Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores Submission Period Begins — I’m Planning on Submitting

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Submissions Open

So, later this week, the submissions open for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, an online magazine that I’ve submitted to in the past.  My very first submission was one that the editors wanted me to revise and resubmit.  While I wasn’t adverse to do that, some of the suggestions that were made to make the story better, while well-meaning, seemed to take the story in a different direction than what I envisioned, so I didn’t actually make the edits.  I’ve submitter 2 or 3 other stories, but they’ve pretty much declined all my other stories.  However, since they are going to open, I need to resubscribe to Duotrope (I’ve let my subscription lapse) and see what stories I haven’t submitted and try one of them.

Getting Back on the Wagon

I’ve submitted perhaps 1 or 2 stories in the past six months.  One the thing about the drafting process is that I’m slow at it.  Right now, I’m just on the 2nd Draft for The Independent so that one won’t be ready in time.  I still have the 1st Draft of Project Skye and I’m just now working on the 1st Draft of Project Star, so, again, these will not be ready in time, so I’ll have to go with work that I’ve already completed (which I don’t think is my best).  Still, while there’s very little chance that the stories I send in will be taken, there is 0% chance they’ll be taken if I don’t submit, so I’m going to have to get back on the wagon and get back to submitting, even if I’m not confident in the story’s chances.

Writing With Confidence (or, Fake it Until You Make It)

Technically, I HAVE made it as I’m published and received money for my works.  There are so many writers who don’t make it that far.  However, I’ve not yet reached my own personal goal of full time writing/novelist.  I get 2-3 publications in a year and then spend another 2-3 years waiting on the next “set” of publications.  No one can build a career that way.  However, not submitting is a SURE-FIRE way of NOT getting my writing career off the ground.  So, regardless of what I think of the quality of my stories, until I have a better idea to revise it, I need to make sure that I have a story out at all times.  In my case, fake it until you make it again.  Hopefully, next week I can update you on which story I sent out.  Have a great day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

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Gaming Over the Weekend

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So, this weekend, I didn’t really do a whole lot of gaming, but I did get in some gaming to help with the work-life balance.  I only played three games this weekend, so I’ll talk about each one below.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this was the first game that I played this weekend and I tried to do one main story mission and a couple of side missions.  I’m slowly closing in on the end of the game, but the super high difficulty that I’m currently playing at in the game world means that I go down with only two or three hits, so I have to play it pretty slowly and tactically (which, I’m sure is the reason why the game designers required me to move to this difficulty to continue to get in-game rewards for completing actions).  Without this artificial spike in difficulty, I would have been close to finishing (if not already finished).  As it is, I’m about halfway through this province, with 2 or three provinces left, not including side missions, of which I have about 2-3 in each of the game’s 10+ provinces. Hopefully, even at this reduced pace, I should finish the game sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving and I can move on and give my time fully to another game.

Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4 Exclusive)

This one is an open world game in which you get to play as Spider-Man (& Peter Parker).  Those who have followed the blog know that Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel hero and they do him justice in this game.  The animations are spectacular (pardon the pun) and the story (even in the beginning) is amazing (again, pardon the pun).  Insomniac Studios has redeemed themselves in my eyes for their X-Box exclusive game Sunset Overddrive and their lackluster game Fuse, both of which turned me against them, but with the soft reboot of Ratchet and Clank and now, Marvel’s Spider-Man (both PS4 exclusives), I’m now back in their camp.  I’d love for them to cement a partnership with Sony, but I think they are too independent for that to happen.  However, the Spider-Man game is simple Astonishing (again, pardon the pun), from suits, to gameplay, to everything, this game if filled with Spider-Man lore.  I can’t wait to play more!

The Crew

This game is a guilty pleasure for me in that I’ve finished it and I’ve done all that I intend to do with it in terms of gameplay, story, exploration, etc.  However, I just love cruising around the truncated map of the U.S. for some reason.  My original love of the game didn’t come from the story which wasn’t great, but wasn’t as bad as many made it out to be (a revenge fantasy of sorts, against an enemy who killed the protagonist’s brother to take over his number one position in the car gang the brother started.  The kid brother did time for the crime that he didn’t commit and so he joins the gang to go after this killer once he gets out.  Typical story that you’ve seen a million times before.  What I loved about the game, however, is the “exploration” that you get to do in the game.  I love driving the roads to see what’s out there, off the beaten path.  That’s what I’m looking forward to in the sequel, The Crew 2 whenever I get it.  Still, there’s just something about driving those roads, even though I already know what’s around the corner, that still compels me to pull it out and play it for an hour or two each weekend.

