“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”

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Image Source: Vintages, Antiques, and Collectibles

“Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” is an old baseball “rallying cry” that has been shortened into this nice, pithy saying.  If you want the full details on this saying, there is a great synopsis of it on billjamesonline.com.  My uncle used to say this to me, not often, but every now and again.  According to Bill James, there are two interpretations of this saying: 1) Lack of pitching depth on the Braves’ roster, so praying for rain to help you get back to your most consistent and valued pitchers, or 2) praying for rain so that you wouldn’t have to face these two reliably dominant pitchers.  My uncle most definitely used it in the 2nd sense: Go out with your best!

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are my favorite genres–be it books, games, movies, television, comics, what have you.  Generally speaking, I’m going to gravitate to those genres before everything else.  So it makes sense that I’d concentrate my writing efforts on those genres as well.  I love the sense of adventure and wonder that Sci-Fi and Fantasy allows me to have in a mundane world of bills, intolerance, rudeness, and a general lack of concern for one’s fellow man.  Now to be sure, you can find those things–and more–inside the wrappers of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but at its best you can find true wonder and adventure as warriors fight mythic beasts, starship captains struggle to keep their ships and crews safe, and young boys and girls grow up to be powerful warriors against the struggle of tyranny.

If I’m going to go out, then like Spahn and Sain, I want to go out leaving everything on the field and giving it my best and trying find a way to do so at a consistently high level.  Just as Spahn and Sain were masters at their craft, so too I strive to be a master at mine.

That’s why I continue to both read, watch, play, and write things that are Sci-Fi and Fantasy related.

For the sheer wonder of it all.

Twofer : Two Posts in One

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Source: KFLEnglish.de

TWO POSTS IN ONE

So, I’ve been away for a while as I worked through the semester at MTSU.  It was difficult trying to adjust to my first semester of taking graduate classes at the PhD level, working in the University’s Writing Center, Teaching, and trying to write creatively all at the same time.  Unfortunately, the blog was one (of many) casualties of trying to all these myriad and various endeavors at a high level.

However, to quote Hideo Kojima from the 2016 Sony E3 Conference or Chun Li from the Street Fighter series: “I’m Back!”  I plan to post weekly as I always have a set time on Sundays when I can write (I just haven’t been taking advantage of that time usefully).  I now intend to do so.  This first post after the long hiatus is what my late uncle called a “Twofer” (Two topics in one post).

CHILDE ROLAND ON ELECTRICSPEC.COM (FREE!)

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Source: YouTube.com

“Childe Roland,” my short-story about Roland and his search for the Dark Tower (based Robert Browning’s poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came“) has been published in the November 30th, 2016 issue of Electric Spec.  The issue is FREE, so you are welcome to read the story and come back here to post comments/reactions to the story.

They do solicit donations, and as they pay their writers as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it would be awesome if you might consider a small donation to their website to help us writers out.  Publication is nice, but as writers need to eat as well, publication with pay is the most preferable outcome (even if the pay is small).

You can find a link to the online magazine above, but if you just want to read Childe Roland by itself, you can find a directly link here.  A word of caution: Electric Spec does switch out their stories on a quarterly basis, so if you are reading this entry long after Nov. 30th, 2016, then the story will not be available.  I’ll try to post an update here (if I can remember) should this happen).

WARLIGHT IN VISIONS VI (AVAILABLE VIA AMAZON.COM IN PAPERBACK AND ON KINDLE)

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My story, “WarLight” was published in Galaxies VI, edited by Carrol Fix.  It is currently for sale via Amazon.com.  It is available in paperback and Kindle formats with the Kindle format being by far the most inexpensive way to check out my story (currently $2.99).  In addition, you will find other Sci-Fi stories included as well.

Be sure to support Carrol Fix’s anthology if you can.  As a writer for anthologies, I don’t receive any additional payment for how well the anthology sells, but anthologies need to sell copies, otherwise editors like Carrol won’t create new anthologies for writers like me to publish our stories in.  That’s just the way publishing works.

