Weird West Story Project Arizona = Unhallowed

Female Gunslinger in wide-brimmed hat and long flowing duster with a gun in a holster and knives on her belt looking out towards the audience with a orange sky and yellow sun at her back.
Image Source: https://www.wattpad.com/296700758-fantasy-sub-genre-guide-weird-west

On Monday, June 29th, I finished the first draft of Project Arizona. I’m sure it needs a lot of work, but I like the way it turned out (except for the end, but I’ll talk more about that later in the post). It’s official title is Unhallowed, and it is a Weird West story (a fantasy story with magic and the like mixed with tropes from the Old West — American West). The main character’s name is Arizona and she is an African American woman who becomes a “gunslinger” (one who is Hallowed) in the parlance of the world to fight the evil of the Unhallowed.

Why This Story and Why Now?

Much of the theme around this story has to do with the idea of Justice vs Vengeance. Justice means literally means “just behavior or treatment” and/or the “impartial adjudication of laws” (google it to fact-check me). Vengeance means “punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong” (again, fact-check me). As we have visual evidence from the past two months (May and June 2020), the American Justice System says that it stands for justice, but what many people involved with it actually try to dispense is vengeance. Now, people may see this as political, but I recognized this much earlier based on the way in which America has conducted its wars in the 20th and 21st centuries (remember, I minored in History). I noticed a discrepancy in which the way America articulates its values and the ways those values actually get realized when we go to war–in my mind, they are two different things, and I wrote this story to explore that idea. The fact that there were multiple high profile cases of social injustice as I was writing this story, just galvanized my desire and need to write it. America (and Americans) say one thing, but do another, and to me, that’s a problem that I’ve been seeing for a while now and major failing that we need to solve.

Why a Weird West Story?

Well, let’s not overlook the fact that Weird West stories are cool 🙂

Also, on a more serious note, Weird West stories are enjoying a moment. As noted in an older blog, the Western as a genre is pretty much dead (for now, especially in movies and TV), but with rise in popularity of the Red Dead Redemption video games by Rockstar, the Western is actually seeing a bit of a resurgence. As such, more inventive stories in the Old West/Wild West are seeing a spike in interest. I think there are at least 3 different Wild West/Weird West games in development (and one of them is actually called Weird West). Not to mention there is at least one RPG that is devoted to the setting (Deadlands). I think that if there is a resurgence in popularity for the Old West/Wild West, it will come from the Weird West genre.

Also, Weird West stories don’t always have to involve Fantasy and Magic. They can be Science Fiction stories as well. Cowboys and Aliens was attempt at such a fusion that didn’t quite work–the title, in typical Hollywood misguided fashion gives an indication why. Still, as one can see, the fusion of different genres can, if done right, infuse the Old West/Wild West with some much needed originality in the storytelling and setting (which is what I hope to accomplish with Unhallowed).

What’s Next For Unhallowed?

I’m working on the 1st Draft for another project now. When I finish it, I will return to Unhallowed for the 2nd Draft. I think I did well on the character, but I want to add in more sensory details, more setting, and fix the ending.

The ending was supposed to feature an elaborate fight scene and “will she/won’t she” choice. The fight scene was massively cut down and the choice was effectively taken from the main character by a discussion in an earlier scene–if she does it, then she loses all support from her team. These are two places that I most definitely need to revisit as they rob the ending of much of the suspense that I envisioned for the end of the story.

Hopefully, during my second pass, I can make the ending as suspenseful as I envisioned it being in my mind’s eye when I had the original idea and wrote out the Rough Draft for the story. But at least it is finished (and done within a month and not the 2+ years that I normally do things, so hurray for small victories!

