The Writing Life: An Update

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Image Source: Really Deep Stuff

Before I start this blog entry, I’d like to say thanks to the bloggers who read (& liked) yesterday’s post).  It was really gratifying see that people really responded to it so much!

And now, on with today’s blog.  So, after last semester, I managed to have four stories out to markets that I was proud of and didn’t think needed major work (in terms of revision).    In other words, I had them in a state where I thought they were strong stories and marketable to markets that deal in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I’ve got some news on them, so I thought I update you how where they stand currently.

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Image Source: Haiku Deck

HAWKEMOON: Just heard from this market today.  It is currently on the “maybe” list.  If it holds up well against the other stories that come in during the reading period, then it has a chance to be published.  This is actually very good news.  It’s sort of like going to a job with two Interview components and passing the first Interview.  If HawkeMoon passes the second “interview,” then it gets the” job” (to extend the metaphor).  It is also a lesson in persistence; this is the 10th story that I’ve submitted to them (they’ve actually seen my entire catalog except for Silence Will Fall & Citizen X), but this is the first time that I’ve gotten onto the “maybe” list!  Wahoo for small victories!  (I won’t name the market until they actually accept the piece, but fingers crossed that the “maybe” turns into a “yes!”)

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Image Source: Seriable.com

SILENCE WILL FALL: On this one, I actually wanted to revise it and did so last semester with the help of the MTSU Writing Center (where I also worked as a Consultant, in addition to teaching a Freshman English Class).  I knew that I wanted the ending to more closely match the ending of the dream that had originally inspired to the story, so I rewrote it and made sure (via the Writing Center) that it made sense and have started to submit it again.  It received a rejection letter (again just this morning), but I’m happy with the way the story ends, so I will continue to send it out until I find a market that likes it (see above about persistence).   Will be sending it to a new market this weekend.

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Image Source: Pinterest

I, MAGI: So this one went out to the market in January and I still haven’t heard about its fate.  According to Duotrope, it has been out for about 150 days.  The market is still replying to submissions, but I’m probably going to have to request an update for the story over the weekend.  Now, I’m patient (I’ve waited over 9 months for a response for one market before), but they do say to query if they’ve taken over 45 days to respond and  I would like to send I, Magi back out if they aren’t going to use it.  If they don’t respond, I’ll probably give them another 30 days and then move onto the next market.

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Image Source: Pinterest

HERE BE MONSTERS: The market for this one unexpectedly went on hiatus this week with my story still under consideration.  I’m usually pretty good about sensing a market’s imminent change in status (this is actually only the 2nd time this has happened to me in over a 132 total submissions tracked by Duotrope).  However, this one caught me off-guard.  There was nothing to indicate there was anything out of the ordinary happening, until I checked the listing on Duotrope and saw that the website was no longer functioning.  Alarm bells began ringing at that point and I hoped that it was just a temporary hiccup, but no, it looks like the market just didn’t have the resources to continue.  So, I’ll pick a new market and resubmit this story over the weekend.

So there you have it–a (mostly) complete update on the status of the four stories that I currently have out at the moment.  Lesson to take away = persistence, persistence, and more persistence.

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Summer Inspiration & Writing Projects

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Now that E3 is over, I find myself turning my attention back to my creative writing.  I found that I’ve been very inspired to create new projects over the last few weeks and I’ve been brainstorming several.  On Friday afternoon, I actually just took a moment and sat at the kitchen table and wrote the “rough draft” of a new short-story (fantasy) that I want to write.  I wrote it from the outline I’d written earlier in the year and the drafting process was super easy as well as very rewarding creatively.

Now comes the much more difficult part, drafting a “Working Draft,” which is my terminology for the draft that “shows, don’t tell.”  The Working Draft forms the basis of the story that people will be reading.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to write it, but the as many creative people will tell, the true joy is in the initial creation of the work.  The rough draft was pure creativity, but the Working Draft is about evolution and refinement.  Often, the success of the project hinges on how well I can translate the passion of the rough draft into the refinement of the Working Draft.  This is where characterization, sensory details, imagery, dialogue, setting, etc., all get “set” into place.

