The Big Squeeze

Bearded man with a Foot on his Face
Image Source: https://www.nojitter.com/big-squeeze

One of the most frustrating things about graduate school (well, there are many which I’ll probably do individual posts about for the next month or so) is the fact that it is my writing time that gets squeezed in the process of “becoming more educated.” I’m not very appreciative of the fact that, as writer, my time for writing every week gets slowly wittled away as I have to complete more and more assignments which touch on, ironically, writing and the theories and applications of the writing process. My Master’s Degree is in both Rhetoric and Writing and my Bachelor’s Degree was in English: American Language and Literature (with a Concentration in Writing), which just means that I took extra Writing courses on top of the required literature courses. Writing is instrumental to pretty much everything that I am and/or do as an individual and citizen.

We Want You To Write–Just Not What You Want To Write

One of my greatest sources of frustration with the educational process in general, and the way Rhetoric and Writing is treated in particular, is the fact that we privilege the teaching of writing as something that is both special and magical in terms of allowing students to find their own voices/means of expression, but also a craft and requires work through revisions, and yet, the program I’m in does not actively privilege my creative writing endeavors. Only a handful of people in my “community” know that I “Dragonhawk” was accepted for publication and not a ONE of them is a professor. Not to appear boastful or braggadocios, but this is a success that pretty much all my professors of writing should be happy about. I’m able, at a high level, to use the techniques that we teach our students (inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, revision, consideration of audience, and perseverance to see it through to publication) to create and shepherd a work to fruition.

No Conferences = No Credentials

No, I’m not talking about the conferences professors hold with their students. I’m talking about conferences that academics attend to present papers and the like. That’s really the only true measure of graduate student’s success. How many conferences did you attend? How many papers have you presented at a conferences. I both understand and am appalled at the process at the same time. Conferences, let’s be honest, are built for the extroverts who love being with other people. Sure, if you’re an introvert, you can (sorta’) get by just attending panels for the ideas and information. But, to use an old analogy–there’s as much noise (socializing) that occurs at a conference as there is signal (information/ideas). Conferences, while stimulating and fun, are not the end all and be all of an academic’s existence–which is what they are at the moment that I write this.

Value ALL Academic Expression

The main reason why this blog has been spotty this semester and that I’ve had very little time to concentrate on anything writing related, is because I’ve been fully committed to writing, reading, and working for class and for both of my jobs. I’m not really happy as the results for all my hard-work have not materialized the manner that I would have expected after giving so much of myself–and foregoing so much of my creative output in order to do all of this work. I think that if I felt that I could talk to (and get praise from) my professors for the creative work that I have done (and am doing), this would go a LONG way to assuaging the dissatisfaction I feel in that others are being treated better because they are playing the “academic” game, whereas others, who are not, seemed to be “looked down on” (and I’m not okay with this. I’m using the exact same techniques in my own writing life that are good practices (using brainstorming methods to come up with ideas, engaging with the material, drafting–including multiple drafts, getting feedback on my writing, incorporating feedback through revisions, and persevering through multiple rejections until I find a market who is willing to accept the story). The fact that I’m made to feel that my writing endeavors are not worthy in lieu of someone else who simply attends a conference is very distressing to me as a writer.

Hopefully, after this (very) disspiriting semester is over, I can get back to writing (and enjoying the things that I write) more frequently. Right now, I can say that irregularity of the blog is simply a symptom of a larger set of issues and hopefully, regularity will return when I can address the larger problem of being made to feel that my worth as a creative writer is less than someone who just enjoys playing the “academic game.”

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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Characters Lead the Way, Redux

Image Source: https://lonewolf.fandom.com/wiki/Shadow_on_the_Sand

While cleaning up this weekend, I happened to stumble across the original “Rough Draft” that I’d printed out for my story Dragonhawk. This story (to the time of writing this blog entry) remains my one-and-only story that was accepted on the first try. It is truly a “rough draft” in that it is only three (3) paragraphs long (and is probably shorter in total length than this blog entry will be by the time I’m finished writing it). What struck me, however, was the first word on the “rough draft” was Kelfryn, the name of the protagonist.

Inspiration from a Book Cover

So, the book cover above, is from a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books called The Lone Wolf series by Joe Deaver and Gary Chalk. While the D&D books were pretty popular at the time, the ones by Deaver and Chalk really spoke to me. While not part of the Warhammer universe, the illustrations still have that “Old World” feel that marks the Warhammer brand (and what is probably what drew me to that universe). While definatley dark (the character could and often would die and the “adventure” would be over–much like a “game over” screen in video games), I always found the artwork both on the covers of the book and in the interiors to be arresting and fascinating. The above cover of a warrior riding a giant “warbird” was particularly interesting and stuck with me into adulthood.

