Tag Archives: amwriting

I’m Registering For LTUE February 2016; So Should You

LTUE 2016

If you’ve talked to me about writing this year, it should come as no surprise that I’ll be returning to LTUE (Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium) in 2016. In February 2015, I attended LTUE for the first time, and I loved every minute.

If I haven’t already, let me tell you why YOU want to attend LTUE in 2016 if you are a writer (aspiring or otherwise).

  1. Fantastic Writing Panels – panelists ranging from newcomers to international bestsellers talk every writing topic under the sun. Topics range from the science in sci-fi to worldbuilding to plot to editing to promotion to publishing (indie and traditional).
  2. Accessible speakers and panelists – this isn’t a huge convention, and there are plenty of opportunities to chat with experts (writers, editors, games designers) about their take on your questions.
  3. Meet delightful people – plenty of opportunities to connect with others with similar goals. Talk to people from all over the industry.
  4. Pitch or Crit sessions – have a chance to see what an editor thinks of your book or concept.
  5. Affordably priced – the 3-day symposium is only $45 and free for students. I don’t care who you are, that’s a steal.
Anyway, come on down. LTUE is going to be fantastic in 2016. If you should happen to attend, look for me and say hi! I’d love to share thoughts and ideas with fellow writers and readers.
I also found this delightful graphic as a result of attending a Dune panel last February. Enjoy, Dune fans.
spiceMelange

What Is Meaningful?

bansaiMoss

I intended to finish a more meaningful blog post for this day. As it happens, I conspired against me.

Yes. It was me. And a bit of Mother Nature. But mostly me.

Writing these articles has meaning for me and hopefully for someone else. I don’t want to write these only for the ether. That is not my intent. At the same time, I need to spend time reviewing pieces from my critique group. That is important to them and to me. I also, need to work on Part 5 of Rue From Ruin (which is underway). Hopefully, that is also important to someone besides me!

The short of it is, while these posts are meaningful, I had more meaningful things to do. I’m planning a giant article on the value of critique groups. That will be coming along soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this GIF!

whatAreYouDoing

Backstory And Worldbuilding Are Writing Too

legoWorld

Worldbuilding is essential to speculative fiction and other genres as well. If we cannot create a plausible, yet fantastical world for our story to live in, we risk losing the attention of our audience. However, there is a strong tendency out there to focus more on building up the fictional world than to write a compelling story. We look at the masters of fiction we admire and say, “I want to write something like that.”

I’m no different. Since I was a teen, I’ve admired the worldbuilding of Frank Herbert for his Dune series. What I (and probably other fledgling writers) have to remember is Herbert had been writing published fiction for almost TWO DECADES before he wrote the first Dune novel.

Developing character backstories are also essential while writing fiction. We research and write the elements of a character’s backstory for important reasons. It helps us learn what motivates people. It informs realistic choices in the character’s story. It lends additional writing experience. To a point, it even helps us get closer to finishing our stories.

But never, not even once, assume that this information is vital to the story.

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.

― Stephen King

The goal of writing fiction is to provide words that will hopefully enlighten and entertain our readers. If we can attain those two things, we’ve done our job as writers.

What we have to do to tell a compelling story, at least in the beginning, is narrow our scope and vision. Work in worlds that we understand more intuitively. Write characters who’s motivations we can easily comprehend. By all means, create amazing, incredible worlds and histories for characters. Just don’t do that at the expense of finishing things.

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

― Neil Gaiman

All those arguments aside, try writing backstory and worldbuilding as exercises in storytelling. Tell the story of a character’s past. Tell a story of an event that helped forge the world into what is is today. I’ve done some of this, and would never share the results with anyone. Still, I think it has aided in my quest to become a better writer.

Thanks for reading, all! There probably won’t be an installment of Rue From Ruin this week. Allergies have really bogged me down recently. I promise to have it to you as soon as possible.

