Sunday, December 6, 2015

Killing My Darlings

Well, it's confirmed. I talked to my Guild friends. I got my stories back from my Beta readers. I made my rewrite. It is now time to "kill my darlings."

Sounds awful, doesn't it? Kill your darlings. It's like a heinous crime. It's hard too. Probably, just as bloody. What I have to do is reduce the story by 10%. It's a well known formula that makes your story better. So says every expert and successful writer. I just have never done it before. You may have noticed in my writing in this blog.

Oh well. Time to learn. I'll have to sharpen the cleaver. Here goes nothing....

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Why of No One Heard, No One Cared

I wrote several short or flash fiction in this blog as a means to test the waters of my writing and the readership I received. I also tested myself. One test in particular stood out. This test was one where I asked myself if I could write something that I hated. And not just hated but deplore.

So I wrote No One Heard, No One Cared. It's a fictional depiction of the attitudes of the public in Nazi Germany. Indifference was the real crime. To get to that point, I had to use things I abhorred: Nazis, violence against children, and violence against women.

I cringed all the way through the story and still do at the very thought of it. I had to put aside my feelings to write it. I hope I passed the test. I think I did a remarkable job.

But enough patting myself on the back. I thought I owed my readers a reason why that story was in my collection. Why such a disgusting thing would make it into words.

I read the newspaper articles and read detestable things people do to one another. I ask myself how could people do these things to people. They blow children up. They drown children. They eat people. They rape and murder young, old, or any woman. They shoot and kill people for a few bucks in a wallet.

These things are mindless and ultimately stupid acts of violence. I say stupid because it's the uneducated, the undisciplined, or the untreated who commit these acts.

These things exist in the world and ultimately in a good book of fiction these acts are going to pop up as well. So, as detestable as they are, I have to know how to write about them.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Short Story Criticism Cringe

*Sigh* So I wrote this Science Fiction short story I intend to submit to a magazine to publish. It's charming, out there, and fun. At least I think so. *Rolling eyes*

Well, I'm doing this because Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice, spoke at St Louis Writers Guild in July and said that she recommended that new writers go the short story route to experience submission and all that goes with it. That echoes Steven King's recommendations and experience as well.

So I'm tediously balancing myself on the shoulders of modern commercial literary giants. Just one misstep...and...SPLAT.

I followed all the submission rules and all the manuscript formatting rules. Now, I'm coaxing friends and coworkers to read my work and become Beta Readers. Who knows what I did with the Alpha Readers. They probably got ate up by the crocodile in the dungeon or something.

I handed the manuscript to my first Beta Reader yesterday. A few hours later he said he read it and then said he would write comments. I said thanks and that I appreciate it. I left the room and immediately felt a crinkling happening in my intestines. It was the oddest of sensations. Yep, no doubt about it, I was cringing. Anxiety is taking over now. Gah!

'Till next time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cinquain

So I had a whim in the last month. I decided I needed to learn a poem form. Why would I do that? Do I hate myself? Am I a sadomasochist?  Hardly. I actually wanted to learn poetry.

What piqued my interest was the open mic night at the Kirkwood Train Station this summer put on by St Louis Writers Guild. The enthusiasm, sadness, joy, adoration, and pure heart that came out of the mouths of those accomplished poets was an experience to hear.

I ended up browsing for poem forms in poets.org and found the cinquain, a five line form. I dabbled in the common ones, rhyming in the prescribed ways. Then I looked at what Adelaide Craspey did with the form focusing on the syllabic patterns.

She had a melodic pattern. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, semi-truck, or a Saturn V rocket, but I am familiar with math. So I chose the Fibonacci sequence. Yes, that sequence that give us that wonderful spiral that is on the cover of so many math text books. Now, now, puking is not the right response. Chin up!

Fibonacci is a beautiful visual sequence. That's the reason why I chose it. I was hoping its beauty would also come out in the poems. And as a self sadomasochist, I used the beginning of the sequence which starts with 1,1. You try to think of words with one syllable that can be used for a single line see how easy it is. Self defense aside, I think I actually pulled it off.

You can see my Fibonacci Syllabic Sequenced poems on my other blog here. They are indeed patterned after Craspey's poems except for the syllabic pattern.