Kelfryn and Scryfe

As I began writing, I had several incarnations of this image pop up, most notably an idea for a novel entitled Sparrowhawk as I imagined the protagonist would be a young Norse warrior who was mentally bonded to the bird (much like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders were bonded with their dragons in her series of books (which I, of course, loved and devoured as a child). I was also much taken with the idea of a bird hunting other birds–which is what the Sparrowhawk is named for doing. However, the novel did not progress and that idea fell by the wayside. After I had a few publications under my belt, I decided to revisit the idea, but this time I went back to the original image that had captivated me: the warrior riding a giant warbird. Then it came to me: why not have both the warrior and the bird still be mentally bonded, but why not have them hunt dragons?

The Art of the Character Sketch

From there, I tried to come up with a reason for them to hunt dragons and I likened them to fishermen. They had to hunt dragons to survive. Finally, I reasoned that even with the warbirds, dragons would be too ferocious, so they would only hunt things that the dragons left behind (scales, teeth, talons, etc.) when they went out hunting for food. Then came my stroke of brillance: I used Scrivener’sCharacter Sketch” template to completely write out each of the two main characters: Kelfryn (who became a young “wannbe” warrior) and Scryfe (his devoted warbird companion). I filled out all of the sections of the Character Sketch with a solid paragraph for each of the major categories (I found those sketches earlier this year–that’s how I know). After doing the character sketches, I simply started the story and everything seemed to fall into place–I didn’t have Writer’s Block at any point, nor did I have any major diversions to the story that I dreamed up–both character and plot seemed to just seemed to merge together, so that’s what I’m working towards now–getting back into the Character Sketch mentality.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

HawkeMoon Acceptance!

Falconry--falcon landing man's gloved hand.
Image Source: https://www.usatoday.com/videos/travel/2018/11/12/celebrate-world-falconry-day-historic-hotel/1977581002/

So, sometime ago, I wrote an Author’s Note that covered the genesis of my short story, HawkeMoon. While I thought it was an awesome story, I despaired of every getting published as it is an action story. And it features an ending that is not the typical “GrimDark” fare that you see these days in Fantasy based on the successful of Game of Thrones (and its many imitators). Well, after 21 tries, #22 turned out to be the right market! HawkeMoon was accepted for publication by StoryHack Action and Adventure! While I’m not sure what issue it will be in yet, you can be sure that I’ll be keeping readers know when it is available.

Action and Adventure

So, this market is exactly the type of market that I wish there were more of in the Fantasy and Science Fiction field. Most of the markets are more for “social” sci-fi where they look at a trend and extrapolate on that trend for near future/far future and then that becomes the author’s world. Fantasy is a lot more fluid, but thanks to George R. R. Martin’s success with his “GrimDark” Game of Thrones series, it is very hard to interest editors of markets to get behind anything that is not “GrimDark,” or has elements of that sub-genre in work. I make no bones about despising the “GrimDark” sub-genre, hence my despair at finding a publisher for HawkeMoon.

One of the things that I like about this market–in addition to the awesome system of keep authors in the loop about the submission process–is that the editor understands that “action” and “adventure” are not dirty words, but are elements that are integral to the story. Yes, characterization is the most important (see, I’m learning), but just because characters don’t have “bad things” happen to them and then they turn around and do “bad things” to others (take a guess to which Fantasy series I’m referring to), doesn’t make the story nonpunishable. Action/Adventure, when used appropriately, can heighten the suspense for the reader and make the character “change” by putting him or her under extraordinary circumstances from which they must escape. So, they don’t “change” via a soliloquy or deep intense reflection–that’s okay. They still change–whether its deciding to kill (or not kill) that Troll guarding the bridge, or whether or not to pull the trigger on those starfighter controls that will, in effect, kill his mother and yet, all the girls go gushy over because of his long black and emo personality (guess which popular space opera movie I’m referring to here), still these are choices that the character makes and these choices define the character (for good or ill) and are just as appropriate as deep navel gazing (reflection) or long dramatic speeches (soliloquy) in defining the character.

Celebration

So, I haven’t decided what to do quite yet to celebrate HawkeMoon’s acceptance. My birthday’s coming up soon, so I may just roll the celebration into my birthday and call it a day. At the very least, getting an Acceptance for HawkeMoon is an awesome birthday present!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Write It Down, Sidney!

Write it down. Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants; cant's into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality.  Don't just think it - ink it! Michael Korda via AZ Quotes.
Image Source: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/856710

One of my favorite movies is National Treasure (Shh, don’t tell anyone) and one of the scenes in the movie goes like this:

Ian Howe (villain) (whispers): Stupid!
Shaw (Henchman): Who?
Ian Howe: Me. It’s not here, it’s there.