Thanks for reading and I will try to keep up this blog on a weekly schedule (I’m planning on a Christmas post as well as I have the same the time even though its a holiday, but I’ll wing it as I may post on Christmas Eve instead.)

The Well is Dry (Or Nice Guys Finish Last)

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Nothing in the well to write about.  I hate this feeling.  I hate trying to force my writing to come out.

I haven’t written creatively since 2/15/16 and no matter what I try, I can’t seem to put pen to paper.  This happens periodically, but this time it is life that is intruding on the writing.

NICE GUYS

I think I understand why people enjoy the “hooligans” so much these days.  Being the “hero” hurts.  It is painful and it is no fun.  Better to decimate, conquer, and have fun no matter the cost.

Trying to write is hard.  Trying to write about a hero that is suffering, but somehow pulls through despite it all is hard.

We (Americans, of which I am one) seem to want the “Easy Button.”  If it isn’t easy, then (our) society says we’re doing something wrong.

FINISH LAST

What we’ve done in the postmodern world is that both our fiction and our society has begun to coalesce around the idea that “Nice Guys Finish Last.”  IF you’re nice, then you’re never going to achieve or get anything.  So be a “hooligan.”

I refuse.  I refuse to be a hooligan in real life and refuse to write about them in fiction.

As a child of Star Wars, I can put it plainly, I want to read/write/watch/play things about the “Jedi,” not the “Sith.”

UBI SUNT? (“Where are They?”)

Why are mainstream publishers chasing the success things like Game of Thrones or Walking Dead to exclusion of all else.  I can go to the bookstore and find a million clones of Game of Thrones, but nothing like David Eddings’ Belgariad or Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow, Thorn.

Brandon Sanderson once remarked on his podcast “Writing Excuses” that he almost got out of the Fantasy genre in the mid-90s because all they were producing was “Quest” books.

Well, now I’m where he was back then because all I see are Game of Thrones/Walking Dead “nihilism” books.  This is pushing me out of the genre.  I have no desire to read those books and I’m losing the desire to write because I know my stories won’t be accepted because they don’t fit the current “trends.”

What is a writer to do?

Color me discouraged.

Tangent Online 2014 Recommended Reading List (Hey, Would You Look at that–“Faerie Knight” is on it!

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So I got accepted into a PhD English program (yay!), but I did not get any funding, so I’m going to have to find some way to pay for it (boo!).

I am very frustrated with this outcome as I desperately want to attend, but I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to pay for it and I’m worrying myself sick over it.  I also noticed that this is similar to my frustration with the writing process.  I can dream up the stories, write the stories, edit the stories, submit the stories all day long, but if editors don’t ACCEPT them and publish them, then the whole process often feels like just time wasted.  So I was all ready to write a blog entry (diatribe/rant, really) on the frustrations of being a writer and the breakdown of the writing process and how too much of it is out of your control, blah, blah, blah, when I happened across this little nugget.

My story, “Faerie Knight,” which was published in the anthology Fae, ed. by Rhonda Parrish was listed on the Tangent Online 2014 Recommend Reading List!  I had no idea that it was there.  Yes, I knew that the story had been reviewed by Tangent Online (all the stories in the anthology were to the best of my recollection), but I did not know Tangent well enough to know that they did a recommended reading list every year (I know that Locus, the granddaddy of the Science Fiction/Fantasy field did one, but not that Tangent did).  Imagine my surprise when I discovered it online just a few minutes ago while taking a break from (unsuccessfully) looking for funding awards/fellowships/scholarships.

And what’s more, it looks like they assign a “star” system to rank how well a reviewer “valued” the story.  No stars, 1 star, 2 stars, and 3 stars.  Now, I’m thrilled that the story just made the list period which is what a no star rating means, I think, but guess what?  It even got a 1 star rating beside it!

I’m totally flabbergasted!  It was for something like this–where the whole process works and completes is why I wanted to start writing Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1st place.