Have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (7/2020):

  • “Project Wall” (Science Fiction Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Up Next: 2nd Draft (Working Draft)
  • Childe Roland Graphic Novel 
    Up Next: Rough Draft (Story)

Dream Geographies–The First Dream

A picture of four hand-drawn stars with dashed lines linking each star together with the words Dream Geographies in a stylized font.
Image Source: https://www.dreamgeographies.org/

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a new collaborative arts project called Dream Geographies. It was an intersection of narrative, poetry, and visual art based around the imagery and iconography of dreams and the dreamscape. Around finals week, I submitted a dream to the project. A poet and an artist then remixed my dream and interpreted it through their mediums, and I’m proud to announce that the project is up and live for those who might want to check it out.

https://www.dreamgeographies.org/r1d9

My Dream

I won’t go into elaborate detail about the dream–I’ll just try to paint the broad strokes. Basically, it was an “underwater” dream, but strangely, I wasn’t the protagonist. Two brothers were under the sea, fighting. The sea was turbulent, reflecting their conflict. However, they came to an accord and the sea returned to its normal, placid nature.

While I don’t remember what the conflict was about, I do remember that the resolution was achieved with each one divvying up their responsibilities in a fair and equitable manner and that is what promoted the peace between them.

While the project doesn’t display the actual narrative of the dream (which is why I gave a short introduction of it above), it does feature my response to both Abby’s and Nick’s work and what I think it all means, so I won’t go too deep below–just general impressions.

The Artist

Unfortunately, I’ve not had the chance to meet the artist who contributed her artwork for this project. Abby Hirsch Reish is the artist and she lives in Murfreesboro, TN. She finds inspiration for her artwork the children she works with, from pop culture, world travel, and other unexpected places (according to her bio).

I really like Abby’s artwork in that it encapsulates the whimsy of the dreamscape. It is the ocean environment with all its wild contradictions and life as seen through the eyes of a child. The blue used in the piece is visually striking and the way the sea-life is depicted shows the turbulent nature of the two brothers’ conflict. As I said in my reaction, Abby’s piece really grounds the dream.

The Poet

Nick Bush, while being an Associate Professor at Motlow Sate College, is also a person that I know. We’ve attended several classes together at MTSU over the past 3 years. He has an interest in stand-up comedy, but he is also a keen scholar and a storyteller in his own right as he’s picked the “creative” option for a project in one of our classes where I took the traditional option.

What I didn’t know was how good a poet he was–his poem was sublime, far better than what I could have done for this particular dreamscape as I no longer practice my own poetical voice (I tend to lean heavily towards narrative these days). I really like the way he described the conflict and resolution for the two brothers. As I said in the reaction, he gives voice to the two brothers and we can see them as characters.

The Soul

Both Abby and Nick helped to create the soul of the dreamscape. They turned a simple narrative from me into something imaginative and amazing. I’m glad that I had a chance to collaborate with the two of them, and that I got a chance to participate in this wonderful project. It was fun!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

“Project Arizona”: The Research

A woman whose face is hidden in shadow of a wide-brimmed had wearing a long flowing duster, with a gun in a brown holster and various throwing knives on her belt.  Her hands are down at her sides.  She is standing on a desert-like landscape with the sun shining above her head.
Image Source: https://www.wattpad.com/296700758-fantasy-sub-genre-guide-weird-west

I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m closing in on finishing the First Draft of “Project Arizona,” my Weird Western (Fantasy Western) story. I thought I’d just quickly highlight a few of the websites that I came across while doing research for this project. This by no means an exhaustive list, but I found out several interesting things and found several unique websites while doing the research.

There Were Black Cowboys

Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/

Here’s something they don’t teach you in traditional American History classes: not only were there black cowboys in the time of the Old West, but they were fairly prevalent. According to the article, 1 out of every 4 cowboys in the Wild West was black. A side note here: that means, Hollywood, that every Western movie made in the 1950s and 1960s (the heyday of the cowboy movie) that had 4 or more cowboys featured should have had at least 1 black actor. Did that happen, Hollywood? No, it didn’t, you say? Well, just some food for thought, Hollywood.

I digress, however. I wanted an African American female protagonist for “Project Arizona,” but I wasn’t sure if African Americans were even a part of the Old West outside of the “Buffalo Soldiers,” but with this source, I was able to find out that not only were they a part of the Old West, but racism was blunted due to the nature of the West being a dangerous place and cowboys (of all colors) had to depend on each other to survive and couldn’t afford to let racism get in the way of survival.

