Working Smarter, Not Harder

keep-calm-and-think-work-smarter-not-harder

Source: Lifehack.org

 

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

As I work to perfect my “Work-Life” Balance, I have found that I haven’t been utilizing my time and resources as effectively as I could and this blog entry details some of the ways in which I have developed to address this imbalance.  In 2015, I wrote a lot, but did not maximize the submissions part of my writing.  In 2016, I wrote a little, but I really focused on the submissions aspect, and did not really focus as much on my writing.  This year, I’ve tried to focus on both, but the amount of schoolwork has limited my ability to really write creatively, as you can see through the lack of blog entries that I have posted this year.  So, I had fallen back to prioritizing submissions as a way to still feel connected with the creative writing part of my life.

STEPPING STONES

However, after recently dusting off an older story that was already published and sending it to a market that accepts reprints, I realized that I already have a cache of material, that with a little reworking, that I can use as “stepping stones” to create longer, and more lucrative works.  Ship of Shadows (SoS) is a story that I created, submitted and was published in Visions IV: Space Between Stars.  I have detailed its genesis in this blog entry.  I am really proud of this story, but rather than try to reprint it in other Visions IVanthologies/markets (although I totally could as the rights have reverted back to me), I wondered if there was a way to “expand” upon it in some way, and to make it longer and more in-depth.  In other words, was there a way that I could revise (“re-vision”) the story and take the same “kernel” of the story, but “re-see” it in a new, longer form work?  I then began to brainstorm what that would look like.  First, I would need to know what longer form work is it that I’m envisioning.  The options that I would be interested in working on at the moment are graphic novels, screenplays, and novels.  In my mind, the next logical stepping stone up from a short story is the graphic novel–it is short enough to be read in one sitting (in many cases), but tells a more elaborate story.  I already know that the characters, setting, and plot are strong because it was published (& something an editor paid to publish), so why not work smarter and try to “build” upon a structure that I already know has the potential for success?  So I am currently working on outlining the graphic novel version of SoS.  I am hopeful that I will be able to write a strong rough draft from my outline during my Summer Break.  I will, of course, be detailing its construction in this blog.

MAXIMIZING FREE TIME

Okay, look, I’m a PhD student.  My days are jam-packed with reading, teaching, reading, working, reading, writing (academic), reading, grading, reading, reading, reading . . . you get the picture.  Heck, even as I type these very words, I have a 5-7 page paper to complete and an annotated bibliography to start, so my time is precious to me.  This, unfortunately, means that creative writing has gotten the short shrift during the past two semesters.  I realize, however, that I have a lot of time (free) built into my days that I’m not utilizing in a very productive way.  On those days where I’m “free” (i.e., no classes, I should take an hour as I’m eating to simply write on the current draft that I’m working on).  On the days I have to “work” (i.e., days where I have classes or academic commitments, I should simply outline/rough draft future works).  That way, I’m always working on something current and will be ready for those extended “Breaks” (Summer & Winter) when I can devote my full time and resources to the things that I’ve outlined or rough drafted.  On weekends, my time should be used for preparing submissions.  If I can somehow achieve and maintain this balance, I think my writing production and my satisfaction with the writing process will improve immensely.

Well, that’s all I have time for this week.  I’ve got assignments to write, papers to grade, and books to read, so I’ll sign off.  Here’s hoping you have a successful week, and with luck, hopefully I’ll have a successful writing week as well.

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Score One for the Good Guys! Ship of Shadows–in Visions IV: Space Between Stars

Visions IV

So last week, I was super discouraged with life in general and the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre in particular.  As a self-proclaimed good guy (a la Captain America/Luke Skywalker in my own humble assessment 🙂 ) I felt I was getting the short end of the stick on pretty much everything last week.  Then to top it off, everything I tried to read for enjoyment seemed to be some poorly written pastiche of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or Walking Dead (where the bad guys get to win).  Argh!  It was enough to make a grown man scream (or in my case, post a disconsolate blog entry).

And then comes this news from the wonderful Carrol Fix–the book that has my story that I worked on and submitted in February 2016 is OUT NOW!

YAY, Carrol!

Here is the full Press Release.  Please, Please, PLEASE, consider purchasing a copy, if not for my story being inside of the book, please consider purchasing a copy to show that sometimes the “Nice Guys” get to win!

Visions IV

Visions IV: Space Between Stars Cover

The Antidote to Boring Scifi!
It’s time to read
Visions IV
Space Between Stars

• When an influenza decimates everyone else aboard the colony ship, Evalynn Santori discovers unexpected companions.

• Should past knowledge always be preserved? Even if that knowledge is dangerous to what remains of the human race?

• Vampires in outer space. What could happen to the polymorphous vampiric body away from sunlight and gravity?

• A murderer is stalking a paradise space station at the outer edge of the heliosphere. Some believe Lady Ink’s body ink gives her special senses that will find the killer. Some think she’s the killer. She doesn’t know who is right.
Buy Now From Lillicat Publishers!
or
Buy from Amazon

Imagine the deepest regions of space between the stars. Cold, empty, silent, and vast. Someday, humankind will reach those realms and find endless opportunities for strange and exciting adventures. What will they see, and what dangers will they overcome, in the dark recesses of the deep space between stars?
Space Between Stars describes how those voyages could be made and speculates on the unique challenges to be faced. From generations ships with internally developed cultures and religions, to cold sleep and faster-than-light travel. Black holes, space warps, FTL travel—or something never thought of before—will transport future voyagers through the long night between the stars.
Fifteen talented, award-winning science fiction authors share their visions of how our descendants will live, and possibly die, in deep space.

