Finished EdgeDancer (Novella) by Brandon Sanderson: Mini-Review (Non-Spoilers)

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EdgeDancer Cover From the Stormlight Archive.  Image Source: Amazon

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.
  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

A Bite-Sized Interlude

So, last week I finished EdgeDancer by Brandon Sanderson after a bad day of classes (I won’t go into the particulars, but it was one of those “Bear Eats You” days).  In a nutshell, I thought it was a good story.  It is one that I wish that I’d known about before buying/starting Oathbringer by Sanderson as it is a prequel of sorts and it delayed my beginning Oathbringer until I finished reading it.  It is part of the new trend of authors releasing “side” stories in-between entries in the mainline series.  Tad Williams has done it–in fact, I still haven’t had a chance to buy the actual  new”mainline” novel in his Osten Ard series because I only just bought his novella and finished it earlier this spring.  To my knowledge Elizabeth Moon hasn’t done that with her Vatta series, but Diane Duane has done it with her Young Wizards series (and for this one, I bought the mainline entry, not realizing that their were two side stories available that I’m going to have to go back and get at some point).  In the mid-80’s, EdgeDancer might have been a full novel as it clocked in at about 200 pages.  However, as Oathbringer is approximately 1,000 pages in length (and is in the general range of Sanderson’s normal length), this book is only about 20% of what the author is capable of writing.

A New Character and a New Power

EdgeDancer focuses on a new character, Lift and her new abilities.  I’m actually not sure if we’ve seen Lift before–I somewhat feel that we might have seen her (or maybe it was the characters she interacts with) in an Interlude to the main story, so if she isn’t completely new, please forgive my memory (I haven’t read Bks 1 & 2 recently).  I found the story to be pretty good.  The main character’s characterization was excellent and the setting was well done.  I felt the ending seemed to veer slightly as it has a misdirection that I’m not sure completely works (no spoilers), but the resolution of the story was strong enough that I immediately jumped into Oathbringer.  I love Lift’s powers and can’t wait to see if they will be worked into the mainline story.  The antagonist of the story was well done, if off the stage for most of the story and I have to say that even with the ending lurching wildly, I did still enjoy the final confrontation scene.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average):  This story is a good set up for Oathbringer.  Is it necessary?  No, but it is fun and if you enjoy the world of the Stormlight Archive series then it gives you a new character with new powers in a setting we haven’t seen much of in the series.  It is available in either a standalone volume or in a large volume, Arcanum Unbound with novellas from his other fantasy series.

Sidney




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Author’s Note: All Tomorrow’s Children

 

I’ve actually already written an Author’s Note on All Tomorrow’s Children, but I probably should have called it more of a “Rough Draft” Author’s Note because it really only discussed the inspiration of the story and some of the genre aspects of the story.  Now that I’ve finished the Working Draft of the story and just need to edit and polish it before I start submitting it to various markets, I wanted to do a full and complete breakdown on just what the story is just as I did for Here Be Monsters and WarLight.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – ALL TOMORROW’S CHILDREN

The Title

So this title has been kicking around in my mind almost sense I joined the Chattanooga Public library way back in 1996.  It was always around connected to a set of people using Psionics (mental powers–telepathy, telekinesis, etc.).  The original conception was around a group of kids who, in the future, were dominated and controlled by a fascist state.  They escaped and rebelled and fought agains the regime.  It was supposed to be a graphic novel, but I could never get it to come together.  A couple of years ago (my third year as a 6th grade teacher) a new idea came to me about a family of Psionics rather than a group of kids.

Theme

So, in the summer of last year, Sky News (British TV station) did a special report on JIHADI BRIDES and how many of them were lured into the camps of Jihadis based on elaborate promises made to them by these organizations.  Yes, super controversial, I know, but this is when the idea for the story finally crystalized.  What if one sister was lured into and recruited by jihadis for the cause of freeing Psionics from being discriminated vs the other sister who only came to lend her psychic talents to heal and make things better?  This is where/when I began the story in earnest.  It has undergone multiple revisions just to get to this point.  I see it as violence vs non-violence (Malcolm X vs Dr. Martin Luther King Jr).