Black Cowboys Existed into Modern Times

AZCentral Website: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona-history/2019/03/17/black-cowboys-were-common-old-west/3180296002/

True West: History of the Western Frontier: https://truewestmagazine.com/the-racial-frontier/

Here’s where I found some more information about black cowboys and how the change from the Old West into “modern society” affected them. This site talks about how Hollywood changed the depiction of the Old West from what it was to how it is perceived in America today. More importantly, for my story, this is where it showed modern interpretations of African Americans (in the 1960s and 1970s) competing in contests such as roping and riding. While there’s not a lot of that in my story (well, none at the moment), it did give me a good sense of how African Americans could contribute in an Old West Setting.

The True West website gave me some good context for where the black cowboy tradition began and also some ideas for period specific clothing and gear for my story.

Wild West Prisons

True West: History of the Western Frontier: https://truewestmagazine.com/old-west-prisons-were-no-place-for-sissies/

A significant portion of the story takes place in an Old West prison (not a jail like you see in traditional western movies), so I needed to find out what prisons looked like in the Old West looked like and how they operated. I like this site from True West because it has the rules that one prison operated under. While I didn’t actually need to use these rules for this story, it gave me the “flavor” of the prison setting, and who knows, maybe on the next iteration of the story, I might need those rules. I’ve already done a little research into Civil War prisons due to an interest from the way they were depicted in another movie–The Outlaw Josie Wales? Glory? I can’t remember exactly–but the point is, I knew there were prisons earlier than the Old West, but I didn’t know how they changed.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Just wanted to highlight some of my research as I’m slowly wrapping up the first draft of “Project Arizona.” Expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks as I finish it up.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




Currently Working On (6/2020):

  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing: Revision 1
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Drafting: First Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Writing Log = Finished The Independent!

Picture of an excited baby with its mouth agape with the caption in white lettering: "This is my super excited face"
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/575475658618524560/

So this post is a little later than normal as I wanted to make sure that I actually completed the works that are listed in this post. However, I was able to get everything done and I’m very excited about it!

Finished The Independent (aka “my Space Truckers” story)

Yesterday evening, I finally finished The Independent which began its life as my “Space Truckers” project. This one has taken a long time to do (way too long), but I finally was able to get the handle on what I really wanted to do late last year and early this year and began to make serious headway on the story in January and February. After not working on it because of the trip to Boston and subsequent Spring Break and early Corona virus news, I finally was able to power through the rest of the story and finished off the story last night. Some facts about the story: It is currently 5,100 words long. I will be working to get that down as most markets have a (generally speaking) a 5,000 word limit. It is a “spaceship” story–the action happens on a spaceship in space and contains a space battle (my favorite type of story) and one that I feel is done way too seldom in Sci-Fi media. Lastly, it features a female character–I hope (as a male) I do a good job in creating a believable character (I have before–I’ve published two other stories where the protagonist was female), but time will tell.

So, what’s next: I’m going to let it lie fallow for a week (maybe more) and then I’m going to schedule a time with the MSTU Writing Center and ask a consultant to look over it (I may do this a couple of times–once for content & story construction and once for grammatical issues) and work on getting as compact as possible and then I should be sending it out to markets later this month or early next month. Huzzah!

Finished Rough Draft of “Project Arizona”

So, “Project Arizona” is one that I wrote a blog post on a while back. It is a Weird Western that has been kicking around in my mind lately, so I went ahead and wrote the “Rough Draft” for it. Like The Indpendent, I will go through multiple drafts honing it in (hopefully it won’t take as long to finish though).

There’s not too much more to say about it yet–after I finish the first draft I might reveal the “working” title of the story. I may do an Author’s Note when I get a little deeper into drafting, but right now, I’m more interested in finishing it than discussing it, so I’ll add it to my list of projects in the Signature line.

HawkeMoon = a Milestone

So, I went back and checked and HawkeMoon represents my 10th published short-story! I now have enough to do a short story collection (I may even do that if I can ever find the time/right publisher).