The Visions Series examines our urge to venture outward…to explore the Universe. Visions: Leaving Earth, describes our first faltering steps to rise from Earth’s surface. Visions II: Moons of Saturn confirms that we have left the Earth and are at home in our solar system. Visions III: Inside the Kuiper Belt proclaims humankind’s domination from the Sun to the outermost reaches of the Kuiper Belt. Visions IV: Space Between Stars astounds us with the infinite possibilities of adventure and danger far from any suns or planets—in the cold, dark regions of deepest space. Beyond these volumes, we will search far beyond our solar system to colonize the Milky Way and understand the Universe.
Our vision is limitless.

Lillicat Publishers
Editor@lillicatpublishers.com
www.lillicatpublishers.com
“Communicating with the world, one book at a time.”

Heroism, Not Hooliganism

So, as usual, this blog entry is REALLY late.  Apologies.  This has been a rough few weeks for me.  School has been “challenging” for me  these past three weeks, I’ve been ill, and I’ve had zero motivation to write since turning in “Ship of Shadows,” over a month ago.  What finally compelled me to write is the fact that I received a rewrite request for “Ship of Shadows” from the anthology where I sent it.  The editor gave me a week (7 days!) to rewrite the story and send it back.  Now, under normal circumstances, I would have gotten to work immediately and sent it back to her ASAP.  I mean, a publication is a publication, right?

However, after reading through some of the comments, I realize that the editor wants me to change my main character from a “hero” into a “hooligan.”  I’m NOT okay with that.  In  “Ship of Shadows,” I have my protagonist go back and save another character.  The editor believes that is out of character for her as I’ve mentioned that the protagonist is an orphan  and will do what it takes to survive.  This puts me into a situation is which I have to turn my hero into an anti-hero who is only out for herself and cannot be counted on when the chips are down–EXACTLY the same as Vin Diesel’s character in PITCH BLACK, a movie that I categorically DESPISE for its treatment of the Heroism vs. Anti-Heroism.

WHY A HERO?

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I’m (currently) a 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher.  On my door is a sign that reads, “HELP OTHERS.”  Of course, no one really follows that advice (although to be fair, sometimes I see those who get the mini-lesson help out others in the class who are struggling when I’m helping someone else) as these are sixth graders.  They still believe that the world revolves around them and their needs are more important than everyone else’s in the entire world.

In the past two or three years, I’ve come to understand that my core values are (in the words of Captain America from MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS) “Old Fashioned.”  In a time where BREAKING BAD, THE WALKING DEAD, and GAME OF THRONES are held up as the epitome of “good writing,” I can’t help but shake my head.

What would our world look like if we ALL were out for number one?  Would strangers take the time to pull people out of burning cars and houses?  Of course not.  Would you take the time to call the police if you saw burglars in your neighbor’s house while they were away?  Not my house, you’d say.  What about calling 911 if you witnessed an accident with injuries and neither party was responsive enough to phone on their own?  Not my problem.

So, then, whose problem is it?

WHY NOT A HOOLIGAN?

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Being a hooligan (anti-hero) is SO COOL.  You get to do what you want to, without anyone telling you it is wrong.  You get to be Mr./Ms. Bad Person without consequences.  You get to be “Number One” and no one can touch you, ever.  And if someone complains, you’re bad enough to BEAT THEM DOWN so they can’t ever complain again.  Right?

This is a fantasy that we have as kids, but it seems (to me) that more and more people are not growing out of this phase, but carry this type of attitude with them into adolescence and then into adulthood.

I see it both in the real world and in various mediums: various school fights being posted online (Facebook/YouTube), in video games (Grand Theft Auto series), TV (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), movies (Pitch Black, Looper, Jumper).

I’m constantly having to reread books in my collection because I can’t count how many times over the past couple of years that I’ve checked out a book from the library only to find that the main characters are jerks, or are detestable jerks, or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb (even though it is a Fantasy story), or are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists, or who are detestable jerks using the F-Bomb who are mysogynists who run around slitting throats because they aspire to be the next “Great Assassin” of whatever generic fantasy world the author has created.  I don’t think I’ve managed to get past the first three chapters of any book I’ve read in the past two years unless the author was named Brandon Sanderson, Diane Duane, or Elizabeth Moon.  All the other authors that I’ve tried in that time have had characters so UNLIKEABLE that I’ve abandoned them ASAP.

NOW WHAT?

So, back to the topic at hand–what to do with “Ship of Shadows?”  I’m going to implement many of the changes that the editor asked, but I will NOT have the main character kill the other character.  When I send it to her, I will politely let her know my reasoning and politely inform her that it is okay to reject the story if it doesn’t meet her needs (which is what I expect to happen).

I will then take this as a learning experience and realize that I’m either writing 10 years TOO LATE or 10-15 years TOO EARLY and dial back my expectations for my writing career.  I am not and will not be the “flavor of the month” or the “hot new writer,” because of my insistence on heroism and my disdain for hooliganism–at least, not until the pendulum swings AWAY from the anti-hero and BACK to the hero.

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

LostinSpace Spiders
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.