Length

So this story isn’t very long and isn’t filled with a whole lot of details.  Outside of the mental powers, there’s not even a lot of “sci-fi” going on. I wanted to keep it short and simple, but I may have made it too short and not enough sci-fi.  On this final polishing pass, I may look for places where I can add in future technology to help distinguish as a sci-fi story, rather than a modern day story.

Time to Create

This took a long time to write–I’ve been working on it pretty in some form or another after I saw the video.  I’ve working on it in-between working on my school work, working on grading papers and teaching, working on it while doing many other things.  Also, I’ve had a really hard time writing it and a really hard time finding the TIME to write it.  That is why Jesmyn’s Ward’s advice in Elizabeth Flock’s interview Read, Write, Improve was so timely for me because she said: “Persist. Read, write, and improve: tell your stories. Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”  I realized that I’ve simply become to wrapped up in the day-to-day world of living without giving myself space to write, so every day I try to carve out a small slice of time (even if it is only half an hour) to 1) read, 2) write, 3) edit (aka Read, Write, Improve).  Sometimes I can’t do all three, but I try to at least do at least one of the 3 and all three, if at all possible.  I generally wake up earlier now–and that’s what has allowed me to finally finish the Working Draft of this story.

Research–Jihadi Brides

So I’ve mentioned it before, I had an idea, but scrapped it and based the majority of the story, idea, and characters on the YouTube video by Sky New–Jihadi Brides.  There are a couple other videos that Sky News did related to this subject that also informed this story, but by and large, much of impetus for the story comes from that YouTube video.  I hope the story isn’t too derivative, but I tried to capture both the essence of the culture and the “lure” of fanaticism that I saw in the video, just in a world where mental powers exist.  If you want to see the report, I’ve included a link below for context:

 

Characters

 I originally had 4 main characters–Yeva, her sister, Javan (the husband), and a “Spiritual Leader,” of sorts, but I rolled the leader and husband into one for this draft to simplify things for me.  I also originally had planned for Yeva and her sister to be twins with similar names (Yeva and Veya) as twins do, but it became too confusing for me to keep their names straight and if I, the author, couldn’t do it, I realized it would be difficult for readers to do so, so I changed the sister’s name to something more relatable.

Up Next

I am almost finished with the Rough Draft of a short story for the “Project Skye” short story.  I can see the home stretch/finish line with it.  It is very “rough” as I jumped in without planning and boy, does it REALLY show!  The story is all over the place.  I estimate I’ll need AT LEAST two more drafts before it even resembles something which I would be proud to attach my name to on a submission copy.
Well, that’s all I have for now and thanks for reading this long Author’s Note!  Have a great day!

Sidney




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Skin Deep Published in Aurora Wolf!

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Source: Aurora Wolf – A Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy (aurorawolf.com)

SKIN DEEP PUBLISHED!

Just wanted to let you know that Skin Deep, a short-story that I’ve worked on and detailed on the blog has been published by Aurora Wolf – A Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Please head over to their website, read my story, rate and comment on it and (while you’re there) perhaps, read and comment on other stories that I are listed.  Right now my story is on the from page (with the above image – thanks to Aurora Wolf for letting me use the image!).  There is no cost to read the story, or  in other words, its FREE!

Skin Deep has been very much of a long-term passion project.  It was one of the first stories  I wrote with the intent of getting it published.  The story that is published in the 3rd major draft of the story.  My first draft came in the 90s and I submitted it to several markets found in Writer’s Market & Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market.  I only remember one piece of feedback that I received for it from an editor who thought the Psionics (mind powers) in the story strayed too close to magic for her tastes.

I put it “in the trunk” for a while and then I rewrote it substantially around late 2013 – early 2014.  The basis of the current version came from this rewrite.  I had the plot and most of the character, but something still didn’t feel right about the character and her motivations.  I put it up again (not submitting it significantly) until I revised it mid-2015.

As I noted in the blog about the story,  I changed the main character’s name, and really worked to increase the setting of the story and I think that’s what was missing from the 2nd draft–not enough setting to really ground the story.  In all, I’m glad I got to tell Mahalia’s story.  Please go read it if you have a chance–best of all, did I mention its FREE!