While HawkeMoon is overall my 14th publication (when you include my comic book story split into 3 parts, and my non-fiction article on writing), and 16th when you include my work for MTSU’s Off Center Journal, it is still significant as it represents double digits in a particular style of writing. Here’s to trying for triple digits next!

Well, that’s all I have! Have a great weekend!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    Editing Draft
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • “Project Arizona” (Weird Western Story)
    Finished: Rough Draft
    Next: First Draft

HawkeMoon Reviews Are In

Storyhack Issue 4 Cover
HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr.
Has a scarecrow with hood and young red-haired lady in blue tunic with crescent blades.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WJXVR9D/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I was cruising the internet yesterday, trying to see if I could find reviews on my latest published story, HawkeMoon which appeared in Storyhack #4 last year. There are couple of major sites that do short fiction reviews, but to the best of my knowledge (Tangent Online and Locus Magazine), but I guess neither reviewed Storyhack because I didn’t see the magazine listed for either site). However, the issue was reviewed by a couple of places. One, a fellow WordPress blogger and the 2nd was a market that I think I’ve submitted to once before. Both had interesting things to say, so I’ll link to their reviews.

Planetary Defense Command

The first review comes from Planetary Defense Command whose tagline reads: “Defending the planet from bad science fiction.” I’ve not read this blog before, but they do give a short review of Storyhack #4. While I’m not going to post their entire review (which you can read by clicking on the “short review” link in the previous sentence), I am going to repost their review of my story for commentary purposes.

They say: Hawkemoon by Sidney Blaylock.  A strange form of undead, an assassinated king, and animal magic sounds like too much to cram into one story, but it fits together nicely.”

This is a hopeful review for me. I read novels, but I write (at the moment) short-stories. I’m always trying to get a lot accomplished in the 5,000 or so words allotted to me by the short-story format. I do have a lot of elements going on in my stories–because I think of them as mini-novels (or maybe better, proto-novels). I just can’t be as grand in scope with the myriad of plots and subplots as I would like because I don’t have the space to go into that level of detail. I have just enough time to one major plot with a character arc and then I’m pretty much out of space. How can I expand my stories out more so that they can breathe and not feel like I’m putting too much in and making them too busy?

Now, the final statement of the review isn’t a criticism. As long as I can balance all the elements, like I did for this reader, then it will work fine. However, as you can tell from this blog entry, I tend to be quite detailed and meticulous and I often want to imitate the complexities that I read in my favorite authors (Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, Elizabeth Moon, and Robert Jordan) in short form where as all of these writers are primarily long form writers.

My goal is to work on my stories to get them to where the reviewer would like to see them turned into novels as he/she does for the last two stories reviewed. That’s ultimately where I’m going anyway, so if the reviewer notes that that story could be the entry chapter in a novel (or expanded out into a novel), then I’ll know that I’m on the right track with getting my stories where I want them to be.

Broadswords and Blasters

The 2nd review is from an online market that I think I’ve submitted a story to in the past called Broadswords and Blasters. No, they didn’t take whatever story I sent them, but I don’t think it was HawkeMoon that was submitted (but I’d have to check my submissions via Duotrope to be sure). They had a much longer review (with criticism) of the issue as a whole, but I’ll just repost my review (again, for commentary purposes).

HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. A king has been assassinated, so the captain of the royal guard goes in search of the one master assassin who was responsible… only it turns out she wasn’t the one behind it. This story is memorable for its characters, but even more so for the ultimate villain of the piece, The Scarecrow King.” I wished the setting had been a bit more developed than it was, as it felt very much a cardboard backdrop against which the characters acted, as opposed to a fully developed world. I know, that’s a lot to ask for in a short story, but I still think the overall setting was too roughly sketched, and thus seemed fairly generic for my taste. This story is the cover story for the issue, and I can absolutely see why.”

