our names are printed in gold on the spine of a paperback. We spend time in front of our computers, poring out souls out for others to read. We all worry that we’re hacks, and that someday, someone will point that out to everyone. We’ve all dealt with that dreaded blank page, mocking us for not being able to put anything on it. We’ve all struggled with finding inspiration. And we’re all passionate about writing.

No matter what we write, we love doing it. Some of us love doing it so much we do it in multiple genres, which I admire.

So, what I’m really saying here is that, in reading all this stuff, it’s nice to see and feel that I’m not alone. We often say and hear that writing is a lonely craft. And sometimes, it sure feels that way.

But today? Today, I feel like I am part of a much larger community. Today, I feel like a writer.

We are all writers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The first ever #SciFiLitChat transcript

Here's the transcript for this week's #SciFiLitChat, the first ever! Woo! :)


@BlanchardAuthor: #SciFiLitChat is on! Our topic today, world building in Sci-Fi. Come join in the conversation with myself and @surferartchick.
June 23, 2011, 6:32 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Question to Sci-Fi writers: Where do you start when world building your universe? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:33 pm

@surferartchick: #SciFiLitChat is on! Our topic is world building in Sci-Fi. Come join the conversation!
June 23, 2011, 6:34 pm

@surferartchick: When I start building a world I start with a sketch of what I want the tone to convey. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:35 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: My world building usually starts with story needs. Do I need royalty? If so, I need to explain why. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:39 pm

@surferartchick: @BlanchardAuthor royalty? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:41 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Sci-Fi shares lots of world building needs with fantasy, but lots of it is unique to Sci-Fi. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:41 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: For example, dwarves and elves serve well known roles, but aliens can be made for whatever role you need. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:42 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @surferartchick As an example. Star Wars and Dune both used royalty. It's an important question, to me. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:44 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @Grokdad I agree that the world needs to match the characters, but it also needs to meet story needs. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @surferartchick I've seen SciFi with spaceships and royalty both. Not uncommon. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @Grokdad Sometimes, it works better, for me at least, to have some of the setting sketched out before the actual writing. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@surferartchick: I try to draft the major components of tech as a secondary to the story. Sprinkling it--if you will--into the world. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:49 pm

@surferartchick: @wrytersblockDH Ah, I see. Royalty can also mean military regimes too, I get that. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:50 pm

@surferartchick: Hey @momebie what are your thoughts on world creation? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:51 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @surferartchick Classic battleTech is a prime example of using Feudal system to rule the vast span of stars. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:51 pm

@momebie: I think it's one of my very favorite things to do. There's little more exciting than building a place from the ground up. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@momebie: It's why I'm trying to teach myself to draw, so that I can better visualize the things that spring into my head. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@surferartchick: Though, I think it is very important to set the rules of your futuristic society quickly in your work. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: I agree with @surferartchick re: Tech. I usually let story determine tech needs. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:54 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @momebie Not a bad idea. I recommend maps for fantasy worlds, something like that for Sci-Fi could work too. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:55 pm

@surferartchick: '@momebie That's one of the tools I use when creating a world. If I can reference it later via image it keeps the world inline #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:56 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @US_Nessie @Grokdad I try to have the world at least sketched out before I write, but I only reveal it little by little. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:57 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor @momebie I've been known to draw star maps for my universe, for continuity and visualizing. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:58 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor @momebie I've even had story ideas spring up from drawing and labeling my maps. It's a creative booster. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@momebie: .@surferartchick Yes, that's what I'm going for. Now I just have extensive word document notes and they can be hard to search. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @wrytersblockDH @momebie It helps to have that visual. I've drawn solar system & starship maps to help me stay consistent. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor I've drawn ships and emblems out to help me describe them in my writing. (Built a couple out of Lego too :D) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:02 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: For some reason, I'm not seeing any new posts in #SciFiLitChat... anyone else experiencing this?
June 23, 2011, 7:16 pm

@momebie: @wrytersblockDH I think what I really need for myself is a wiki. Which will come in handy when I'm Lucas big, right? ;) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:19 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @wrytersblockDH Lego's, Nice! You ever use them to create aliens? ;) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:19 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Well, gang, I gotta go back to work, so that's it for #SciFiLitChat for me. Please, keep the conversation going. It's been fun!
June 23, 2011, 7:27 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: I'm going to try and get a transcript of today's #SciFiLitChat up on my blog later today.
June 23, 2011, 7:27 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Meanwhile, join @surferartchick and I next Thursday at 11:30am Pacific for another #SciFiLitChat.
June 23, 2011, 7:28 pm

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Waste of Time

I am currently reading On Writing by Steven King. I’m just in the beginning of it, his biography, and I’ve reached the part where he tells the story of his first self published endeavor in eight grade. His English teacher pulls him aside and commits that most unforgivable of sins: she tells this budding artist that he is wasting his time and talent writing “junk.”