CHILDE ROLAND PUBLISHED!

In case you missed it, Childe Roland was also published late last year.  It is still up and, like Skin Deep, it is also FREE!  Please head over to ElectricSpec.com to give it a read as well if you have the time.

OTHER PROJECTS

Lastly, I’m still writing and working on other projects.  As you’ve no doubt realized by the slowness of the blog, I’m really overwhelmed with coursework and classes, but I’m trying to get a handle on the massive amounts of reading and grading that I’m having to do.  I will post more about other projects that I’m working on in the coming months.  Like a business, I need to refresh my sold “stock” with new “stock” if I’m going to make my writing career work, so I have lots of new projects in the wings.  More on these soon.  Well, that’s all for this week, and I’ll try to have a new post up next week (I promise, I really will TRY!).  See you next post!

Author’s Note: Silence Will Fall

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Source: Wikipedia (The Rover–from the TV show The Prisoner)

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Source: David-Stimpson.blogspot.com

AUTHOR’S NOTE: SILENCE WILL FALL

So I finished Project Silence this morning and I’ve officially titled it, Silence Will Fall.  The title comes from a line in Dr. Who (New version with Matt Smith playing Dr. Who) where he must defeat an enemy known as The Silence.  That line stuck in my brain for some reason (as has the enemy’s name of The Silence which I may use/revisit in another story some time in the future.)

STORY’S GENESIS

The genesis of the story is both simple and complex.  Simply speaking, the story originated from a dream where I saw the protagonist at a dam defeating a Floater in a novel and unique way.  With a few minor tweaks here and there, I tried to capture both the feeling of the dream and the actual events as best I could in the story.  The more complex version the image of the Rover (see above illustration).  My family has always been into PBS, and while I don’t watch period shows like Downton Abbey, I’m my uncle would have as he was hugely into Masterpiece Theatre.  However, somewhere along the lines, I must have seen The Prisoner (on PBS as rerun most likely as I remember the bounding ball of the Rover and I remember it killing someone) as a child.  That image has also stuck with me although I don’t think I consciously thought about it.

However, after that dream, I wanted to write about a “ball of death,” and see if my protagonist could defeat it.  I knew I wanted the story to be post-apocalyptic because that’s what I saw when I dreamed, but I also didn’t want to create a huge backstory for the Floaters.  I thought about Independence Day 1 & 2 and other invasion movies that tried to explain the aliens and I didn’t want that for this story.  So I decided that they would just descend from space down to Earth as if space was simply water and they were traveling from world to world (reef to reef to continue the water metaphor) in search of food.  The key is they are hunters of noise.  Any noise attracts them, so for humans to survive, we would have to be silent (hence the title).

KEEP IT SIMPLE 

So I wanted to try to keep everything in this story simple.  Three parts (Beginning, Middle, End) and about a 1,000 words for each section.  I managed pretty well with the 1st and 3rd sections, but I needed to have some dialogue between characters as well as to have the protagonist discover a potential solution to the story’s problem.  The 2nd section clocks in approximately at 1,800 words–a little longer than I would have preferred, but if it works, so be it.

I wanted to finish this story quickly, but right after I finished the 1st section, I started Orientation at MTSU for their program.  I don’t seem to handle transitions well and when the weekend came, I was mentally exhausted.  I didn’t actually pick up the story again until two weeks after school started (so approximately four to five weeks elapsed between the 1st & 2nd sections), but once I picked it up again, it took about three weeks to finish it.

REVISION

I don’t intend to submit this story immediately, although I think that it is one of my better pieces.  I want to “put it on the shelf” for at least a month and then look over it and revise it.  I still may not submit it for a while though because I have a “backlog” of stories out.  I currently have (with Silence Will Fall) ten (10) unpublished stories, with five (5) stories currently out.  I don’t want to try to have more than 5 out at any one time because with school, it gets too hard to coordinate markets (finding ones that are open and are good, and then formatting the story(ies) for those markets all take time that I could use for schoolwork).