Okay, so there’s a lot to dig into here. First off, the characters. It is gratifying to here that the reviewer responded to the characters. While I did focus on them, they weren’t completely my focus like with a couple of my stories. Yet, hearing that the characters were the most memorable parts of the story really heartens me and helps me think that when I focus on characterization (& not just the cool visuals/plots happening), I can create a story that is interesting and intriguing to the reader. Now the criticism–the reviewer did not like my world–he/she thought it was too “sketchy” and underdeveloped. It is a fair criticism. I did have a more detailed world in mind, but it didn’t get from my mind on to the page. The world was supposed to be a mix of traditional fantasy lands, kings, knights, guards, but with the beginning of the new (German) renaissance–burghers, merchants, mayors, etc., just beginning to come into play, with an Old Town (more like a medieval village) and a New Town (more like the early modern Germanic towns in which the “Kris Kringle” legend sprang up (without the guns/gunpowder of the period). However, I couldn’t figure out how to work that into the story without a great big exposition info dump. The best I could come up with was having New Town be where the castle and townspeople were located and Old Town being more like a rundown fishing village.

Still, this criticism is both valid and constructive and I can use it. I knew that the world I had in the story seemed generic, but chose to ignore that fact. Now what I plan to do is identify places where I think the story is weak and see if there is a solution that addresses the weakness in some small way to at least alleviate, if not fix, the problem area in the story.

Sure, as writers we’d like to have perfect feedback, but now I’m learning that world building, while not really a weakness, may be a bit sketchy for me as I focus on characters and characterization. It’s something that I know I need to be aware of going forward to make sure my stories are the best they can be and so I can get reviewers to want to say that they’d love to see my stories as novels (or as the beginning chapters) to a novel.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 3 (of 3)
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

A “Scummy” Choice

Skeleton at the computer waiting.  Text on white background that says, "Surely a response will come, I just have to wait patiently . . ."
Image Source: https://sayingimages.com/skeleton-meme/

So, on Friday–actually Sunday morning is when I first saw it–but it was sent on Friday, so that’s what I’m going with . . . so, on Friday, I got a response back from a market that I sent my story to . . . back in September.

Yup, you read that right. A story that I sent to a market back in September of 2019 just sent me a reply as of March 2020.

I just want that to sink in.

Long Response Time Suck!

There’s no other way to articulate it–long response times suck! For those who are wondering, that’s five months and approx. 7 days. How do I know . . . because i have an internal “clock” of sorts that somehow triggers right around the 6 month mark. A week before, my clock had triggered and I went to look up how long it had been.

I’d originally submitted on September 21, 2019 to a Sci-Fi market that I’d never submitted to previously, but seemed to have a fairly high “reputation” as it didn’t have a high “lost/no response” rate and seemed to have a fairly robust rate of submitters along with a open response call for submissions that seemed reasonable. My story fit under the guidelines, so I decided to submit.

Poor choice on my part. I can’t remember whether or not I looked at the length of time for response–I usually do and if I find that response take too long–usually over 90 days is a bad sign, but I often go up to as high as 100-120, then I don’t submit, no matter how lucrative the market or high good of a “fit” my story is as I find markets with long submission times problematic.

Again, I can’t remember if I checked or not (it’s been nearly 6 months after all), but even if I didn’t check, I don’t remember seeing anything in the market listings that raised a red flag.

What’s the Problem with Long Submission Times?

First, it is disrespectful. Your business is a journal/magazine, but you can’t easily fill it with your own staffers (or you can, but may take a hit to your “reputation” if you do), so you solicit material from writers (either actively by sending queries to writers to send their work individually or by opening up your submissions to everyone–either year round or through certain submission periods). However, you “lock” up that story for writers like me who only submit one copy of the story to one market at a time–sequential submissions. Most writers don’t do this anymore for just this reason–the whole idea of the simultaneous submission came about because of this habit of publisher of taking forever to respond to submissions. Digress: I remember in the mid-to-late 80s that the debate over the “ethics” of simultaneous submissions raged quite vociferously with the writers basically winning the practice became standard for most markets so long as the writer immediately informed the market when the story was sold somewhere else and the writer would then withdraw it from consideration.

Second, and back to the point: for writers like me, who don’t do that, then that story is out of circulation for that time period and unavailable for submissions. I estimate that I lost 3-4 chances with other markets in that 5.25 month window that it was out to that 1 market.

So they Accepted It Right–I Mean They Did Take All That Time to Decide

Nope.