Please enjoy this GIF as compensation:

warRecord

Writing vs. Having A Life

writeLife

It’s my firm belief that writing and having a normal, fulfilling life are not mutually exclusive. I can do both. You can do both. It might be easier than it seems.

“Having a life” might even be completely necessary to writing. For a writer, almost every activity undertaken has value. We just need to use experiences and opportunities that our lives give us to our advantage.

Many of our hobbies become research opportunities. Like to read (I argue you can’t write at all unless you read frequently)? Enjoy watching movies or documentaries? Television? Browsing Wikipedia? Perfecting a tasty dish in the kitchen? Picking up gardening? Watching how-to videos on YouTube? Travelling?  All usable. They just need to be focused properly to subjects that relate to our writing.

Our physical activities help us understand the body’s reaction to strenuous activity and limits. Hiking, biking, running, skiing, martial arts, etc. teaches us about that particular discipline. Exercise also helps to achieve the levels of brain activity that might otherwise be unavailable. Read about it in Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey and elsewhere on the interwebs. We’ll be healthier and live to write longer.

Wasted time becomes writing time. Time spent organizing files (including photos) on the computer is mainly wasted. Time spent playing repetitive games can be reclaimed. People who know me are calling BS right now, but I mean games like Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans… big time wasters with no real benefit (board games are better… more social interaction). Time endlessly browsing Facebook or Twitter comes back.  The entire topic has been addressed unto itself by countless authors. Here’s one: Top 20 Time Wasters.  We’ve all spent time that is basically wasted. Reclaim that time. It is writing time.

Bonding with children over stories, play, and outdoor activities help refine ideas and remind us what it is like to look at life from a child’s perspective. I wrote a scene about a little girl for my upcoming novel The Galaxy and All Her Charms that would never have been possible if I didn’t play with my kids.

Lunches and dinners out become opportunities to observe people and build character description skills. Dates not only help us maintain healthy, loving relationships with our significant others, they also help our writing. And if you’re doing it like this… yeah… don’t:

writingNotPayingAttention

Even sickness, grief, and personal trials help us give meaning to our writing. They enable us to write from experience rather than assumption and second-hand knowledge. I’ve written pieces I really like, for future use, about my experience learning to ski (as an old snowboarder), about personal loss and the fear of loss, and also about a recent bout of food poisoning. Writing about grief and trials is also therapeutic and liberating. It will lighten our burdens.

To be a living, breathing, observing, reading person is all the preparation that is necessary for that person to become a writer.

You can guess my conclusion: the struggle isn’t writing vs. having a life.

Quite the opposite.

Writing IS having a life.

Attention To Detail Is A Must

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Hello, World! I’m back with a short post today because I’m ironing out the revisions for Part 4 of Rue From Ruin.

In the meantime, something exceptional arrived in the mail today. You could call it an early birthday present.

I recently ordered some swag from K. M. Alexander‘s website, and this is the first day I got to hold it in my hot little hands. I haven’t reviewed K. M.’s books here, although I have on Amazon and Goodreads.

I can sum his work up in two words: READ IT.

The world of Waldo Bell is so wonderfully realized and beautiful. Upon reading The Stars Were Right I immediately despaired that I would ever achieve such mastery in the craft of writing. I asked K. M. how he got everything so perfect, and I’ll paraphrase his response: “My work wasn’t always this good. The books are what they are as the result of a lot of hard work and practice.”

The words had the intended effect and I continued to work on my writing.

It goes without saying that he is also incredibly attentive to details. Any work K. M. puts his name on is delightfully fantastic. To illustrate this point, I’m going to share some unboxing photos I took today.

My lesson for the day (mainly for myself) is that great art requires a creative, attentive, and detailed mind. It is inspiring to see what can be produced by someone who has honed these skills.

Enjoy the pictures and please ignore the fact that I’m a horrid photographer.