My hope is that I can just submit my “backlog” of stories and hold off submitting this piece until the first of the year (2017).  I do reserve the right to revise this plan at any time however.

NEXT UP

So I have started two stories.  I want to start a longer project–I’m leaning toward the 1st issue of a four issue (or 3 or 5 issue) comic book mini-series.  I’ve got about 3 or 4 options, but I’m still deciding which one I want to go with first.  I think I may work on one more short story while deciding, or I may start on the long one and then switch to the story once I get a rough draft done.  I’ll decide after I finish the schoolwork for this week–at least, that’s the plan.  We’ll see how it goes.

Until next time.

Author’s Note–WarLight

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“The Demon Killer” Geoffroy Thoorens (ArtStation.com)

So this blog post is an examination of some of the inspirations, challenges, and final thoughts for my newest short story WarLight (formerly known as “Project Light.”)  This has been a hard story to complete, but it is finally finished.  I will let it “sit” for a while and will revise it based on feedback from my “Beta readers.”

  • The genesis of this story is simple: it is the “Halo-Killer” that I always wanted Sony to develop for the PlayStation.  Bungie originally intended Halo to be a multiplatform game and I followed its development with great interest.  Then Bungie’s website “went dark” and then when it came back, the game was suddenly Microsoft only.  I despised that tactic of “buying” a 3rd party game to “deny” it to your rivals and MS lost me as a customer for their game system with this philosophy.  There was always talk of Sony developing its own Halo-Killer, but Killzone, the game that was touted as the sci-fi shooter of the PlayStation, didn’t achieve the level of heights that Halo commanded.
  • Halo worked because it started with a cool sci-fi premise and then added an “everyman” character on to it.  Add in awesome vistas, cool secondary characters, a menacing enemy and a story where one man could save the world, and you had an instant sci-fi classic (the “new” Star Wars).
  • I tried very hard to start off with a cool sci-fi premise: what if your world’s sun would go not just supernova, but hyper-nova.  This would generate a shockwave of light, heat, and radiation that would all obliterate everything in its path for hundreds of millions of light years.  What if a civilization could just barely stay ahead of the wave, their technology only allowing them to “jump” up to a couple weeks ahead of the doom–a vast array of ships, collectively known as the Fleet–all jumping, emerging into real space for a week or so scavenging resources and jumping out again?
  • And then, what if the Fleet got trapped?
  • This is the story that I try to tell in WarLight.
  •  The hero of the story was born in the weeks after my grandmother passed away, so he has a “darkness” about him that is unusual for my characters (no, he is not “morally ambiguous”–a term I hate with a passion–rather, he looks at the death and destruction and wonders what is the use of trying).
  • The actual story takes place on a planet and that is taken from a dream that I had about kids arriving on world with a long dead civilization and awakening an ancient evil.
  • The theme was originally going to be “Fight on no matter what,” with epigraphs taken from “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.  However, he is contemporary enough that his poem is still under copyright laws and not in the public domain, so I was unable to use it without obtaining permission.
  • The story floundered for two years–I’d write the first paragraph down (sometimes more), but each time I’d be unsatisfied with the way it turned out.  It never made it past the first couple of paragraphs.
  • I was determined to write it this year and I was originally going to write it to be submitted for Visions IV.  It was the 1st story I started working on in 2016.  I then reread the guidelines and saw that stories for that anthology needed to be in space not on a planet and so I had to switch from writing WarLight to Ship of Shadows.
  • After, I had finished and edited Ship of Shadows, I thought it would be easy to finish up WarLight.  Boy, was I wrong!  I still had the same problems and issues as before, not having a way to illustrate my theme and not understanding enough about my main character (named Tyrian in early drafts).
  • Finally, in late April/early-mid May, I happened to be going through my Literature books and remembered “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  I was able to adapt that poem to my use for epigraphs and also to refine my theme to be “find something to live for even in the face of great tragedy.”
  • I copped out on the original ending.  I needed another day to finish it, but I had literally an hour before the place where my “alpha readers” worked closed, so I wrote a dreadful ending.  I wrote the “real” ending over the weekend and emailed it to the beta readers, but I don’t know which one they prefer yet–although I know which one I prefer.
  • The artwork is by the artist Geoffroy Thoorsen via ArtStation and you can find his work there and at his website (DjahaLcom).  The title of the piece is called “The Demon Killer,” and the suit is similar to what I’m hoping to convey to readers of the story.  This is another artist I would love to work with in the future.  He “gets” my type of sci-fi.
  • I plan to revise it when it is time to submit to Carrol Fix’s next Visions anthology.