A simple form reject of 1 paragraph. Yup, you read that right as well. It took this market 5.25 months to respond to a sub 20 page story with a “canned” copy and pasted paragraph that 1) Thanked me for the submission, 2) Said they could not use it at this time.

Will I be submitting to this market in the future. Unfortunately, no. They have joined my list of publishers that I will no longer send submissions to in the future. While not particularly large (sub 10 at the moment), it is a list made up of 1) a market who gives feedback, but does so in a condescending way that once remarked upon my education rather than my story, 2) a market that responds quickly–too quickly in fact, usually a day and under, I think the longest time out for a story was a glacial 2 days–and NEVER once has responded with ANYTHING positive about any of the stories that I sent, and 3) 4-5 markets that have submission times approaching or over the 180 day mark. One that I used to LOVE submitting to is on that list as the last time I checked it had an incredible 495 day response period. Yup, and as you and I both know 360 = 1 year and 360<495, so you’re waiting well over a year and half for a response to a story that can be a maximum (according to their guidelines) 30 pages. Yeah, I’m not doing that.

Had this market gave substantial and substantive feedback, then I might have felt the long wait justified, but having lost multiple chances at publication for the story only to receive no feedback whatsoever makes me feel like I was robbed and that I made a “scummy” choice in submitting my story to them.

Newscasters love ending their stories with cliches, so I will do so as well: “Once bitten, twice shy.”

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Revising Section 1 (of 3)
    Deadline = February 29, 2020
  • Project Arizona (Fantasy Short Story–Weird West))
    Finished: Story Outline
    Next: Character Sketch
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2
  • Ship of Shadows: Screenplay
    Finished: Script Outline (Rough Draft)
    Next: Script Outline (1st Draft)

Project Arizona: 1st New Writing Project of 2020

Image of a female gunslinger with long flowing duster, guns, throwing knives, and hands out to her sides, ready to draw.
Image Source: https://8tracks.com/orsonleigh/the-weird-weird-west

Now that I’ve finally gotten both my financial aid and car situation fixed, I can finally concentrate on other things, like writing! Wait, you might be saying, what do you mean, car situation? In the last post, you only mentioned your financial aid woes. Well you, perceptive reader, would be correct–there were indeed additional complications to my life last week that I may get around to blogging about this week (or maybe not, as I have a slew of posts that I’d like to write), so my excessive navel gazing might not be captured into words (or maybe it will, who knows at this point?). Suffice to say that, as of now, both issues are fixed (as far as I’m aware) and I just finished the “story outline” for my next story, the first of 2020.

Weird West

So, Project Arizona is “fantasy” story set in the time of the Old West. There’s a subgenre name for it: Weird West. This won’t be the first Weird West story that I’ve done–I actually published a Weird West story entitled, “Wylde West” some time ago (actually, within the first year of the blog’s creation). I even did a post where I took a picture with my phone of the front and back covers of the journal where it was published. At some point, I will probably add that to the blog as the rights have long expired and it was published in a limited edition run of a journal that cannot be ordered anywhere anymore.

What if . . . a Fantasy Story meets the Western

This is essentially the conceit of what a Weird West story is: fantasy stories set in the Western (American) frontier. I think that I’ve come up with both a unique premise as well as a pretty cool character in Arizona, the protagonist of the story (of course, I thought that with my story, Silence Will Fall, only to have the trailer A Quiet Place to be released a few months later and now, since that movie has become such a central icon, I can’t even send out my story as it looks like I’m blatantly copying their movie and “ripping” them off. I hope I’m not in for the same aggravation as there is a game publisher also working on a Weird West game (just called Weird West) and I can but hope that mine is distinctive enough that I don’t get called to the carpet as someone who is just “ripping off” other properties–again, this one has been kicking around in my mind for a while, but I only set it down on paper as a tangible idea recently (around Thanksgiving of last year–yes, that predates the game’s “official” announcement, but :rolling eyes: we all know what that means these days).