Well, that’s it for this weekend–hopefully, I’ll be able to report a more diverse group of games next week (fingers crossed).  Have a good day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

Chromebook Nation

Chromebooking It

I was able to, at the beginning of the semester, to get a Chromebook and it has really helped me to be far more productive.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still an Apple MacBook Pro fan. However, for general web browsing and research, the Chromebook has been a godsend (something I should have gotten over the summer and I would have been far more productive, but hindsight is 20/20).  A Chromebook, as long as you use web-based apps, and have an internet connection, is a perfect, cheap, alternative to most computers.  Is it as sophisticated and versatile–no, it isn’t.  However, it does the one thing that I need/want it to do: basic access to the internet and web-based platforms WITHOUT having to use Microsoft’s Windows.

Alternatives to Windows

Basically, until Microsoft stops 1) criminalizing users of its Windows Operating System by making them register copies of the operating system with a license that they can’t alter and 2) forcing draconian licensing agreements on users of its X-Box systems, I will NOT support them in ANY form (to the best of my ability).  In the age of corporate conglomeration, it is almost impossible to truly boycott a corporation’s products in order to affect change in any meaningful way.  However, Microsoft (along with Electronic Arts) is the poster-child for corporate machinations that I simply do not agree with no matter how much money their shenanigans make for their shareholders.  As such, I refuse to purchase Microsoft products or products that I know will directly or indirectly benefit Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, EA).  As such, I use Macs and Chromebooks because they 1) do what I need them to do, 2) allow me to accomplish the things that I want to accomplish and 3) they DON’T benefit Microsoft.

Basic Web Browsing

My school (MTSU) uses a web-based platform (D2L) to help students and professors move into learning in a digital environment.  Since my wifi adapter no longer works on my 2008 Macbook Pro, it is very difficult to find places on campus where I can use an ethernet cable to “plug in” and find places where I can help my students become stronger students through grading and discussions online. However, the Chromebook helps me to achieve this as it is robust enough to handle the web-based nature of D2L.  Also, since most “apps” now have an Android app and/or a web-based presence, it is much more useful than one would think it might be based on the specs alone.  The true strength of the Chromebook is that, as long as you have an internet connection, it is pretty much a full featured computer and analogous to its “bigger” brothers–Windows PC/Macs.  Now this is really true if you’re not into gaming or any other processor intensive tasks, but if most of what you do/use it for is web browsing, streaming, light audio-visual, then it functions pretty much as (at least for me) a fully functional computer–allowing me to leave my MacBook Pro at home.  I’m able to MOST everything I want to via the web or web apps, it has long battery life (up to 2 – 3 days of medium to heavy use on 1 charge cycle), and it is highly portable, so it is the perfect solution where I have WiFi 90% of the time.

This isn’t a permanent solution, but it is A solution.  One that is helping to at least stay current in my graduate school and creative writing lifestyle.  Without it, I would be losing ground instead of treading water.  So, I say, until I can Macbook Pro it, I’m going to continue to Chromebook it.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

Character Sketch: The Independent (Ryn)

Authors Note: My character is NOT based on Ginger Howard–my character is African American, female, and wears a “baseball cap.”  That is the ONLY similarity to the above image (still, I thought it would be cool to highlight Ginger Howard’s accomplishments!)

So, today I finished the character sketch for my 2nd Draft of my short story, The Independent.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but I do want to tell a little bit about the process.  I’m trying to create a character that resembles a real life person (who is larger than life).

Family Heirlooms

One of the things that I decided was that I wanted to make sure that I did was to give Ryn a “history.”  I’ve tried to do that by creating a link between her and the past generations of her family by giving her a family heirloom that she uses in the story that gives her  an emotional hook to both her past and her present.  I’ve done that by giving her a “baseball cap” that is her father’s and is really important to her and her father.

Space Story grounded in “Reality”

In Star Wars, Mark Hamill is said to have been concerned about the unreality of the story, but Alec Guinness was supposed to have helped him by reminding him that even in fantasy, their has to be a link to reality.  That’s one of things that I tried to do with this character sketch by making sure that I gave Ryn a true “reality.”  I hope that it is a not a trite reality, but I wanted to try to create something that is more “realistic” than what I normally write.

One Surprising Thing

One thing that surprised me as I was doing this character sketch was the background section.  The background for Ryn came together in a surprising way and I was surprised that I came up with this particular background for her.  I don’t know that it will stick (ie that I will keep it or use it for the story), but I really think that it us both unique and quite strange (for me).