Sidney




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Author’s Note: Ship of Shadows (Science Fiction Short-Story)

So, I did not write a blog entry last week because I was knee-deep in “Project Shadow” trying to finish it by Feb. 15, 2015 for an Anthology’s deadline.  I did finish it (hurray!) on time, but not without errors (boo!), so I thought I do a quick deconstruction of the story’s genesis, creation, and issues that came up.  I also learned quite a few things about my writing process from work towards this deadline, so future blog entries (the next 2-3 weeks) will be trying to reflect on what I’ve learned as a writer.  Without further ado, the Author’s Note for “Project Shadows”:

Author’s Note – Ship of Shadows

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This story has been kicking around my brain for a while. It comes from a scene from the movie Lost in Space. There was a scene with spider-like creatures that attack the crew when they investigate a lost ship. I’ve only seen the movie once and I can barely recall what happens in the movie as a whole, but that scene has stuck with me.

I’ve wanted to write my own version of this type of “Ghost Ship” story for a while as I’ve always been fascinated with “mystery ships” like the Mary Celeste. I was given a book about the Mary Celeste as a child and I’ve watched with interest any documentaries on the ship for clues as to what could have happened to her crew.  I’ve also had books on/seen documentaries on things like the disappearance of the Jamestown settlers and the Hindenburg disaster.  These “historical mysteries” are fascinating to me (note to self: I should probably read more of them to mine for story ideas).

As I am a Science Fiction /Fantasy writer, I thought that I’d take the whole “space spiders” idea and put it into a story about space ships using these “spider creatures” as an antagonist and put my own spin on it.   This idea has been baking in the back of my mind now for a couple of years.

Then I saw a listing where Lillicat Publishers had an anthology called “Visions IV: Space Between the Stars” that was looking for stories, I decided to write this story for it.  (Actually, that’s not entirely accurate–the true story is that I was starting on another Sci-Fi project called “Project Light” and had intended to submit that one to the anthology, but upon rereading the guidelines for the anthology, I discovered the story had to take place in Deep Space (hence the “Space Between the Stars” part of the title), where “Project Light” was to (mostly) take place on a planet.  So, I had to put that project aside and “Project Shadow” was the only one that I had been thinking about that was set in Deep Space, so I wrote that instead.)

I’m not sure I will do this again, however. Trying to write to a deadline was very hard for me. I ignored grading, reading, and video games (basically things that I either needed to do or that I should have done to relax) in order to get this story written by the deadline.  I essentially had to give up President’s Day in order to get the story finished.  I was only halfway done by the beginning of Feb. 15 and I had to write for the rest of the day to get it finished.  I didn’t really have time to give it a proper editing pass so there are probably typos in the story (something that publisher appears to hate based on their guidelines), so its prognosis is probably not good.

I’m also not to sure of the main character. I don’t think I put enough of her emotions in and she may seem like too much of a cipher. Again, that comes from writing quickly, trying to get it all down and not necessarily dramatizing it as well as I could.

I’m going to have rethink the writing to a deadline for now (while teaching) as it has put me well behind where I should be for grading and other things. My other stories that were published in anthologies were written to suit me and then I submitted them to the anthology if the theme matched my story. Trying to write to match a theme may not be suited to my writing style, but I also HATE missing out on opportunities for publication because I’m too slow and the anthologies’ deadlines pass me by before I can finish a story for it when I know I have an idea that might fit.  I’ve missed submitting to three different Sci-Fi anthologies from World Weaver Press (all of the Far Orbit anthologies) because I could not manage to finish a story by the editor’s deadline.  I made it a point to finish “Ship of Shadows” for Visions IV by the deadline, but I can’t say that I’m completely happy with the results.