Well, I might not be the greatest poet in the world, but for a novice I don't think they're half bad.

The fun part about creating these in such a constrained fashion, is that the experience was like solving a puzzle. You had a message to say and you only had thirteen syllables to say it with, counting the title. When you finally figured it all out, you had a sense of accomplishment.

Then the reciting is fun because you get to put on stresses on the different words and almost act out the message. So it's like theater in a way.

The whole experience was quite fun and enlightening. I recommend it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Voice

I've been looking into my voice. Yes, I took a wrench and looked into the mirror. I took a deep breath and opened wide. Down my own throat I went. Ugh! I needed to have gargled more.

After worming my way down, I can to the voice box. I used the wrench to remove the four bolts holding the lid shut. After flinging the bolts carelessly around, I opened the top to reveal the voice strings. Then I strummed the tune to the song "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple.
As impossibly disgusting fun that may have sounded, I think it shows my writing voice. It's a curious, snarky, and fun voice, and I had to learn to embrace it.

I suppose it came to light in the Melseries. The character Mel is kind of a funny weird meddlesome fellow in the spirit of a traditional trickster but with time travel ability. What god-awful things he could do.

President David Lucas (@Owlkenpowriter) of the Saint Louis Writers Guild, a man I would dare call friend, once encouraged me with the words, "You'll find your voice." I was stunned at the time. I hardly understood what he meant. You see, unless you're trained or you take a class, you only get an intuitive sense of what voice actually is without anyone calling it 'voice.' It's the tone a writer sets, the flamboyance or lack thereof. It's the character and persona he puts on to tell the story. Well, to tell the truth it's really not a matter of putting on but of revealing the writer's true nature.

In watching Top Model some time ago I learned one thing. That models have to be honest in front of the camera. That is so the opposite of, let's say, a lawyer who uses deception to make points. A writer needs to show his true self. Of course we are talking about writing fiction here. You can be as stoic as you like in non-fiction and be successful. But in fiction, you have to be honest. Even if being honest means you are deceitful, conniving, secretive, and all manner of fun stuff.

I think this is due to the fact that reading fiction is a very personal and emotional activity. You may not want to share it with other people, at least not everything. You may find a forbidden pleasure and want to keep it all to yourself. That's great and wonderful. To get the reader to react and experience such joys in others, the writer must be vulnerable. He/She puts out their whole persona(s) into text(s) and sends it out into the world hoping for good returns.

Sometimes harsh criticism and mean comments return, but the worst is silence. Silence means nobody cared. That nobody paid any attention. Criticism is a pussy cat; silence is a killer.

Back to the voice. I found a wonderful article that help me. It gave me exercises to do to reclaim or be aware of my voice. Jeff Goins (@jeffgoins) wrote the article and it was titled 10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice. I'm sure there are other good and well written articles on this subject, but this one worked for me.

As I worked through the exercises, I did it on a document and saved it in the folder with all my other writings. That way I can refer to it in the future and, perhaps, add to it.

Well I think I have a grasp on my voice now. Just as long as it doesn't go froggy and leap away, that is. Yet, I won't sit on my laurels. I will still work at it and refine it. Writing is an subject in which you never stop learning.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Writing My First Novel and Why

OK, I'm about halfway through my first draft of my Science Fiction novel and I have to say it's an odyssey to write. I know; that's a bad pun.

I started to write it this last year, and when I got to 30,000 words, I thought I was close to finishing. Well, I then joined the St Louis Writers Guild and found out that a Science Fiction novel is about 75,000 to 150,000 words. Yeah, I sat there with my mouth open. I mean, who dares to count words in a book anyway? So what I had so far was that size of a novella and I didn't want that. No, only a full novel would do.

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to the 'drawing board' that happens to be my plot plan. I decided to morph what was going to be the second book and my novella into a full novel. So far, it's working out great.

So what makes me think I can write a science fiction novel, you may ask? Well, I knew there were people in my family who published a book or two in the past. The ones I knew of were history books and pamphlets for my home town's historical society. So I figured there might have been some talent passed down to me.

Some years ago, I got online help from a website that actively helped people in their writing. It was great. I got a good free crash course in how to write a story. From there I started to write some short stories. I also tried to write poetry prose.  I shared my stuff online on Scribd.com for free. So I kept on dabbling until I decided to write two Science Fiction stories. They were just long short stories really. I threw them on Scribd.com to see what happened. I had some readership, but not much in the form of comments.

