Whale Song Revision

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MTSU Writing Center, Image Source: Tucolla.Wordpress.com

Another short (and late) blog post.  I went to the writing center yesterday as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post entry and it was EXTREMELY helpful.  I had a short-story entitled, Whale Song that I’d sent out for a while before becoming frustrated by the rejections.  Specifically, when markets gave feedback on the story, they mentioned that the protagonist felt very “high-handed” and didn’t come across as sympathetic.

During the session, I mentioned this and brainstormed ways to combat this impression while keeping the core of the story intact.  With the help of my consultant, I was able to think of ways to both change the character as well as the structure so as to better tell the story that I wanted.

I will post an Author’s Note here when the revisions are complete.  There is an anthology that I’m hoping to submit the story to and its deadline is Nov. 1, so (in addition to the graphic novel and the rough draft of the short story I’m trying to create), I will be revising the story with this deadline in mind.  I keep you posted on my progress.

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Leave It To Chance

Leave It To Chance is a young adult graphic novel that I really, really like.  I wanted to take a moment to highlight this great (& short) graphic novel series.  I just finished rereading the first volume this week (I’m trying to read all my graphic novels as a way to remind myself of the graphic novel format since I’ve been away for so long).

Leave It To Chance was published in the early 2000s (2002) and it was written in the height of the GrrlPower movement (James Robinson’s Forward is dated 3.25.97 and this is in the height of the movement, but as the hardcover collection wasn’t published until 2002 which, by then, was the tail-end of the movement).  The protagonist is Chance, a young girl who is the daughter of Falconer, a mage of eminence and importance in the city of Devil’s Echo.  She is “protected” from the magical intrigue and derring-do by her father, but she is of age to take up training to become the next in the line of Falconers who are sworn to protect the city.  Her father refuses to train her simply because of her gender (noting that this “burden” of training is passed from male heir to male heir).  Chance decides that this is horribly unfair and seeks to rectify this (& gets into adventures on her own).

James Robinson and Paul Smith collaborated on the story and art.  This is actually my first (and I think, my only) examples of their work, but I really enjoyed the story when I first read it at the Public Library–so much so, that I bought a copy for my personal collection.  I like Chance’s character–they made her very much like a Nancy Drew detective and set the world in a Neo-Noir setting (grim, dark alleyways merged with aircars).  Chance also has a “Jubilee”-vibe to her and dresses similarly (who in turn, has bit of the Frank Miller’s female Robin from the Dark Knight look) as well.  You can almost see a direct progression from Miller’s female Robin to Jubilee from the X-Men, to Chance.  I own all three books in the series (will be doing reviews of the other two as well), but as a pure story, I think this first volume, “Shaman’s Rain” holds up the best storywise.

I think too, that the setting of Devil’s Echo was very well used.  It definitely precedes the entire Urban Fantasy craze that authors like Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Kim Harrison (to name a few) helped popularize in the mid-to-late 2000s & early 2010s.  I personally love the fact that Chance has her own (mini-)dragon–as it recalls to mind Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger books of the 1980s.  This one is a great series for both Young Adult Readers (& younger children), but has enough complexity, character development, and setting that will at least keep older readers from being completely bored with it, even if it doesn’t completely captivate them.

OVERALL GRADE: B

The Green Rider

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Green Rider Book Cover, Image Source: Amazon.com

So far, I’m about a quarter of a way through The Green Rider and I’m liking it.  It isn’t a favorite like the work of Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams or Elizabeth Moon (my current favorite go-to authors), but it isn’t as bad as I remember it.  I think that I was wanting it (based on the reviews and the way people were talking about it) to be amazing and while it is a good, solid fantasy, it isn’t, for me, amazing.

I suppose I could look it up to see if this is Kristen Britain’s first novel (my computer isn’t actually connected to the internet as I’m typing this so as not to get distracted), even if it isn’t, it seems to have many of the first novel issues.  Just in the first third of the novel, there are pacing issues.  We get introduced to the “big bad” (who apparently is under an even “bigger bad.”  We get a world that is both incredibly airy and light intermixed with one that is incredibly savage.  The main character seems quite unprepared for both–the savagery of the world where she has to fight for her life and the rustic, almost idyllic world of the sisters who offer her respite.

I think this is one of the reasons why it is so hard for me personally to commit myself to writing novels (even though that is what I really want to do as a writer).  I find myself doing exactly the same thing–too many storylines and plot lines when what I want is a coherent whole that doesn’t meander, that doesn’t wander, but tells a compelling story from start to end about a character who starts out one way, but learns about himself/herself on the journey of the novel.  I’m sure that I can learn and master this form as it is the primary form that I read and enjoy, but when I sit down to write it, I find myself doing exactly what is occurring in The Green Rider where I am going down diverse tangents and the story doesn’t seem to have the linearity that I’m looking for and I end up abandoning the project.  Perhaps the lesson The Green Rider can teach me is to finish a rough draft for the project.  Write the whole thing for start to finish and then try to find ways/techniques to revise the story on the paper/page into the one that resides inside my head (& heart).