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Image Source: RenaissanceClothingCostumes.com

Project OPaK

So this is my new naming convention for stories that I’m working on.  In most cases, I already know what the title is.  Project OPaK is just the first letters of the title.  I’ve divided the story into three parts (Beginning, Middle, and End) and I will update you when I’ve finished each of the main parts, with a beginning update letting you know when I’ve actually started writing the project.  At the end, when I’ve finished Project OPaK, I will continue to do an Author’s Note and give a detailed breakdown of the genesis of the work (how it came into being, what my writing process was for it, etc.).  If it gets published in a hardcopy form, I will also try to remember to take pictures of the work and post those pics on the blog (like I did for The Last GunKnight, but forgot to do for other projects). The above picture, while not representative of the actual characters in the story, gives a good idea of the time period and themes that I’m aiming for within Project OPaK.

Here’s to a successful writing project–and a successful summer of developing many more!

 

 

Acceptances: WarLight and Childe Roland

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Source: adoubleshotofrecovery.com (via Google Images)

This week has had its ups and downs for me.  While “real” life has been very difficult in terms of my school work/teaching workload, my “writing” life has been very productive.  Two of my stories were accepted for publication!  I am ecstatic and it makes me thankful of all of the encouragement that I received from my blog post on rejections (about a month ago).  Coming up with a system of submitting to a reasonable number of markets also helped as I wasn’t so stressed out about submission process now that I have a reasonable submission goal.  The two stories that were accepted were WarLight and Childe Roland, both of which I’ve talked about previously here on the blog and both have Author’s Notes available here on the blog if you’re interested in the genesis/development of the stories.

WARLIGHT

WarLight was selected for publication by Carrol Fix as part of her Visions anthology series.  It should appear in Visions VI: Galaxies.  Regular readers of the blog will remember that Carrol also printed my story, Ship of Shadows in Visions IV: Space Between Stars in April of this year.  I really appreciate Carrol’s publication of the story and I am hopeful that I can contribute to more of her anthologies.  Visions VI: Galaxies can currently be pre-ordered from the publisher’s website, Lillicat Publishers, but the book should also be available via Amazon/Kindle (as all of the previous entries in the series have been as well).

CHILDE ROLAND

Childe Roland was selected for the November issue of Electric Spec online speculative fiction magazine (electricspec.com).  It should be available at the end of November and I will update the blog with a blog entry once the story is up and available.  Best of all, for readers, the issue is FREE!  You won’t have to subscribe or anything like that once the story is available.  They DO accept donations, so if you have some extra money, you might consider throwing some their way, but that is entirely optional.  They do PAY their writers (YAY! You go Electricspec editors!), and as a teacher who is now a poor graduate student, any amount of money that I make from my writing, no matter how small, is greatly appreciated, so please consider donating if you can afford it at all.

DR STRANGE

I also saw Dr. Strange this weekend and I really enjoyed it.  In the interest of time, I’m going to save the Mini-Review of it until next week, but if you like magic, cool special effects, and martial arts, then this movie will be right up your alley.  I should note that it is a lot like what I was trying for with I, Magi, (especially the integration of Magic with Martial Arts), but my story and it have strong enough conceptual differences that (hopefully) will keep my story from looking like an “also-ran” of Dr. Strange now that the movie has been released.

More to come next week!  ‘Till then, have a great one!

 

 

2016 Writing Season (Series 1)

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Image Source: The Guardian.com

I’m back in the writer’s chair!

As this is primarily an author’s blog dealing with Science Fiction and Fantasy (with other miscellaneous topics thrown in), I wanted to announce that I’ve started my 2016 writing season!  Huzzah!

I just completed Chapter 1 of my 1st novel (after having already done the Prologue) and gave it to my “alpha” readers on Friday (more on that down below).  I have a short-story that I’m working on and another that I’m brainstorming now.  I just reorganized my writing space to be more conducive to researching markets in order to get a list of potential markets for stories that are finished ready, as well as to make the actual composition of the writing easier.  So, read on to find out what I’m doing/planning this year.

SERIES 1 & SERIES 2

My plan is to divide the year into 3 major parts: Series 1, Summer, and Series 2.  Series 1 runs from January to May and in it I will work on short stories and chapters from my novel.  On weekends, I will brainstorm new projects and decide which ones to write.  The bulk of my writing time will also happen on weekends (the only time when I can consistently seem to write on weekdays is Tuesdays for some reason and that’s simply not enough time.)  But, as I don’t really have as many responsibilities on the weekend, I can convert some of my free time to writing time and push through some of the projects that I want to work on this year.