Sorry if the wording isn’t verbatim (I’m doing this from memory). However, the gist of the conversation is that Ian Howe is berating himself because he followed the obvious answer rather than thinking the problem through and in doing so allowed Ben, our protagonist, to get to the “prize” first.

That’s how I feel right now–stupid. Not because I’m on a “treasure hunt” for a hidden Templar treasure in modern day Washington DC and New York City, but because I didn’t right down a great story idea (along with characters) and now I’ve mostly forgotten it! ARRRGGGHHH!

Monster Hunting for the Win

The story had to do (as best as I can remember) a group of three people hunting a monster. I remember the basic plot-line well enough so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but as an upcoming blog entry will show, I’m a much better story writer when I have the characters fleshed out along with the plot–and I did (I promise)–I had really unique and interesting characters with fairly unique backstories, but now I don’t because I didn’t write them down! ARRRGGGHHHH! I had the villain and his motivation as well, but I didn’t write it down–I’ll save the Argh this time, but you get the drift. It is so annoying to be working against myself. I need all the help that I can get, so when I get a chance, I need to write it down. And that’s the rub.

Writing on Breaks

The rub is that I came up with this story and characters while working at my second job which doesn’t have a lot of downtime. There’s a normal break, but 15 minutes isn’t a whole lot of time. The problem is that I intended to write this down during my break, but I forgot.

I try to read on the break, but there’s just not enough time–as soon as I get interested/involved with something, it’s time to stop and go back to work. I have my notebook with me and this needs to be when I pull it out and just jot down story notes/character ideas/character sketches or any other writing related thing that I need to remember or otherwise this might happen again. On my break tomorrow (or, Heaven forbid, if I happen to arrive early), I plan to jot down what I remember from this “monster hunting” story in my notebook for future reference (which I should have done in the first place).

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekly Round-Up (February 3rd-9th)

potpourri

Writing

  • 2nd Draft–Starlight, Starbright: “Exposition” — I worked on the beginning of the story and reworked it to add in more characterization, more character backstory, and to revise the introduction of the story so that it matches the changes that I made in the middle of the story in the 1st draft (I didn’t go back and revise it as I figured I would get bogged down and not finish the 1st draft which is what I wanted to do.
  • The market that I’m aiming this for is a yearly one and it stops taking submissions on February 28th. I already missed a different market that stopped taking submissions on Jan. 31st (& will have to wait until June for their next period), so I don’t want to miss this one and have to wait an entire year (along with it having a different theme, to boot).

Gaming

  • So, I finished the campaign for Star Wars Battlefront II published by EA. I bought it on sale (9.99) and I bought a digital copy. I played the first one (only because it was Star Wars) “day one,” and while it was fun, I really did miss having a campaign (I rarely played the first game, so it was money wasted). I decided that this time I would wait until the game went on sale before purchasing it. I thought the campaign was good–although Iden goes through a character change quite quickly about a third of the way through–and while I liked it, I did find it abrupt. I didn’t even bother with the multiplayer which is this game’s bread and butter because I didn’t like the “loot box” controversy–just let us play games EA, stop looking at you gaming customers as stupid sheep to be fleeced for your shareholders. Not cool.
  • Speaking of multiplayer, this week saw the release of Apex Legends, a first person shooter which mixes the best of Battle Royale games (like Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBg), “character shooters” (Overwatch) and cartoony action/combat (Fortnite). This game was released on Tuesday or Wednesday and it has taken the gaming world by storm. 10 million players have played it in approx. 72 hours. Whether it has staying power remains to be seen. Oh, I also one my first match today. It is a three-person team, and my contribution was healing, revives, and calling enemies, but even though I wasn’t the “star” on the team, my help was both necessary and critical to the win! 🙂

Miscellaneous

  • So, not much going on outside of work–for school and for my second job.
  • Oh, I got new contact lenses, but I don’t think there going to work out. I’m extremely near-sighted so we added a “multifocus” lens so that I could do better at reading, but in doing so, the distance is now very blurry and limited and I’m not really “feeling” them. While I can’t go back to my old pair (too old), I may have to try to see if we can’t give up some “reading” clarity to get some clarity for my distant vision because of all the driving that I do.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

February 2019 Writing Project: “Project Dog”

Furrion Mech ( a four legged machine with a driver housed in the front cockpit).
Image Source: https://www.ecnmag.com/news/2018/01/video-day-mech-racing

So, since I finished Starlight, Starbright last month, I needed to decide what I would be working on for February. I had a choice between several different projects, but I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to work on next. So I let “Lady Luck” decide.