At this point I wanted to do something more with my writing, but I didn't know what. I searched online for writing competitions. By then they were changing from free to enter to pay to enter. I was strapped for cash and skeptical of many of these sites. I really didn't know who was reputable. There are apparently a lot of scamers out there who will take you money and run. Anyway, a competition is only a measure of how good your writing is. It's not improving your writing. To do that, you have to read and write, a lot.

I tried my hand in article writing. Believe it or not, I actually was a writer, for a short time, with the Examiner.com. I realized it was too stressful for me with my migraines. Instead, I started my blogs. In my blogs I wrote essays. I practiced writing and editing my own work. It made me pay more attention to style (grammar), and it exposed my bad habits. I was also able to gauge my readership. I started this blog because I wanted to get back into story writing. So I used it to write short stories and figure out what works and what doesn't work based on readership.

Then I decided to take one of my stories and expand it into a novel. I wasn't even sure if I could write as much as a novel required. Well, long story short, I'm still writing it.

You may say it's taking me a long time. I have two jobs, so my schedule is tight. I have personal demons to overcome, and I'm doing that. The key here is persistence. It really doesn't matter how long I take on this first novel. It matters that I do it right. I look at it like learning tennis. Sure, you can pick up the racket and swing it and even maybe hit the ball. Will the ball go where you want it? Will you be able to return an ace serve? Will you be able to carry on a volley? Will you be able to slam the ball to a game match point? The answer is no if you do not take the time to learn your form. You have to learn fore-hand with its flat, top spin, and slice variations. Then the back-hand with the same variations. Then learn a first serve and then a second serve. Then learn how to position yourself on the court. All the time, keeping your eye on the ball. This is how I'm approaching writing a novel. Now, I'm learning the form. How to write the first draft. Then how to rewrite it. How to give it out to my beta readers and get their input. Then rewrite it again. Then get and editor to go over it. Then rewrite it again. Finally, submit it for publishing.

Yeah, that's a lot of work.  It's no small task, and it's not for the faint of heart. I guess you have to love writing to keep going. I used to be a computer programmer. In that arena, you make an algorithm. Then you code it. Then you correct for all the bugs and modify the application for your intended purposes. That's what you do in writing. You make your plot. You create your characters. You describe your environments. You write and rewrite your draft until it works. You test it on people's brains. Then you sell it to infiltrate the people of the world. Well, after all, books are just code for the brain. ;-))


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Child's Play

Billy saw children around a fire in the distance. He was in a forest of white trees. Everything on this planet was white. Even the ground was white. Like someone threw a bucket of paint on the whole place. It was an incredible sight. In contrast, the sky was dark. He drew closer and crouched behind a stone column. He clutched the wooden cane with the brass handle. He saw another stone column on the other side of the clearing with a statue of what appeared to be an angel on top of it. He brushed back his hair from in front of his face and observed the children. He counted four boys about thirteen Earth years old.

"..and then the garmatal came in and ate them all up!" blurted the biggest boy. The others gasped in horror with obvious frightened faces on them. Billy held in his giggles.

"That was not so, Gimolee," said a small skinny kid with messy hair.

"Was so, Belloff."

"Was not."

"See if you can tell one better." The two silent ones taunted Belloff. Billy saw where the lines were drawn here.

"Yeah. Tell a better one, if you dare," said the overweight boy and he threw a rock at Belloff. It hit him in the face. Belloff did not cry.

"Yeah, Belloff. Tell us or we will beat you into the ground," said the last boy who also threw a rock. It hit Belloff in the knee. He brushed his knee off and rearranged his position.

"Alright then. I will." He paused for a moment. "Well, there was this mystic man who appeared and disappeared in a blink of an eye and..."

Billy suddenly appeared next to Belloff. "..and he offers 3 wishes," Billy shouted. The shocked boys scurried backwards in astonishment.

"Good story. Good story," said Gimolee. Belloff did not move, nor was he frightened. Billy was impressed by this. In fact, the boy was smiling. The other boys ran off in sheer fright.

"Good day, Mister," said Belloff calmly looking up at Billy.