I’m sure everyone reading this can remember a time when, early in their carriers as writers (or even some other artistic endevour) that someone has said this time them. Usually someone we care about, someone that we look up to, someone who’s opinion matters to us. Most often, it is several someones, strung out over a period of time.

“Why do you waste your time writing that fantasy crap?”

“Sci-fi? You should write something important.”

“You’re clearly a talented writer, why waste your time on this?”

As if sci-fi/fantasy writers have no talent. I’d love to see someone tell Neil Gaiman that he’s wasting his time. Or go to J. K. Rolling now and ask why she isn’t writing something important. See, it’s only a waste of time until you succeed.

And usually combined with these statements are the people that want to encourage you, but secretly feel the same way. They say things like this:

“I think it’s wonderful that you want to write, but what are you going to do for a living?”

“That’s great, but you really need to learn a skill you can make money with.”

And while, yes, it is true that most authors still need a day job, the fact is, these people are telling new artists, most of whom are still unsure of themselves, unsteady in their new paths, that they do not have what it takes to make it. And this, to me, is unforgivable.

I speak from personal experience here. I’ve had people I love and who matter to me say many of these things. And I didn’t write for years because of them. I spent most of my time in high-school wondering what I would do for a living, because I was suppressing my artistic desires. Because I belived that I was not good enough to make money doing them. I’m not blaiming these people, you need to understand. I’m just saying that what I did was believe the things they said to me, because I didn’t yet know better. And I really wish people would stop doing this to new artists.

One day, after I had decided to become a writer, and fuck it all if no one else agreed with me, I was asked this question by a co-worker when she found out I wanted to write fantasy and sci-fi novels.

“Why? You’re clearly talented, why not write something more important? Why not write that Great American Novel?”

Here’s what I said back to her.

I don’t want to write the Great American Novel. I don’t even know what that is. I just want to write a good story that will entertain people. I want to write a book that people will read, finish, put down and call up their friend and say “I just finished this great book, you gotta read it.” I’m not looking to make history, or have my novel added to some High School required reading list. I just want to write good stories that entertain people, maybe make them think, and have them sharing those stories with friends.

And when she nodded her head and then asked again “but why fantasy?” I replied this.

Because I love it.

And this is what I want to tell all new writers out there. Don’t let people push you back, don’t let them pull you down, don’t let them stop you from writing what you want to write.

There are a lot of genre’s out there that I am not a fan of. Romance, paranormal romance and horror top my list. But I will never, ever, tell a new writer that they shouldn’t waste their time on that “junk.” If they are fans of those genres, if they are passionate about what they write, they should by all means go and write it. Just because it’s not something I would read doesn’t mean it’s something that shouldn’t be written. It just means that I’m not that target audience.

So, find what you’re passionate about, find what works for you, and write it.

Because it’s not a waste of time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It is the fuel that drives us to create. It is the fire that burns our minds and pours out onto the page as prose. It is the sway of a lovers hips that forces poetry to spring from our lips.

It is elusive and ethereal, yet without it, we cannot create.

But what, exactly, is inspiration? And how does one go about getting some?

Here’s the definition as it appears on http://www.merriam-webster.com.

Definition of INSPIRATION

1 a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

2 a: the act of drawing in; specifically: the drawing of air into the lungs

3 a : the quality or state of being inspired
b: something that is inspired (a scheme that was pure inspiration)

4 a: an inspiring agent or influence

I think that most writers tend to think of Inspiration as 1 a. For us, our divine influence is known as a Muse, whatever form that fay creature takes. I, myself, have and still use this definition. But, I think the danger with using this definition is the very ephemeral nature of it.

“I need to be inspired to write,” we as writers often say. “Inspiration struck!” is another great quote. But, both of these quotes highlight the point I am making. We tend to think of inspiration as something needed to write (like a painter needs paint, we need inspiration), but at the same time, it’s rare, difficult to find or just plain not around often. I think that as writers, being dependent on this unknowable, mystical force to suddenly drop ideas or stories in your lap is a bad idea, and one that I have spent time trying to stop doing myself.

Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about inspiration, and I have come to the conclusion that it is really more along the lines of definition 2. The act of drawing in. I even like the second half, used as a metaphor. We draw inspiration into us in the same way we draw breath into our lungs.

But, I heard you say, where do we find inspiration to draw in? Air is all around us, but where is inspiration?

And this, my dear fellow writers, is the question. And my answer is simple.

The same place air is. All around us.

When I look out my window at work, I see clouds, a parking lot, other buildings, people, cars, trees, power lines, hills and the city of in the distance. On my desk is my computer, my little figures from miniature games I used to play, pictures of my family, a book on African Wisdom, my zoo calendar, a clock and various other odds and ends. I draw these in on a daily basis.

And I draw in other things too. Books I am currently reading, songs I listen to in the car, conversations co-workers have, my child and wife, and the things they say. TV shows and video games. I am constantly drawing in inspiration, all day, every day, just like I draw in air. All that input is stored in my brain, and it is my job as an artist to draw that data out and put it on the paper.

When I say “inspiration struck!” today, what I mean is that two or more of the bits of daily data I draw in have collided in my brain, and a new story idea has germinated. This happens to me often.

For example, during the recent “rapture” thing that was causing such an uproar, I heard on the radio that the guy who predicted the event once predicted the arrival of Jesus sometime in the 90’s. It occurred to me that if he was right, and the return was really a birth, then Jesus would be around 17 now. That idea, of a teenaged Jesus, collided with an idea I had of telling the story of a modern teen who discovered he had magic abilities, and resulted in the idea of telling the story of an American teen who learns he is the return of Jesus. That was inspiration striking.

But, more important than this, is the idea that I don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike. I can instead go through the catalogue of data I have been storing in my head, and draw out ideas. It’s not easy, for sure. Just like writing itself, it’s a skill that must be practiced, but I have been working on it, and I find now that when I say I am not feeling ‘inspired,’ I have the power to change that. I take a walk and get some new data, or I simply think about events from the past few weeks, and in a matter of minutes, I have inspiration. Maybe it’s a trickle rather than the thunder bolt most of us want, but a trickle of inspiration constantly is better than a thunder bolt every now and then. It’s far less painful, that’s for sure.

In the end, I have come to believe that inspiration is simply allowing my mind to do what it does best: gather data, percolate over the data gathered, and join together that data in new and interesting ways.

I hope that this article has in some small way inspired you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

On the Road of Research

Little did I realize what path I was setting myself down when I wrote my blog post last Friday.

This weekend, I took the plunge, and started researching self-publishing, specifically in terms of ePublishing. I asked fellow writers, presented the idea to friends, and got feedback from my wife.

That last one is a big deal. Normally, my wife doesn’t read this blog. So, I was surprised and a little afraid when she told me she read it. Then, she surprised me again when she said she supported me self-publishing, specifically my novel The Windsmith. She thinks its that good, and it needs to be out there.

I can’t really say why I was surprised, in retrospect. Fear, I guess. I was living in fear that she would think I was giving up if I self-published, or that she would have the same feelings about it that I mentioned on Friday. Instead, she informed me that it made sense to her, because that’s how poets do it.

She’s a poet, by the way. One of my favorites. But I’m baised.

Still, her support gives me hope. Maybe this IS something I can do. If nothing else, self-publishing can give me something to put in my portfolio when I send in queries to agents and publishers.

I’m starting to see a light in the dark tunnel of self-publishing, a light that is shed by knowledge that I have gained from the little research I have done into it.

And man, is there ever a lot of material out there to go through on the subject. Still, I am determine to learn all that I can, so I can answer truly if this is for me.

I’ll be sure to keep everyone here posted as I take this journey. I just want to end this post with a big thanks to everyone that has provided me with links, feedback, support and books to go to for more information. It is well and truly appreciated to know that I am not walking this path before, and that, in fact, this is a well paved road.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Charlie Comes Home

This is a story I felt inspired to write today after talking my morning walk. It turned out to be exactly 100 words, which I think is pretty cool. So, please enjoy.


Charlie Comes Home

Charlie looked across the street. No car in the driveway. Good. That meant that Dan wasn’t home yet. Quickly, he sprinted across the street towards the side gate to the backyard. He leaped up onto the boxes by the fence and over, and then slipped in through the back window. Just in time to hear the car pull up. He quickly curled up on the couch and a few moments later, Dan walked in.