I dreamed up the story years ago, but didn’t have the writing skills to see it through.  After several aborted drafts, I found a good character and plot and finished it.  It was rejected several times (7 or 8), when I decided to try Rhonda Parrish’s Fae anthology on a lark.  I didn’t think she would take it as it has someone fighting the fae, but the central character technically wasn’t a faerie.  Then she did.  Then she requested quite a few edits.  As they didn’t change the overall story/tone, I enacted all of them (although I was a bit dubious on a rather severe cut of 2-3 paragraphs at the end).  And then it was published, and then there were reviews.  Now Rhonda’s moved on to other projects and so have I, but to come back 2 years later and discover that your story was good enough that someone liked your work well enough to recommend it (and give it a star, no less) makes me want to jump with joy.

I dream up a story, I take the extra step of writing it down, I take the extra step of submitting it, the editor takes the extra step of asking for edits, I take the extra step of getting the edits done, and the editor publishes it.  We both get rewarded with the satisfaction of a published product.  It gets reviewed and it sells for a period of time (hopefully positively on both accounts).  Then the editor and writer move on.  And hopefully, somewhere down the line, either the editor or author will find someone who has read their work and enjoyed it.  Maybe even enjoyed it enough to recommend to someone else.

This is how the writing process SHOULD work.

Project Shadow Update

This will be a shorter post–work has interfered with both my personal life and writing life, and I’m struggling to catch up.

PROJECT SHADOW

I’ve completed the 1st scene (out of 3), but I plan on the 2nd scene being the longest.  I have a roadmap (loose outline) for the whole story, now I just have to find the time to write it as the deadline is looming (2/15/16).

I am off on President’s Day, but I’d really like to have it done by Friday (2/12) so that I can give it to my Beta readers.  Two scenes in one week, though, is a tough ask.  We’ll see what happens.

SUBMISSIONS

I’ve been more conscientious about submitting.  I’ve made a list of publishers/markets for the stories (about 5-8 markets) and I have ALL my stories out to 1 market at a time.  When any stories come back with a rejection (3 this week), I wait until Saturday night or Sunday night, look at the guidelines for the next market on the list, prep the submission, and send it.  When I run out of markets, I’ll simply make a list of 5-8 more.

I’m also trying to be more conscientious about following up with markets that have had my stories beyond their stated time.  I don’t want to pester the markets, but if they had it longer than a specified time and they say to ask, then I’m probably not going to wait until my buffer time (which was a long 120 days, or 4 months) before I inquire about it.)

DIANE DUANE – GAMES WIZARDS PLAY

Games Wizards Play

Finally, one of my favorite authors has released a new book this week.  It is called Games Wizards Play and it is Bk. 10 in her Young Wizards Series (which is my favorite series and one I discovered as a child).

Now this is book 10 in the series, so if you haven’t read any of the books, I would NOT advise you to start here.  Rather, start with book 1, So You Want To Be a Wizard.  It starts off quite a bit as a children’s/YA book, but “grows up” pretty quickly and the resolution and ending is one of the strongest that I’ve ever read.

Like all series, I like some books more than others, but I spent all of last year collecting copies of all 9 books to add to my classroom library.  This year, I think I’m going to try to collect them all for my own personal library–starting with this one!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Impressions (No Spoilers)

Star Wars Force Awakens

So, I wanted to wait a little bit before posting because I wanted to make sure that I thought about what I wanted to say and phrase it carefully because I didn’t want to spoil in any of things in the story & also because I wanted to make sure of my own feelings toward this movie.

STAR WARS 101

I think that this movie is great!  If I was grading it, I would give it an A (95-98).  It wouldn’t get an A+ for reasons that I will discuss later (no spoilers), but this is an Excellent movie (going by the “grading scale” of many universities).

No offense to George Lucas (as creator of the world and characters), but this is the Star Wars adventure I was hoping the Prequel trilogy was going to be when it released.  This one had old characters and new merged into an exciting new adventure.