During the summer, I want to continue working on my novel, but I also want to try longer works, such as a graphic novel & screenplay).  My goal is to work on each one every day during the summer (no school!) and then have a rough draft of each completed by the end.

Series 2 picks off where series one ended: short stories and working on chapters for the novel.  It will end right around the time school ends for the holidays for a break to recharge and then (hopefully) rinse, wash, and repeat, but with a new novel for 2017.

That’s my goal anyway.  We’ll see how close I come to it. 😀

PROJECT LIBRARIAN (Novel)

My 1st novel is what I’m working on right now.  I’m calling it “Project Librarian” and it is set in a post-apocalyptic world with a (you guessed it) Librarian as a protagonist.  I was a Library Assistant for 17 years before becoming a teacher, so I went with the old adage to “write what you know” for this first novel.  I’ve completed the Prologue and 1st Chapter so far so I’ve a ways to go.  One of the shows that I listen to on NPR had a guest who called the creation of a novel, “the slow accretion of pages.”  So my goal is to simply create the pages of my novel all through the year and have a rough draft ready by the end of the year.

PROJECT LIGHT (Sci-Fi short story)

This is a short story that I’ve wanted to write for the last 3 years, but the time seems right to do it now.  It is sort of the “Halo-Killer” story that I wanted to see from Sony during the Microsoft X-Box 360 days, but that Sony never did.  It is my take on the “Space Marines” genre.  I’m on the first section of the story now, but I may have to push it back.  I just reread the guidelines for the anthology that I want to send it to and they specify no planet/star stories and this definitely takes place on a planet.  The planet is crucial to the plot, so I can’t just change the setting.

PROJECT SHADOW (Sci-Fi short story)

So there is a “deep space” story that I’ve wanted to work on for a while.  I wrote down a “concept” in one of my writing notebooks, but to my dismay, I could only find bits and pieces of the concept (necessitating the reorganization of my writing materials).  I’m writing it to a deadline, but I’ll wait to post it here.  So far, I’m 0 for 3 on hitting my deadlines when I post them, but I’m 6 for 6 when I keep them in the back of my mind and just try to hit them naturally (rather than trying to force/pressure myself into hitting them artificially).  If I finish it and submit, I’ll add in the information here when I write an Author’s Note for the Project.

MARKETING MY WORK

The last thing that I’m trying to work on this year is getting better at marketing (selling) my work to various markets.  I’m going to create a list of 5-10 markets that I want to sell the story to (& that I feel are the best fit).  If “surprise” anthologies come along and the story is open, or if it comes back before the anthology closes, then I’ll definitely submit ASAP (that’s how Faerie Knight, Knight of the Wylde West were published), but otherwise I’ll stick to those 5-10 markets until I’ve exhausted them and find 5-10 more.  I’ve been using Duotrope and while it is useful, there are so many places to send stories, that it is almost overwhelming to keep up with it all on the limited amount of time that I have during the week.  So, I’m going to narrow my focus.  I’m picking a completed story, deciding on 5-10 most important markets (pay, prestige, or both) and then submitting until a market takes it or I need to find another 5-10.

I did much BETTER in completing stories in 2015 in a timely manner, but much WORSE in actually selling them/getting time published than I did in 2014.

Well, that’s probably more than you cared to know about my writing process/goals for this year, but it helps me to fix it down in print.  That way I can periodically come back to this post throughout the year to encourage myself to keep writing, no matter what!

 

Why I Write Fantasy . . .

So the trailer that I’m posting is for Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls Online game.  It is long–it clocks in over 23 minutes, but if you have the time, it is well worth the investment as it helps to illustrate the reasons that I write Fantasy stories.  Go ahead, take a moment to watch it, I’ll wait . . .

Finished?