“Charlie, I’m home!” Dan called, and Charlie looked up. “Ah, another long day of doing noting, I see.”

“Meow,” Charlie replied, and Dan rubbed his head.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fears Of Self Publishing

I suspect that this blog post will be unpopular. But, I also hope that it will spark conversation, because that’s why I am writing it. This is something I need to get off my chest.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been thinking about self publishing (specifically, publishing e-books) for some time now. I’ve weighed it vs. traditional publishing and seeing where I want to go with my writing carrer. I see writers I follow both on Twitter and Facebookk discuss the release of their latest book, and they’re referring to eBooks they self published. And what occurs to me is that they are getting their books out there. People are actually reading their stuff. And no one is reading mine. Because I’m still trying to get published the traditional way.

And let me first start off by stating why I want to be published the traditional way.

It’s pure go.

See, I want to be able to walk into a Barns and Noble and see my name on the spine of a paperback on that book shelf. And as far as I know of, no one that is self published get’s there. It’s been a dream of mine to get there for years now (true, it took me years to actually start doing something about it, but that’s a different blog post), and I not only find it hard to let go of, I don’t think I want to. I like the idea of being published traditionally.

And here’s where I start to get into some of my fears about eBooks.

Self published books, in my opinion, are, for lack of a better word, professional. These are professional writers. eBooks that have been self published are written by amitures.

Cue the hissing and throwing of things at this blog.

Listen, I know there are a lot of very talented self-published authors out there. Hell, I’m a Kindle owner, and am reading an eBook right now by Scott Siggler, who self-publishes all his stuff. I’ve also got a book written by someone I follow on Kindle, a free book that he’s putting out there as a gateway to his other stuff that cost money. I’m hoping it’s good enough to warrant spending said money on his stuff.

But the truth is, there’s a perception of amitureness in self-published eBooks. I’ve tried several books before finding Scott, and they were bad. Badly edited, badly formatted, no covers, etc. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m discovering more and more that I’m not the only one with this perception.

So, a big fear here is that if I self publish, I have a huge perception image to overcome in order to convince everyone that my books are worth spending money.

Maybe this isn’t true. Maybe there’s a big enough eBook readership that knows there are plenty of good books out there that they are willing to risk a few bucks on an unknown, but for now, it feels like a huge mountain to climb.

Another fear I have is related to money.

If I want to climb that mountain and rise above the chaff, I need to make my book so polished that it shines like a new car. Or better still, a diamond. And that means making it look as professional as a traditionally published book. I would have to hire an editor and pay them to make my book look pretty. I would have to hire an artist to give my book a cover, preferably one that doesn’t only do the painting, but also one that does that cover design. I say this because I’ve tried my hand at cover art before, and let’s just say that I am not a graphic designer. And then there’s promotion.

That’s all a pretty significant outlay of my own cash before my book is even up for sale. What happens if the book doesn’t sell? I’m out some cash.

And that’s a real fear I have, to be out of cash.

And a final fear I have is that self-publishing will somehow prevent me from getting published the traditional way. I mean, can I pub self-published books in my bio? Should I? Will the perception I mentioned above leave the publisher/agent afraid to touch me with a 10 foot pole? I don’t know.

This is not to say that I don’t have fears about traditional publishing. I do, but they just don’t seem as insurmountable as these fears are.

All that said, I realize that these ARE fears, and as such, I shouldn’t let them blind me to the possibility of eBooks. I need to figure out how real these fears are, and are they truly as insurmountable as I believe them to be.

I’ve been thinking of taking a book that I wrote that I had no intention of getting published the traditional way, and putting it out there as an eBook to see how well it does and if this is a viable market. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not good enough to get published traditionally. It is. It just wasn’t written for that purpose.

I am also taking an eBook plunge in another way. Some friends and I are working on an anthology that we plan to put up on the Kindle store. Maybe THAT’s a better test that self-publishing my other novel.

The point here is that there’s just a lot of stuff about eBook publishing that I just don’t know. And I guess until I do, these fears will continue to get in my way.

And so, I guess my next step is to do some serious research into self publishing eBooks, try to get some of my questions answered, and maybe find a way to test the waters.

Because the real truth is, I don’t want to let fear, any fear, from ruling my life.