THE FORCE IS STRONG WITH THIS ONE

I love both the old characters and seeing them return, but I also like the new characters.  I like the characters and the actors portraying them.  I think that they have enough depth to carry them through a trilogy and the story definitely gave them room to grow in future episodes.

I won’t reveal any of the characters twists, but I will say that BB-8 has probably become one of my favorite droids.  Like R2, the audience can’t decipher what his “beeps” mean without another character translating, but as expressive as R2 is, BB-8 is more so.  They convey a surprising amount of emotion through the droid and it is well appreciated.

LAUGH IT UP, FUZZBALL

As many internet reaction videos will attest (and you should watch NONE of them until you’ve seen the movie for yourself), the humor is really good in this one.  I think one of the reasons that I like Star Wars so much is the use of sardonic humor.  Rather than slapstick, SW has this wry humor that pervades the action.  From the “cheesy” dice in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit in SW, to the way Vader “disciplines” Star Destroyer commanders & the “hyperdrive” subplot with both Han & Lando, to Han’s outlandish comments to Chewie during the tense scene when they are trying to pass themselves off as a shuttle crew when they are sneaking to the moon of Endor (“I knew it was going to work,” Han says.  He had just told Chewie moments ago to fly “casually”).

Again, without spoiling anything, I think that the wry humor is back and updated for the “new” generation.  I could definitely see some humor that would appeal to Millennials, but there were also some nods back to Gen X’ers like myself.

Whatever you do, keep a close eye on BB-8.  For a CG character, many of his humor beats are pure comedic gold.  He’s a scene stealer almost every time he is on the screen (can you tell I really like this droid?)

THERE IS A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that this is the best movie EVER.  When we were leaving the theater one young lady was remarking to her friends, “that was the worst movie ever–they way overhyped it.”  My mother was in instant disbelief.  Myself, I could only shake my head as it wasn’t the marketing folks who overhyped it–it was the young lady herself.  She went into the movie with the wrong mindset.

It is not an revolutionary movie like the original SW was, but an evolutionary one.  It takes the SW series back to the path it was on BEFORE the Prequels.  The Empire & Death Star were such an engaging conflict, of course we want to find out what happened AFTER those events.  SW:FA gives that opportunity.  It also gives us new characters with which to continue the adventure–just as Lando added history to the Millennium Falcon and Han’s backstory in Empire & Jedi, so to do these new characters give the audience a way to into the story.

The reason why I personally wouldn’t give this story an A+ is for 2 reasons: 1) while I like it and think that the movie is well worth the admission price, it isn’t my favorite SW movie.  I’d still have to rate the original series higher (nostalgia is coloring my perception, probably, but there it is).  I think this is the BEST movie I’ve seen in 2015, but I still like the original series of movies (as a whole) better and  2) they do have a lot of story elements from the original series as both a callback and as a structure.  If you have the original SW movies memorized like I do, then it will be EASY to pick out the story structure.  In one of the final plot elements, I had to willingly suspend my disbelief CONSCIOUSLY in order believe an element that happened.  Luckily, it was the only time and I felt that they were trying to appeal to nostalgia rather than just poor plotting, but I did have to do so.

THE FORCE WILL BE WITH YOU, ALWAYS

Still, even with those distinctions, I have no problems recommending this movie.  If you are a SW fan, you’ll love this movie.  If you’re not, or aren’t a Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan, you’ll be fine as long as you keep your expectations in check.

Remember, there can only ever be one REVOLUTION.  Everything else that follows is an EVOLUTION of the original.  Sometimes that evolution can be misguided and lower the value of the original (the Prequel trilogy in my opinion) or it can raise it to new heights (Empire and Jedi, again in my opinion), or it can reset the bar and establish a new course and new bar for the original (and that’s where I think SW:FA comes in and accomplishes wonderfully).

In short, if you haven’t seen it, run, don’t walk to the theater.  For myself, I can’t wait to see it again to pick up on the things that I missed during the 1st viewing.

May the Force (Awakens) be with you!