Luck of the Draw

While I do intend to work on horror (or in my mind, “horror-lite”) stories at some point (really, more like Dark Fantasy), I really want to become the best I can at Sci-Fi and Fantasy works. However, I have so many projects that are in process at some stage or that I want to work on (and as one can see from my erratic posting schedule, my time is severely limited) so I decided to let the luck of the draw decide for me. I opened up an app that I have on my phone that does RNG and I put in Fantasy or Sci-Fi. Sci-Fi was the one that was chosen. I felt that I could have assigned numbers to all the projects, but just chose between two that I was working on recently, Project Independence and Project Dog, and the app chose Project Dog, so that’s the one I’m working on for this semester.

Having Fun Again

Now that I’m finishing stories (& working on characters), I seem to be having fun again at writing creatively. Not seeing progress (finishing stories) was a real drag for me as I “tinkered” with my process. I really like seeing the story come together and having something “finished” (even if it needs a lot of work later on in the process to make it better). I’m cautiously optimistic about Project Dog as I would like to use some of the material that my uncle told me about during his time in the military in order to ground the story in its time and place. Hopefully, I can the same success in finishing a 1st draft of Project Dog this month that I did for Starlight, Starbright.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Writing the Platinum Trophy Way — Going through ALL the Stages of Writing

I finished my first short story of 2019! YAY! Here’s hoping: 1) I finish many more and 2) the time I use to write creatively doesn’t come back and bite me in terms of my schoolwork. 🙂

One thing I noticed, however, is the sense of accomplishment that I felt when I finished my story, Starlight, Starbright. It was a mini-version of when I actually get something published and the feeling of being published is very much earning a Platinum Trophy in a video game–a sense of both accomplishment and mastery that I love to feel and is what keeps me both writing and playing games.

The Sony Playstation Blog team put together a 2018 Awards Post that really crystallized how I think of the writing process.

What is a Platinum Trophy?

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So, my goal when I play games is to “finish” them and see the credits roll. Sometimes that’s enough, and once the game is over, I’m done with it and will move on to another game. In the late 2000s, Microsoft introduced a series of points when one accomplishes certain goals in the game, you get points that accumulate and add to your “gamer” score. Sony took this idea and ran with it, creating a similar system based on “trophies.” Bronze trophies for fairly common/routine game achievements, Silver trophies for harder achievements, Gold trophies for some the hardest achievements (or for finishing a game), and Platinum trophies for earning all the trophies in the game.

Bronze Trophy = First Draft

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Finishing a first draft feels a lot like earning a Bronze trophy. It is fairly easy to accomplish, but still challenging enough at the same time that one might be lulled into a false sense of security. I don’t have to worry about continuity, or characters/characterization, or anything like that–I just need to get the draft finished (which can sometimes be a real accomplishment just by itself).

Silver Trophy = Second Draft

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This is where the real work begins because this is where (for me) the dramatization happens, the characterization, and making sure the work is internally accurate. I’m working on Starlight, Starbright and The Independent now in this area. It also (generally) isn’t as much fun as the first draft because all of the mystery/excitement has been expended getting it out onto paper. Now, its just work and (for me) this is where quite a few of my projects break down. What I’m finally realizing is that it is the character that really needs to drive this draft. Getting a character that I really enjoy working with and investing in will help me see the project through the hard times and hard work of the character.

Gold Trophy = Third Draft

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If I can get the project through the second draft, then I usually submit from there (or sometimes at the first draft stage). I sometimes add in a Gold Trophy stage–for polish and making sure that the story is consistent. I try to do this on my own, but I find that I miss a lot of simple things, even when I follow common “tricks” like reading my work aloud, or reading with a “reader’s eye” rather than “writer’s eye.” This, I think, is where a second pair of eyes might be helpful, but as I only have “one pair,” I think the Writing Center will have to suffice until I graduate and then we’ll see what happens.

Platinum Trophy = Publication

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So, this to me is the “holy grail” of writing. It is also the only step that is out of my hands. I can’t control whether or not I get published. The only thing I can do is make the story as interesting as possible and mimimize the grammatical mistakes so as to create a compelling story that isn’t bogged down by errors in grammar that hinder communication with the reader. Just like a Platinum trophy where I can’t control the list that the developers of the game create–if the list is too hard or onerous, I won’t do them because it would be a futile & frustrating waste of time (I have 16 Platinum Trophies with over 100 games). However, there are many, many gamers who have only 1 or 2 platinum trophies (or none at all). My 16 Platinum trophies puts me in rare company–as do my publications. I’m I as successful as Hakoom, the current PlayStation trophy leader, or Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, both undisputed leaders in terms of money and prestige as writers? No, but just being published is an accomplishment all by itself, and working towards publication is just as satisfying (to me) as working towards (accomplishable) Platinum Trophy.

Time + Effort = Success!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)