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)
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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)

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)

Using Games to Finish Stories

Four soldiers in a desert landscape with a mountain backdrop.
Image Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/24/ghost-recon-wildlands-hands-on-with-the-future-of-military-shooters

So, this is one of those video game posts that do from time to time. Some times I do them while playing the game, some times I do them to point out the glitches, some times I do them to point out broader practices in the video game industry, and some times I do them just because they are fun or rewarding or have some sort of meaningful accomplishment for me.

For me, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands falls into this latter category.

A Year of Wildlands

The game is one that I’ve been playing for about a year–I got it for Christmas 2017. I’ve played it pretty much every weekend for a year. I wanted it for a while and I asked for it. It was a good story, but I didn’t think that I would finish it, but it turns out that after assidously playing it for a year, I finished it in late Oct./early November. I’ll do a Mini-Review for it soon, but today I just wanted to talk about the power of making an accomplishment.

Today, I finally “got back on the horse” and wrote part 1 (of 3) of a Revision to an older project entitled, “Rocket-Man.” I’ve submitted that story several times, but it has never been sold. I went back and reworked the character and the situation.

The Key to Writing (for me) is the Key to Gaming

So, today I just tried to do what I did when I played Wildlands. I found a day to try to write. Today I have class, but I have time after the class where I can simply sit down and draft. That’s what I’m doing. I have 3 projects currently on the hopper (4 if you count the graphic novel), but my goal is to completely finish one project by writing them in 3 stages (beginning, middle, and end) and then moving on to the next one. However, I’m going to do this on a weekly basis. I know I should probably be using this time to read (& I hope using it in this way doesn’t come back to bite me in March), but I really feel useless if I don’t write. A writer writes and by putting 2-3 hours on a project (with music) and without distractions (such as video game systems, tv, and the like), I’m able to be as productive on my stories as I am when I game. Hopefully, in a year’s time, my diligence will pay off (as it did with Wildlands and I’ll be able to share successes with you in this blog.

One More Thing . . .

I was going to close the blog out, but happened to click on an email that I receive monthly from Playstation that tracks my gaming time and number of gaming “trophies” (accomplishments in games) for the month and for December, I logged 43 hours of online gameplay and earned 19 trophies. Now this is well above my average of 4-5 hours on a Saturday afternoon/evening for about 20 hours a month, but just think of all the projects that I could write if I devoted the time that I do for gaming, or more importantly, what I could accomplish in my school related endeavors with the same amount of time. I used to do that for reading–now I just need to get there for school work and writing.

The only problem I see is that somewhere in there, I’ve got to find time for sleeping. 😉

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)

Joined Amazon Associates Program–Supporting My Writing Endeavors

AmazonAssociatesAppleMacbookpro_theBalance

Person at a Macbook Pro Laptop, Image Source: The Balance

Sorry this post is so late, but I had a meeting with a professor at my school this morning and I wasn’t able to write the blog at my normal time.  Should be back on schedule now.

So, when I was a teacher of 6th Grade Language Arts, one of the teachers who taught 8th Grade discovered that I was into creative writing and a published author and she wanted to show her support by buying my work on Amazon as it was the end of the school year and both she and I were leaving (she was going to a new school and I was leaving the teaching profession to come to graduate school).  I was so grateful and happy that she wanted to read/purchase my writing.  And then she asked if the purchase would benefit me in any way because she really wanted to help support me as a writer.  I was so grateful, but I had to admit that no, there aren’t royalties to publishing short fiction like there was for books and novels–the purchase would only help me tangentially by the fact that supporting the publishers would allow them to stay in business and perhaps publish more of my stories later, but no, the actual purchase that she made wouldn’t help me directly.  She still made the purchase (Thanks, Ms. L!) and enjoyed the work, but I felt kinda’ bad that I had no way to have her purchase of my works help me out directly as this was part of her purpose in buying them.

Going Commercial?
I tell that story to sort of explain why I chose to set-up an Amazon Associate program in that it allows me to (finally) come up with a way for those who want to purchase my things to benefit both the publishers who publish my work (they get money to stay in business and hopefully publish me or other writers in the future) and myself (I get a small percentage of the sale for those who click on the Amazon links and buy it directly through the links.)

Oh, so you’re commercializing the blog?

Nope.  I’ve been a Bookseller at Waldenbooks and I am convinced that it was management’s decision to focus on the selling of the loyalty card rather than focusing on their core business, i.e., selling books, as the key that kept them from seeing and responding to the challenge of larger retailers like Barnes & Noble and the online presence and power, of well, Amazon and this help speed their demise.