I hoped you liked it as much as I did.  But in case you didn’t, here are my reasons that I found it inspired:

  1. Larger than Life Characters – There were 3 main characters.  I don’t know their backstories, don’t know their histories, don’t know much about their motivations (other than they seem to want the city/citadel for conquest).  However, you do learn a lot about their personalities through this trailer.  You get a sense that guy with the beard is a “rough and ready” sort of person, the kind of person you’d go drinking with, but definitely not the type person you’d invite to tea with the Queen. There is a gruff, down and dirty feel to him that is emphasized by his headbutting, spitting, and all around mean/callous disposition.  The Ranger of the group seems to have a nobility about him.  He kills with precision, but is never cruel about it in the same way the bearded warrior is and that makes his “corruption” all the more tragic.  His most poignant moment comes when we see him holding the cloth of a presumed paramour as his eyes implore the female elf to end his suffering.  And speaking of the woman elf, she is no damsel in distress.  She is more than capable of holding her own and giving just as well as she gets.  In fact, I would argue she’s the main hero of the trailer in that it is her actions that ultimately save the group from outright death at the hands of the “evil” forces.  Without her quick thinking, the entire group would have mostly likely died on the field of battle.  No, they do not have the emotional depth and growth of characters in War and Peace, but even from this short vignette, we can get a clears sense of who these characters are and what makes them tick.
  2. Stunning Visuals – Computer graphics and imagery are wonderful.  Having grown up in an era of practical effects and now watch CGI, I can see how far the effects industry has come.  However, I would argue that NO visual effect can match the mind’s eye.  Being able to describe on paper all of those cool things that were in that trailer is both my challenge and my reward.  I SEE the stories in my head just like I see these trailers–as movies.  They progress and then they finish just as the trailer did.  My challenge is to find a way to replicate what I see in my Mind’s Eye into words on the page.  Rarely, I get it right the very first time.  More often than not, I get only bits and pieces right while others don’t come out correctly–as that image was “fuzzy” when I was trying to replicate it on the page.  I sometimes have to do 2 or more drafts for the story to come out like I wanted.
  3. Insane World-Building – So what’s on the other side of that Rift that held the anchors?  Why do they want the city/Citadel so badly?  What is the Elf “King” hiding in that city?  Just where did the bearded guy end up at the end of the trailer?  There are so many avenues of exploration for world-building here that one spin stories out for a long time.  That’s what good characters and good world-building gives you, a way to tell stories.  Now, because it is Bethesda’s property, there is already a history and backstory to this world.  If you’re at all interested, check out the YouTube video below (clocks in @11:00 mins).  But just imagine that YOU were the writer of this vignette and the Possibilities that could come from fleshing out this world.  Awesome!
  4. Dramatic Action – This is my final reason and is also my most personal.  For me, History is not a dry thing learned from textbooks and recited from rote memory, but rather a living breathing thing.  It is alive and active.  It moves, it adapts, and it is something that requires action.  Right now, we live in a world of drama (and I mean that in both its formal and slang definitions).  Readers and writers today seem to want to see things that are dramatic, but not necessarily filled with action.  For instance, I find myself rereading an older Fantasy series called the Belgariad and the Mallorean by David Eddings or newer series such as The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson because they are trying to save their worlds from destruction using the tools that they have available.  I personally cannot read popular works such as Game of Thrones because it is “Mean People doing Mean Things to each other and Mean Things to Non-Mean People.”  I tried to read The Game of Thrones but couldn’t get past the first few chapters–not because of the writing, but because they weren’t doing anything but being mean to one another just because they could.  I want to see/write action, where the goals can be large or small (but are usually large) where they struggle and strive rather than bicker, wench, and murder just for the sake of it.  Now, I realize this is probably just me, but to me, action defines a story, not limits it.  Just because there are beautifully choreographed fight sequences, doesn’t make it resonant any less than a story that lacks those same scenes (and the inverse is true as well–a story that lacks action is not inherently more of a story).
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Well, that’s all I have for today.  My next post will *probably* be a post on why I like Science Fiction.  If not, it will come later on this year.  Now to the Weekly Updates:

APPLE ROUTER WEEKLY UPDATE

Soooo, I thought I was over/past the hump on this problem, but it seems not.  On Tuesday, wi-fi began to work properly without me doing anything.  It stayed up through Friday, so I thought everything was fine.  Yet, when I just started to write this blog, Wi-Fi went down and would not let me connect to my laptop.  I had to plug in my ethernet cable and restart in order to write this blog post.  Uggghhh!  So frustrating.