Story Outline Completed

As I type these words, I’ve completed the favorite part of the writing process and will add it to my “Signature” at the bottom of the post. I’ve completed the “story outline,” which just means that I know where the story will go from beginning to end. In the old days, I would have just stopped there and called it a day, but as I’m working with character to integrate characterization more fully into my stories, I also added in my character’s (Arizona’s) FLAW. I made sure that the third act put her in a situation in which her flaw was exposed and that she has to make a choice, either give in to her flaw or not. This is where the INTERNAL CONFLICT of the story will happen. My the very nature of the setting (fantasy version of the Old West), I have plenty of EXTERNAL CONFLICT (which is what I’m good at creating), but I’m specifically trying to build in more in terms of characterization. I do know Arizona’s “backstory” (although it is in my head and not yet set down on paper) and that I think will be the next component to the story–putting down a character sketch of Arizona.

I will let you all know what happens whenever I revisit this project (which will hopefully be a weekly endeavor, but I’m not putting any time limits/deadlines on it–I work better when I can just write without putting undue pressure on myself. So, here’s to a 2020 that’s filled with loads of writing (for school, yes), but also for me creatively.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 3 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Project Arizona (Fantasy Short Story–Weird West))
    Finished: Story Outline
    Next: Character Sketch
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    Finished: Script, Issue #1
    Next: Script, Issue #2

Still Working on NaNoWriMo: DSSRV Outrider, Issue #2

Giant Spider terrorizing a frozen landscape.
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/508203139184792584/

I’ve been working sporadically over the month for NaNoWriMo. On Saturday of the week before last, I managed to sit down and think about what I wanted to do for the graphic novel version of Ship of Shadows. As regular blog readers know, I finished the first issue of the script in the spring of this year, but bogged down over the summer in terms of writing it. I (unintentionally) took a break from the story as I thought I knew where it was going when I wrote the outline, but discovered (in the actual draft) that wasn’t where the story needed to go.

Showing Tana’s Backstory

One of the things that I realized was that I already told this story with the published short story, so it was very difficult for me to get super-engaged in this story as there was nothing new in this version of the story. The new ideas were coming in issue 3 and 4 (at least in the original draft). However, my mind kept rebelling and the more I tried to work on issue 2, the more my mind rebelled and the less and less motivated to work on it.

What I realized was that I had a goal in my mind for these various “remixes” of the story: the short story is the introduction of the world and characters to me (and my readers), while the novel is a longer, more lived in version of the world where the character is at the height of her abilities, but is thrown into a situation that will challenge her abilities to the maximum (& may even break them!)

So what I decided was the graphic novel should help me understand the character better. In other words, I would find out (along with the readers) more about Tana’s backstory. Why is she the way she is? And this is where I decided issue #2 should go. We see Tana at her lowest moment as a child and she must find a way to pick herself back up. Then issue 3 should pick up with the second point of the story, but the stakes should ratchet up from the original story and end on a cliffhanger. Then issue 4 moves back into Tana’s backstory. Issue 5 should then show them getting out of the horrible situation and issue 6 (the final issue) should resolve the story and show how Tana, who is a “pilot” becomes a “captain” (remember, in the novel she’s been a captain for quite a few years and has quite a bit of experience under her belt).

The Graphic Novel as a Linkage Between Short Story and Novel

If it hasn’t been clear, I’m now using the graphic novel to dig deeper into Tana’s character and I’m hoping that it will help me understand who Tana is as a character by delving into her backstory.

While I don’t intend there to be a direct one-to-one linkage between the graphic novel and the novel (i.e., that you have to read the graphic novel before reading the novel), I do want to use it to help me figure out my characters, my setting and world, and the emotions/character traits for my story. Hopefully, by working on the graphic novel and seeing how Tana develops as a character earlier in her life, I can then “build” upon that to show the readers a three dimensional character at the start of the novel, or at least, that is my hope.

See, NaNoWriMo is still helpful even if one doesn’t have the time to actually work on the pieces–one can still do the “dreaming” necessary to help create strong and meaningful drafts later down the road.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019

NaNoWriMo Calendar--Calendar with checkboxes and word count.
Image Source: https://writerswrite.co.za/perennial-nanowrimo-calendar/

So, I’ve discussed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) on the blog before, so I won’t belabor the point too much. For those who might not have heard about it, it is a way of tracking your progress through the month (in terms of Word Count) for a novel. I believe that the Word Count is 50,000 words produced in the month of November in order to count towards getting recognition that you’ve completed NaNoWriMo for that year.