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So, in preparation for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie releasing soon, I went back and finished watching my 6 disc set of Star Wars Blu-Rays. I’d started watching them way back at the start of school, but I’d fallen away from them. I went from 1-4 (using Lucas’ numbering scheme), but needed to finish 5-6 (The Empire Strikes Back & The Return of the Jedi) for the uninitiated. Over the past two weeks, I finished these two movies and they rekindled my love for all things Star Wars and Science Fiction and Fantasy in general.

Child of Star Wars

I saw The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) first when I was a child. Heresy, I know, but when Star Wars came out, I was only 4 years old and my parents didn’t think that I would like it. As a matter of fact, we weren’t much of a movie going family per se. That changed in the early 1980s, when my preference for all things Sci-Fi & Fantasy began to emerge. My mother and stepfather took me to see ESB and I was immediately hooked. So much so, that they took be to the bargain theater the next weekend to see SW and the X-Wing trench run had me talking about it that entire summer.

When I was a kid, my grandparents used to subscribe to an oversized magazine called Life and in it, there was an extended interview with George Lucas. It talked about his early life, his car accident that nearly cost him his life, the movie American Graffiti and his making of Star Wars. I remember devouring that article.

In one interview, not sure if it was the one I mentioned above, Lucas mentioned that he kept the subtitles in his movie because he wanted to inspire kids to read. He wanted them to be so fascinated by the visuals that they would want to learn to read the text to figure out what they were missing in the scene. Or so was the gist of what I remember from the interview. I already was reading and reading well, but what Lucas’ movies did for me was show me that there was a niche of media available to me that focused on the futuristic and the fantastical. I began to search out those avenues wherever I could find them–in the library, on TV, in games (the Atari 2600 & Commodore 64 were my console and “PC” respectively).

Lucas took, for me, what was simply a preference and turned it into a passion. I can (& will) read non-genre works, but given the choice between a contemporary work or a genre work, I’ll almost always choose the genre (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) work.

Creating Science Fiction and Fantasy

Like many creators, I want to create my own works because (except for a few exceptions) people don’t seem to be writing the kind of things that I want to read/watch anymore.

I recently tried to read a fantasy work by an author whose cover art and cover blurb looked promising. When I started it, however, the F-Bomb was littered all through it. It completely turned me off–there’s no way that a “fantasy” milieu would use a vulgarity like the F-word in the same way and context that we would in today’s society, but that’s exactly what happened in the story. It was as anachronistic as playing the song “We Will Rock You” at a joust. At least the movie A Knight’s Tale used that ironically, but the author didn’t seem to even know how anachronistic his use of the word was. Its always dangerous trying to pretend to know the mind of an author, but it was almost like he thought, “Hey, this is how my friends and I all talk to each other, so sure, its okay that my characters in my fantasy novel talk this way too.” Um, no, it’s not okay. Even in Sci-Fi, if you’re going to use vulgarities, you need to take into account how the language might have shifted over time in your universe. Just shoving a contemporary vulgarity into your story because we (as a culture) use it now is, in a word, lazy. I loved Stephen King’s Dark Tower series for a while, but the vulgarities (among other things) eventually drove me away. King thinks we Americans talk like that, but in reality, we don’t (or at least we don’t in contexts that King writes about). In public spaces, we tend to moderate our vulgarities. It is only in small groups or online where anonymity reigns do most of us seem to cut loose.

Another area that I’ve talked about is the rise of the “Anti-Hero” in Fantasy. I stopped reading much of the Sci-Fi written in the 90’s because there was an “anti-Star Wars” reaction where everything had to be dark and gritty. The same movement is happening in Fantasy at the moment (the rise of Game of Thrones is evidence of this phenomenon). I’m beginning to read more Science Fiction now because it is more in-line with my own tastes due to the resurgence of military Sci-Fi at the moment.

I’m hopeful that the Force Awakens heralds a resurgence of the type of Fantasy and Sci-Fi that I personally like. Perhaps then, my stories will be able to find an audience and I’ll be able to read/watch more of the media in the genre that I love. I suppose only time will tell.