Anyway, I found that Ryn was a great character to come up with a Character Sketch for my 1st (well, 2nd time) out in a while.  I intend to make this step something that I do for my 2nd drafts and hopefully this will making my stories better.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 25)

 

 

 

1st Try

So far, I have only sold one story on the first try: Dragonhawk One of the reasons why I believe that it was so successful is that even though I had the plot for the story in mind when writing the story, I also used (for the only time time since I restarted my writing “career” by buying Storymill and then later Scrivener) the Character Sketch Template Sheets provided by Scrivener.  One of the things that the character sheets forced me to do was to think about my characters from the external and the internal

External

So, on the Character Sheets, there is a place to fill out all of the external characteristics of the character.  What do they look like, what is their background, etc.  All of the things you might ask yourself when filling out a biography for a character.  Sure, it isn’t much, just spaces where you can write a paragraph or so, but I did that for both of the main characters in the story: Kelfryn (the young man who was a Hawkrider, but wanted to be a Dragonrider), and Scryfe (his mind-bonded hawk, who didn’t understand his rider’s obsession with dragons and dragon eggs).  It really didn’t take that long to write out each one–maybe half an hour to one full hour for each one.  However, when it came to describing the characters and knowing the history, my mind was able to weave a narrative around them that made them seem (to the editor who bought the story, and hopefully his readers), well, alive in some undefinable way.  It also made it easier, for me, to come up with a reason why  he was doing what he was doing that seemed both rational and in keeping with the character.

Internal

Perhaps the most important point is the fact that the character sheet provided a place for internal conflicts–i.e., what is the character struggling with internally.  For Kelfryn, he wanted so much to be a Dragonrider of old and to have the status of a Dragonrider.  His great grandfather had been one as had countless generations before that and in the world I created, even though there were no more Dragonriders, there was still an air of mystique about them and a reverence.  Even though he knew it was forbidden in his culture, his desire to bring them back trumped his good sense and he (pardon he pun) “hatched” a plan to steal an egg, thus setting the story in motion.

Concluding Thoughts

As I said earlier, this is the only story which has sold on the first try–and I didn’t even like the story all that much (the kid learns his lesson while I wanted a fun adventure story).  While I may never have another story accepted on the first try, this incident is trying to tell me something: good characters need both internal and external conflicts.  To help me, I printed out several character sheets.  My goal, of course, is to use them for each of my projects to help get at the inner conflicts and to create well-rounded and dynamic characters. I’m starting this with The Independent.  I’m working on the 2nd Draft now and I’m hopeful that a Character Sketch Sheet will help me to create Ryn (the protagonist) into a round and dynamic character.

Perhaps, one day, I can even reach the rarefied heights of getting back to getting a publication on the first try.  It’s something to shoot for anyway.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1)

Avengers Infinity War — Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

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Image Source: https://www.technobuffalo.com/2018/09/03/avengers-4-where-are-the-avengers/ (Possible Spoilers-tells where everyone ends up AFTER the movie, click at your own risk!)

Not Your Typical Marvel Movie

So, I’m just going to assume that most people who are interested in Marvel movies or comic book movies has already seen this movie, but just in case people haven’t, this is a Marvel movie like no other.  It has been setting up since the very first Avengers film.  It is essentially the entire Marvel universe (with exceptions) in multiple storylines fighting against the “big bad” of the movie, Thanos, to keep him from getting the Infinity Stones (various items that have been teased in Marvel movies like the Tesseract).  However, this movie doesn’t follow the typical Marvel formula because it has multiple heroes in multiple places trying to keep Thanos (or his agents) from getting the stones. While some times wildly inventive, these multiple storylines are also wildly disjointed and make the movie feel more disjointed than it probably should be.

People Keep Dying

For me, I’m just going to come right and say it (don’t worry–no spoilers), people just keep on dying in this movie.  Here’s the thing, deaths in movies are sometimes justified (such as the death that occurs in Star Wars.  Each death of each of the characters (both major and minor–I’m thinking of the Death Star scene and the “Trench Run” scene especially) either propel the movie forward or increase the tension and make us feel that the main character’s lives and mission are in serious peril.  In this movie, characters keep dying, but it doesn’t feel earned.  It feels like the filmmakers wanted to be shocking and provocative.  See, look who can kill, now just wait and watch who we kill next.  While guaranteed to keep you glued to your seats to see who’s dying next, it doesn’t really make for compelling drama, nor does it really engender repeat viewings (I’ve owned the movie for a week now and I’ve not rewatched it once–by this time with the other Avengers and the later Captain America movies (which are essentially Avengers 1.5/Avengers 2.5 movies), I would have rewatched them multiple times by now.