Using Books to Escape a Horrid Summer

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Tent blowing away in a summer storm.  Image Source: Yoga Mobility

Apologies for not posting as the past few days were the perfect end to an absolutely horrid summer for me (and by perfect, I mean utterly devastating for me as a human being and as a person).  Rather than coming online to vent my spleen (to use an old outdated expression of anger), I decided just take a couple of “mental health” days and refrain from posting for a couple of days (would that online Trolls would do the same thing and internet trolling would be a thing of the past).  I won’t go into details, but just reread my post on Sometimes the Bear Gets You and multiply it by a factor of 50 and then you’ll have some idea on why it was probably a good idea to step away for a couple of days.

Anyway, moving on, my library books happened to be due this week, so I stopped by and saw all of the changes that have occurred in the 4 years since I became a teacher and a PhD student.  It really is incredible!  One of the librarians, when I told her about my horrid summer, said to just put it out of my mind and to focus on my upcoming tasks, so I decided to take her advice.

To that end, I’ve checked out two books: The Green Rider by Kristen Britain and J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter.   Now I’ve checked out these books before but there is a story behind each of them.

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Book Cover: Young Lady on a Horse.  Image Source: Goodreads

I tried to read The Green Rider by Kristen Britain before when it was first released, but abandoned it shortly after I started reading.  I think it was because she does a lot of POV switching early in the book (I can’t remember if this is her first novel or not–I’ll have to research it), but at the time, I was a beginning writer and the advice to stay in one POV was ringing in my head and it drove me nuts that an author could get her book published while ignoring this “basic” rule (of course, I could be misremembering and this might not be the reason at all–hey, cut me some slack, it’s been a LONG time, but my best recollection is this is the reason why I stopped reading).  As both my school’s starting time and my library’s loan period is about the same time (3 weeks) I’m going to (in the short period before school resumes) try to read it again and see if I can stick with it long enough to finish it.  I’ll report back on my progress here.

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Book Cover: Tolkien seated beside a tree.  Image Source: Amazon

The second book I picked up is a biography on J.R.R. Tolkien that I’ve read before.  Last summer, when I started the PhD program we had to pick an author and do an in-depth study on him/her.  I wanted to pick Tolkien, but I was talked out of it by well-meaning (but ultimately flawed) advice: i.e., even though he’s deceased, the amount of editions in print and the amount of scholarship would be overwhelming.  So I picked Langston Hughes, an author who I’ve done a little bit research on and who seemed to fit the bill for the class (I wanted to do David Eddings as a 2nd choice, but there was almost NO research on him at all, which would have made finding 50 critical articles a near impossibility).  However, here’s what I (re)learned from that experience–I have to follow my OWN heart, otherwise it all goes wrong.  Langston was manageable, but uninteresting.  I struggled to complete the assignments because I wasn’t invested in Langston’s life and works as I had been as an undergraduate.  I had moved on as a person/scholar and I didn’t really have the zeal to do a critical study of him.  This is the “kiss of death” for a scholar.  If you’re going to spend all that time working on a project, you’d better make doggone sure that you’re interested in it.  I’d learned this lesson before by taking a graduate Shakespeare class at UTC.  The class wasn’t the one I had planned on taking that year, but a friend told me to take it and it (much like this summer) didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped.  I learned then to trust my own judgement and not the judgement of others, a lesson which I forgot, (and had to re-learn) from my disinterest in Langston’s life and works at MTSU.  So, in honor of such a crappy summer, I’m going to reread Tolkien’s biography to hopefully remind myself that it is MY opinion that matters in deciding matters about MY life.

 

 

“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.

It’s that Time of Year Again . . .

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Source: Letour.fr

Yup, it’s that time of year again–The Tour De France 2016 (aka “my annual 3 week production drop”).  It’s that time of year when my brain goes into “shutdown” mode and I gorge on four hours plus of race coverage for 3 weeks straight (including the “Rest Days” as I end up watching reruns of the previous days race even when there’s not a race on because I can’t bear to be without the race.  Sad isn’t it?  :0 )

I love watching the Tour and I have since the mid-80’s when Greg Lemond was participating in the Tour.  This (after E3) is my unofficial “Me” time where I put most everything aside and just watch.  I’m not a huge TV watcher, meaning that I’ll turn it on , but unless I’m invested in a (sci-fi and/or BBC) show, it is just “background” for me.  The Tour is one of those few exceptions.

“Project Storm”

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Source: learningenglish.voanews.com

Surprisingly enough, this year I’m actually still producing work.  I just started a new short-story tentatively titled, “Project Storm.”  For those who are interested, it was inspired by “The Open Boat,” by Stephen Crane.  I’m less interested in the actual plot of the story and more interested in some of the comments/thoughts of the men.  More on the genesis of the story in an Author’s Note when I finish it.  This one may be one of my shorter works–I’ve finished Section 1 and I’m thinking there’s only going to be 3 sections, but that may change.

Outlining Longer Works — “Project Skye”

 

A few posts ago, I was bemoaning the fact that I’ve not outlined anything any of the longer works that I would like to work on and summer break is quickly coming to an end.  So, with that in mind, I grabbed my notebooks and began going through them looking for ideas that I could use for Chapter Headings/Titles.  I put down around 60 or so possible chapter titles (whew!).  I’ll start whittling them down and then I’ll see if I can put a sentence or two description about what happens in each chapter while watching the Tour.  Who knows, if I’m really lucky, I might have a novel outlined by the time race concludes in 3 weeks.  How cool is that?  Wish me luck!  🙂

Goal: to have an outline finished by Summer 2016 so that I can start writing chapters in my (rare) downtime, so that by the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I have the “rough draft” of my first novel completed!

 

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.