Envelope with the stamp of the City of Lovat.
Envelope with the stamp of the City of Lovat.
Look what's inside!
Look what’s inside!
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The patch I ordered and a caravan employee registration form to go with it. It even has Waldo Bell’s signature!
Bookmarks, stickers, and pins. Such cool swag!
Bookmarks, stickers, and pins. Such cool swag!

That’s Paranormal Romp Writin’ Music

armada-featured

Recently I finished Armada by Ernest Cline. It’s a rather good book although it can’t compare to Mr. Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One (no matter how desperately it tries). I have a hangup about all the teenage banter, and I won’t dwell on it. Needless to say, I probably would have loved Armada if I were ten years younger. The basic premise is similar to The Last Starfighter but the similarities end quickly, and the story is great.

The one thing Ernest Cline’s books do very consistently and efficiently is evoke memories and nostalgia for the 1980s. It’s been noted by many reviewers; the author is a wizard with pop-culture references. The music he picks/mentions in his books is legendary and spawns Spotify playlists that are listened to unendingly by fans.

imawizard

I love music, and when I write sci-fi, I’m often listening to ambient electronic or classical movie scores. Although, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for period music, though, and I totally dig the tunes that set the backdrop for Guardians of the Galaxy. They are perfect for that movie in every single way and sometimes Bowie or other selections from that soundtrack will creep into my writing playlist for The Galaxy and All Her Charms.

What I found surprising recently was, as I was listening to a playlist for Armada, many of the rock-heavy songs inspiring while writing Rue From Ruin. It turns out, this music is a perfect match for some of the scenarios where the main character finds himself. Thought I’d share. Enjoy.

Rue From Ruin – Part 3

If you are wondering where to find the beginning of the story, see Part 1 or Part 2.

This one was difficult because there reveals, and I don’t want to give away too much.

Yet.

I had some amazing help from my friend Pablo Orozco on the European Spanish. Also, Meri, Drew, and K.M. all helped me work out some issues I was having and assisted the removal of the stiffness from my writing. Without these fine folks, Part 3 would not be what it is. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! What an incredible learning experience.

This story is a labor of love. Check out the inspiration if you have time.

Rue From Ruin – Part 3

ancientWell

Tincture

So damn close!

The sun is a melted tangerine sinking toward the horizon.

Melted tangerine probably isn’t a thing, the finicky thought follows immediately.

I’ve been running all day in this stupid chaffing overall I grabbed from a hook in some abandoned barn, and I’m tired. Can’t remember the last time my muscles felt this exhausted. He’s got to be somewhere near. As an urgent reminder, the tincture materials swing at my neck. There isn’t much time.

Maybe I’ll just let the change happen, and then catch up with the Professeur and rip his lying throat out.

It’s so tempting. But no.

My wife Marilyn and little Kara deserve answers. It’s his fault, what I did to them. And he can’t keep running forever.

Eventually, he will fall asleep on a train, or in a hostel, or under a bridge. He will have to rest. No one can stay awake forever. Even the cursed must sleep – I would know. It hits me then just how tired I am. I’ve been up for thirty-six hours minus that short rest at dawn. I’m so worn down it feels like I’m going to collapse.

If I don’t drink my tincture tonight – what will happen? Will “the beast” take over and decide to lay down for a nap? Something tells me it won’t. I would probably just die of exhaustion in the morning like a horse flogged to gallop all day in the desert. Inexplicably, Another One Bites The Dust by Queen is now playing in my head. I start to contemplate the level of impropriety my brain is capable of and halt refocusing on the immediate need.

The sun has now sunk to the point of touching the horizon. It’s ruddy, and the optical illusion of its line of light is expanding across the western horizon.

I’m going to wolf-out soon if I don’t take action. It’s now or never.