While admirable, I’ll likely never “complete” NaNoWriMo because, as I’ve pointed it out in previous blogs on the subject–November is the exact wrong month for me to try to accomplish such a lofty goal (at least while I’m in school). I have far too many school-related activities to do to even begin to work on a 50,000 word draft. Just this week, in addition to prepping a class, I need to grade 38 Annotated Bibliographies and Daily Writings, I need to research and write my own Final Project Proposal and Annotated Bibliography for the class I’m taking to turn in by Nov. 3, and I need to take care of the several school-related things (like applying for an Honor Society by deadline) that I’ve slacked on doing while prepping for Friday’s exam.

So I don’t have time to do NaNoWriMo, right?

NaNoWriMo 2019–Well, Sort Of . . .

While I don’t have time to really invest in writing the full draft of a novel, I do have time to sit down and jot down a handwritten “rough draft” of a novel. As this is, for me, “Year of the Shadow” where I write long projects based on my short story, “Ship of Shadows,” I have a strong idea for a novel featuring many of the characters from the short story. I began writing out the skeletal form of the story, but stopped at Chapter 5. I was just jotting down 2-3 sentences per paragraph, but I wanted something more substantial. What I didn’t realize is that what I was doing was developing a “plot outline” where I was emphasizing the events, but I was also creating character “hooks” that I could use to start discussing the characters.

In beginning of November, I plan to write out this plot outline again, this time going all the way to the finish of the novel. Then I plan to do the same for the Screenplay and the Graphic Novel. As a matter of fact, I think that’s why I’ve stalled on the Graphic Novel. I really want to get Tana’s “backstory” in the graphic novel, but I didn’t structure it that way and now I think I need to go back to issue #2 and rewrite it, so that it is a flashback scene, so that when she actually tries to save a fellow crewperson, we see the motivations behind the actions rather than me trying to tell it through “captions” above the panel.

Summertime and the Writing is Easy

The perfect time for NaNoWriMo, for me, would be the summer. In the summer, I have much more “free” time and I can use that for writing (even if it is in shorter bursts than I’d like). Even though NaNoWriMo doesn’t work so much for me in November, I can use it to get a “Rough Draft” of the novel together (and the same for a screenplay and the graphic novel).

Even though in January, I plan to “switch” to a different project for my “Year of . . .,” that only means that I plan to start thinking about a new story that I’ve published and how I might be able to expand them out and touch on the backstory of characters and figuring out the sequel for the story. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t actually be working on a 1st draft for the longer pieces. My mind is good at doing “2 things” really well. As I mentioned in the gaming post, I can really do well in manipulating two different modes/registers at the same time. Any more than that, then my mind says too much, don’t want to do it.

This is what I want to avoid–getting too many projects going at any one time (& not finishing any of them). It would be awesome if I can get to next November and have what NaNoWriMo promises: a finished 1st Draft of a novel (and other projects). Once there’s a 1st draft, then 1) I’m invested and am much more likely to see the project to the end and 2) it is far easier to critique a product rather than an idea. Write now, all my longer projects have been just “ideas,” and you can’t critique ideas because you can always change it to make better–to match your vision.

So, to sum up, my goal for this NaNoWriMo is to, instead of using it as month for novel (and other longer writing projects), it is a time to “plan” out those projects and set those plans down on paper and to use the next 12 months, until next November to get those 50,000 words written.

So this is MY 2019 NaNoWriMo Challenge: 1) Rough Draft of Novel “Ship of Shadows,” 2) Rough Draft of Graphic Novel “Ship of Shadows,” and 3) Rough Draft of Screenplay of “Ship of Shadows.” If, at the end of the month, I’m able to get these done, then I’ll report back on the progress. If you never hear anything else about this until next year, then you’ll know that I didn’t get it done.

Hey, at least I’m honest! 😉

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

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