"Day? Is that what you call this? It's so dark." Billy looked all around and then up at the sky filled with stars.

If you wish to read the rest of this story, it is in the free ebook Mel's Shorts. Please read more about it at the Mel's Shorts page.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Sting

Billy yawned.


He slept in. The sun was hitting his eyelids causing him to do something he didn't want to, wake up. He remembered the previous night when he partied it up with some women of ill repute and booze. He felt like heavy bricks were weighing him down. He didn't want to move.

He opened one eye and saw the beauty of the golden sun. It was much like his own at home, Earth. This was not home. This was an alien planet which he and his mad friend, Mel, took over in a bank heist con.

Something strange was happening. Something strange was happening to the Sun. It was getting darker. To his knowledge, there wasn't supposed to be a solar eclipse today from either of Veheemia's moons. What is that? What's going on? He thought. The Sun continued to get darker and darker until...

"Ow! " Something hit his head and plopped on the floor. He rolled off the bed and stood up facing the open window and holding his wound around his eye with one hand. "Damn it! What the hell?!" he said. "Fuck!"

The pain was agonizing for a minute or two. In that time, he could hear moans of people waking up. His loud comments must have woken them. Then he remembered about the girls. He looked around the lavishly decorated room with his good eye and saw yellow and orange flesh moving about. It was like looking in a citrus landscape. The red walls with gilded picture frames reminded him of some palace in Europe.

"All of you, go. Get out," he said loudly and angrily while motioning with his arm. The girls immediately got up and collected their clothes and belongings and hurried out in a great clamor. He was left alone. He went to the washroom and tended to his eye. Not too bad. Just a cut. Nothing that a simple med pack can't help with. He looked in the cupboards and found one.

After patching up his eye, he looked for the projectile. He found a rock with a paper note on it attached by a string. It was decisively low tech for this high tech world. He unfolded the note and saw the weirdest writing he'd had ever seen. Then he checked his ear. His translator fell out. No wonder the girls were scared. They'd never heard English before. He proceeded to look for the translator and found it among the sheets. He put it in his ear and proceeded to read the message again.

"Billy, while you are whoremongering, your friend is charging exuberant amount of taxes, taking people's lands, and killing them if they refuse. Get off your pompous ass and stop him. Jaahneet"

If you wish to read the rest of this story, it is in the free ebook Mel's Shorts. Please read more about it at the Mel's Shorts page.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Heist

Jaahneet followed her new boss into Central Bank's main lobby. The hall ceiling was cathedral height, and the walls and floor were covered in purple and white polished marble. Her high heels echoed every time she took a step.

"As you can see we have state of the art security in this facility," said Marbell in his most impressing voice in hopes of winning a dinner with this pretty new employee.

"I see multi-spectrum cameras; alpha, x, and gamma ray sensors; and guards with photonic rapier guns at their side," said Jaahneet.

"And do not forget the temporal sensors. They are new. We received new intel that there is a loony time traveler on the loose. He could be capable of anything."

"Now, why would a time traveler rob a bank? I mean, what will he do with the credits? I would think he could steal anything he would want to buy if he was going to steal at all."

"I would agree with you, Jaahneet. You are as intelligent as you are beautiful. But this one is said to have a couple of screws loose. Who knows what he will do?" Marbell had stopped at the marble counter and looked over her exquisite slender form. He liked her curves, her well primed suit jacket and skirt, her blue hair tied in a tight ponytail, and her nicely complexioned yellow skin, "So, this is the biggest bank in the capital of the most advanced civilization in the known universe. What do you think?"

"Well..." Jaahneet looked over the large lobby with many, but not solely, yellow skinned customers in queue. "I see what element we have to deal with. Not only upstanding Veheemean citizens but also those of other races and planets. Even one from a back sector planet." She pointed to a purple skinned old man in a traditional clergy brown cloak and a staff. He was bent over with age, and clearly stood out in the crowd.

"Don't point. It's not polite. Yes. Yes. Your security skills are quite admirable, but you have a lot to learn about customer service. That is why you're here as a security administer intern, to learn." Marbell's voice emphasis on his last word made Jaahneet feel that she should switch her mind into learning mode.

If you wish to read the rest of this story, it is in the free ebook Mel's Shorts. Please read more about it at the Mel's Shorts page.