Avengers: Infinity War (part 2)

Next year, we will have the resolution to this story with part 2 of this movie.  I’m pretty sure the “solution” to the movie was sown by “seeds” planted in this movie (pay particular attention to the scene where Stark and Doctor Strange discuss possible outcomes after Strange looks into the future), but it is possible that this is a misdirect by the filmmakers.  Either way, I’m not sure how much “fun” I’m going to have with the second part based on the “bad taste” the first part left in my mouth.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a case of Empire Strikes Back, where the second entry is by necessity darker than the first, but rather one where I feel the filmmakers tried to use shock value to enhance the tension rather than going with heroic and meaningful deaths.  In closing, I also have to say I wasn’t a fan of Thanos’s motivation. Genocide, for any reason (and that includes population control) is still Genocide.  While he was “a bad dude,” there was a surprising amount of sympathy given to the character for this movie that 1) wasn’t earned, 2) other movies featuring him in scenes didn’t show/highlight and 3) wasn’t actually relevant to the character. Sure, you don’t want a scene chewing villain, but in my mind, Thanos lacks the cold, calculated terror of a Darth Vader, who while there is good inside of him, does some personally horrific things to get his motives accomplished.  Thanos is from the newer, Kylo Ren school of villainy, where he has to whine, emote, and act like a petulant child before he can enact his twisted schemes because, by golly, we (the audience) gotta’ feel sorry for the poor slob as he’s only trying to do the “right” thing by his way of thinking.  Oh, boo hoo.  Sorry, I (personally) don’t care for this particular type of villain and it throws me out of the movie every time I encounter one like that (Syndrome from the Incredibles has a similar effect on me).

Overall Score: B-/C+

Okay, so I’m being charitable with the B- as there are some very inventive and terrific fight scenes (as usual for the Russo Brothers).  However, some characters do some pretty dumb things (especially for Marvel movies) and I really didn’t care for the way Thanos was sometimes handled/depicted.  It is a spectacle, no doubt, and is pretty much required viewing to stay relevant with popular culture, but as a movie, it isn’t nearly as strong as several other Marvel movies.  I’m not sure where I’m going to place it on the list, but I can give you a preview here: it will not unseat my top 3 Marvel movies currently.  Not slagging on the movie per se, but it just didn’t connect with me. Too much emphasis on cheap, unearned deaths, not enough on true characterization and story pretty much sums up my reaction to it in one sentence.  This is the first Russo Brothers Marvel movie that has been a swing and miss with me.

Writing To Learn

So, I’m still learning how to be a good writer AND a good blogger.  I’m not afraid to admit it.  And part of this is admitting that I still make mistakes.  The blog is a great example of that.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write it, but rather that the time it takes has overwhelmed the time I had to give it and I did not make allowances for it.  What do I mean by this?  Simple.  I used to get up early and write and blog entry.  However, I found that untenable because it routinely takes an hour to 1 1/2 hours to write an entry because I’m so meticulous.  To me, a blog isn’t a way of expressing your thoughts, but rather it is more of a mini-essay that I craft.  Sometimes these mini-essays go quick, but more often than not, I’m at 500, 750, and 1000 words before I realize it and then I have to cut it short because I’ve run out of time.  When I’m already pressed for time in the mornings, this created some real stress.

Solutions

So, I came up with a way around this by trying to do them all on the weekends.  This way, I get all my entries done for the week and I wouldn’t be so stressed about having to rush to get them done.  That worked, except it ate up the time that I needed for other things such as reading, gaming, and “life” outside of school and work. So, it became harder and harder to get it done during the weekends.  Now, however, I’m trying to simply work in the spare time that I have (which during August was pretty much nil).  I should be reading for class, but I’m going to finish this post and “bank” it so that it shows up on Monday and pretty much do this everyday (or at least 6 days out of the week) so that I can pretty much have content going up daily without all the stress of trying to get it done on the same day.

Short and Sweet

I’m also going to work on shortening the posts and try to keep them in the 250-500 word range by having (like a story) a beginning, middle, and end (or for you non-fiction buffs out there), an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion (which is what you’re reading right now).  While I may not be able to go into as much depth and detail as I (personally) would like, it will still help me to get back into writing consistently and ordering my thoughts in a way that will be helpful to get me back to writing creatively which is something I’ve also struggled with during the past month.  Mistakes happen–it’s how you deal with those mistakes and how you get back on the horse after the mistake has been made that helps to define you. I’m hopeful that readers who have stuck with me during this past month will find new and varied content in the coming months to end out the year.

Have a great day!

Word Count: 226 Words (Graphic Novel – Ship of Shadows) — added 1 comic book page to the story for a current total of 24 pages of script.

Sidney