Running to a vantage point at the top of a nearby knoll, I see several buildings. There are barely ten of them huddled tightly to form a village. Most of the structures are built of the pale stone common in the region. Looking south, I can see the shadowy forms of the Pyrenees Mountains in the distance. I’d been focused on my search for signs of his passage on the ground, and I’d almost missed the proverbial forest for the trees. Focusing my search, I look for water to mix with my tincture because swallowing the vomit-inducing liquid straight isn’t in my repertoire. I spy an ancient looking rock-rimmed well. It could be right out of a storybook. Jogging down toward it, I keep an eye out for locals but don’t notice any. Hopefully, the reservoir isn’t dry; a relic of days gone by, but never removed, just capped.

Reaching the short structure, I see that there is a bucket. I can smell the dampness of deeper water. Luck. Finally. I drop the wide, rusted iron receptacle into the depths. I barely remember to catch its recently attached, and still crunchy, nylon rope. The tincture pouch has to come off my neck. I grab and yank.

It doesn’t break. Frustrated, I wait to hear the bucket splashdown; it does, and I breathe a sigh of relief. There is water.

In a huff, I begin yanking it back up. The sun sinks further as I hand-over-hand the rope frantically. Only a quarter of the fiery globe is still visible. The horizon has faded to a rich red as the purpling of twilight sets into the east.

The decrepit container clanks up over the edge, catching the lip slightly. I slam it down on the brink of the well with a dull clang. Reaching for the strap around my neck, I lift it up and over my head. My frantic fingers fumble for the cord tied around the mouth of the pouch.

Finally, it’s open! With only a sliver of sun left, I pull out the tiny bottle of tincture, spin off the lid and shakily deposit a single drop into the bucket of water. I replace the lid and hope like hell it isn’t too diluted. Then, I raise the nearly full bucket to my lips and drink.

With my hands this close to my nose, I can smell the blood still crusted under my fingernails. This morning’s quick splashdown wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.

I gulp down four huge swallows in seconds.

Then it happens. I feel the cold metal of a firearm pressing into the back of my neck. The pressure is uneven, with the top edge of the barrel biting deeper into my flesh. “Tranqui,” a low yet feminine voice says. My Spanish is even worse than my French. Without a pocket translator, there’s no way I can say exactly what she said, but the meaning is clear. I slowly set down the bucket and raise my hands above my head, careful to clutch the pouch of tincture in one closed fist.

“¿Qué estás haciendo aquí?” she says. I just shake my head. The next statement is under her breath, but I hear it because… yeah, “Capullo estúpido.” Then louder, “Parlez-vous français?”

I shake my head slowly and say, “Pas vraiment.” Not really.

“American?” she replies with a mild accent. “Makes the sense.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or not, so I decided to err on the side of not. I was the one drinking madly from her well after all.

“Yes, American,” I said. “How’s your English?”

“Much better than your French,” her rich contralto reply. “You are the second man I’ve caught on my property this day. Am I holding some fiesta I wasn’t to know about?”

I understand that word, “No, no party señora,” I reply, hoping to ease the tension by using what little Spanish I think I can speak. Total backfire.

“Turn around! And keep your hands up!” she says. I oblige, as I do for all women holding me at gunpoint. My eyes are greeted by something unexpected. A tall, dark-haired Spanish girl, probably only in her mid-teens. She considers me and asks, “Do I look like la señora to you, señor scruffy-man?”

“No,” my heart goes out to this girl who’s discovered two intruders here today. Strange indeed. I want to comfort her, but by the agate-hard look in her eyes, she doesn’t want to hear it. As if to prove my thought, she nudges my ribs with the high-gauge shotgun she’s holding.

“We’re going to go to have the talk with the police now, scruffy-man. After you,” she says.

The scattershot loaded in her gun won’t keep me down for long. But I don’t want strange stories to circulate about me. That’s the last thing I want for so many reasons. Could I even get away as tired as I am? We walk into the rough square of buildings, and I observe a red-smeared hypodermic needle in plain sight. The blood looks fresh. It has to be a sign of his passage. Confirming my suspicion, the Spanish girl doesn’t notice it at all.

At least I haven’t lost the trail.

Continue the story in Rue From Ruin – Part 4.