WEEKLY WRITING UPDATE

Soooo, I made a mistake.  As a teacher, I find my body HATES Mondays., trying to get back into the school schedule really does a number on me.  I usually crash 1-2 hours earlier than I do for the rest of the week.  So I don’t even try to write on Mondays.  I start writing on Tuesdays.  Since school started on Tuesday, I  did not write on Monday, but tried to keep to my normal schedule, but found that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I did manage 4-5 strong paragraphs on HawkeMoon, but was not able to complete the section, so I’m going to say .5.  Did not get to work on any other projects this week. 😦

  • HawkeMoon (.5 of Section 2 = Total Progress on Story – 1.5 sections done of 4 total sections)

If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

Hi, Everyone,

Took an extra couple of days to get around to write this blog post while trying to (still) diagnose this vexing wifi problem that I’m having with my router.  I’ll update you on the status of the problem at the end, but this particular problem has reminded me of something very important: the greatest piece of advice ever given to me (and sort of my unofficial motto)–if it ins’t broke, don’t fix it.

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There was nothing wrong with my old router.  I just happen to live in a city with ridiculously fast Internet Fiberoptic speeds (for a reasonable price).  My old router (manufactured in 2006) worked just fine, but it was unable to allow me to access all of  the blazing speed of my service.  The new router has new tech and specs that will allow me to access much more of the speed (although still not all of it as my 2008 computer can’t access the highest wifi “a/c” spec needed for the fastest speed).  But this has been a nightmare to get working.  

Surprisingly, though, the feeling of frustration is familiar.  It is the same feeling I get whenever I try to attempt a novel.  Nothing that I do works when I try a novel.  Every strategy that I’ve read or come up with on my on doesn’t seem to translate into a longer form work.

My writing process is dead simple.  I start with a TITLE.  To me, the title is like a “seed” or a “vision” of what the story is going to be.  whether I write long or short, creatively or academically, 99.9% of what I write starts with the title.

Then I move on to the ROUGH DRAFT.  This is where I “tell” myself the story from beginning to end.  Doesn’t matter if I don’t know character names, place names, or anything specific (I just use placeholders such as “the knight,” for instance), all I need is the Plot (events) that I want to specifically remember to put in the story.  It reads like a stereo manual.  Blank did this, Blank did that, so on and so forth . . . no dramatization at all.

After that it is the WORKING DRAFT.  I call it a Working Draft because it is the draft that is a “Work in Progress.”  It may (or may not) end up being the final draft of the story, but the ultimate finished story will look a LOT like this draft.  This is the draft that gets the dramatization.  This is the draft where characters become set, emotions are acted out, and where the action follows the old writing cliche’: Show, don’t tell.

Lastly, I finish with the EDITED DRAFT.  I shy away from using the word “Polished Draft” or “Final Draft,” personally because even when done, it seems like there’s ALWAYS one more error to find and corrected, or that even after I’ve submitted it, there are changes that I really want to make in the story.  An Edited Draft (for me) means that I’ve pretty much gotten the story “locked” down the way I want it (it matches on paper the idea that I saw in my Mind’s Eye) and ALSO that I’ve edited it and made it as free of mistakes as I possibly could.  This is the draft that I send out to editors.

Somehow, I’m NOT following this procedure for novels.  I’m getting the Titles down just fine (I’ve got at least 10 good possibilities for really evocative stories/story ideas based on cool titles).  Somewhere I’m getting lost between the Rough Draft and Working Draft phases.  I have the whole idea for Project Skye written out on the Notes app of my iPhone, but the chapters are getting off base.  For instance, in the rough draft, Skye is in a massive dogfight with pirates, but in the chapters she’s running away from the pirates.  I NEED her in the dogfight for the events to unfold so that she can get to a “floating city,” but with her running, the plot doesn’t work and she has NO reason to go to the city.  Somehow, I’ve messed up from rough draft to working draft and I don’t know where I went wrong because this doesn’t happen when I write short fiction.  When I write short stories, I write in Sections.  Sort of like mini-chapters because each of the sections usually has its own title.  These sections give my stories a “wrapper” as it were and gives me an idea of what will be going on in each section.  Not sure how to do this in long form writing, yet.  How to give my longer writing some sort of “wrapper” so that I can complete it and join the ranks as a published novelist?

Not sure yet.

2015 is the year where I challenge myself to figure it out! 🙂

WEEKLY WRITING UPDATE

  • New Short Story Started – HawkeMoon (Tentative Title) – Rough Draft (done), Working Draft (In Progress)
  • New Novel Idea Started – Project Star – Rough Draft (In Progress)
  • New Novel Idea Started – Project King – Rough Draft (In Progress)