I’m a professional writer and that’s what I do.  That is where my love is and that’s where I will continue to put my focus.  I only want to 1) give those who want to support me as a writer a way of doing so, 2) a way to help both small presses who don’t get exposure of larger publishers, and myself as well as small presses can’t offer royalties like the large presses do.

What does it mean for the Blog?

  • Not much, if I’m honest.  I’ll add links under my signature that, if you click on them, will take you to the relevant page.  If you purchase the item (i.,e., Oneclick or place it in your shopping cart and complete the purchase), I’ll get a very small percentage back.  The links that are currently for places where you can find my work for “free” will continue just as they are (one of the two remaining stories under consideration is actually at a “free” publication, so if it gets accepted, I’ll add it as normal).  Links for free and paid content will show up under my signature–once it gets to unwieldy, I’ll probably drop the “Archives” Section and move the links to the sidebar).
  • A new page that is a curated list of things that I have on my bookshelf that I really like (books, games, movies, and other media).  If any look interesting, please feel free to click on it, if not, then no worries.
  • A Saturday update of the “Favorite Media” page (okay, now this is going to be hard–I try to use the weekends to brainstorm for blog ideas for the upcoming week, so I can’t promise that this is always going to happen, but I will try my best).
  • And a small sentence at the bottom of posts to let readers know that I’m a part of the Associates program.  Now, to be clear, I don’t work at Amazon.  I’m a writer and a graduate student (for now, at least, but more on that later).  But Amazon (and I) want to be clear that the links that I promote are “commercial” in nature.

And that’s it!  I’m going to test out the link below for my story, “Faerie Knight” which was on the Tangent Online 2014 Recommended Reading List.

Feel free to click on the Amazon link if you choose, or not, as the case may be.  Hope you have a great day!  And it is back to writing for me–revising All Tomorrow’s Children so that I start submitting it over the weekend.

Sidney


Baby Steps To a Novel

So, yesterday I took my first steps to trying to complete a novel.  Regular readers of the blog will note that I’ve tried before (without much success) to try to write a novel, but this time I’m using my university’s Writing Center to help.  I’ve worked in the Writing Center myself all last year and I have a friend and colleague who is working there now who has agreed to a “Writing Partnership” with me–a fancy term for a standing appointment to talk about writing over the course of the semester.  Generally, they are used for long term projects (thesis, dissertations, etc.), but they can also be used for just improving one’s writing in general.  We talked about what I wanted to do ultimately (short-stories or novels) and we decided that writing a novel would be a good way to “grow” as a writer.  Then we discussed the idea I had for a novel and what the next steps should be going forward.

Character Sketch
So, my homework is to complete at least one character sketch–the main character/protagonist–and have it ready by the next meeting.  We talked about who the main character is (Skye–which longtime readers will remember from earlier blog posts) and what is her personality like.  If possible, I’d like to write a character sketch for her father as that is her major familial relationship in the book, but based on school work and obligations, there may not be enough time for that.  We spent quite a bit of time talking about the importance of characters and how they should act appropriately–something that I don’t think that I always do well because of my interest in the plot.  Hopefully, I can really nail Skye’s personality and be able to create a convincing character arc for her.

Plot Outline
I also need to produce a plot outline for the next meeting.  Again, one mandatory, but two if possible.  I have “story map” that I use that is a 1 page “synopsis” of the characters, setting, plot, climax, and resolution.  However, I’d like to also provide a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the story as that is where I always seem to break down when writing the novel, but I may find that that might be better suited to do after we talk about the character sketch/synopsis of the novel.  In any case, I do intend to do what Brandon Sanderson noted about how he writes novels on his podcast, Writing Excuses, where he notes that he writes down big tentpole scenes as he’s generating ideas for his novel.  I think that the tentpole scenes, in addition to the synopsis, would be helpful to do before trying to tackle the larger, chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

NaNoWriMo
November is National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo).  I’ve never really tried to do anything for the month because I always had school (or a ton of things to do in the month of November), but as I’m in the midst of trying to write a novel and as the Writing Center will be holding a “Write In” on November 17, I guess I’ll give it a try.  I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be, but I’ll blog about the process here to hopefully inspire other writers (aspiring or practicing) and maybe provide, tangible techniques and tricks to my fellow writers out there as well.

Wish me luck! 🙂