Welcome to the (un)official site for science-fiction and fantasy writer Bryan R. Durkin!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Season's Greetings and Kricket Update

First of all, I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! I know it's a little late, but I've been traveling to be with family for the holidays. It'll be busy, but certainly better than spending it alone. I also want to take a moment to wish both of my brothers a very special Christmas; they'll both be spending it away from their families. It's because of guys like them that we can still celebrate Christmas in many areas of the world.

On to Kricket news, I've finished most of the major edits I wanted to accomplish. I still need to figure out how I'm going to rewrite the first few paragraphs of Chapter One. It won't be a major change, but still, it needs to be done right! Once I've done that and let the manuscript sit for a few days, I'll be reading through the whole thing again to look for typos, and to generally clean up the writing, so that it's nice, polished, and not amateurish. At least, that's the hope.

So again, Merry Christmas, and see you all next time!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kricket Rough Draft Completed

You read it correctly! I finished the rough draft for Kricket's Song on 12-11-11. Final word count was 97,767. This was quite a bit over the original 90K word count I'd planned for, but not quite as high as I was afraid it might go. According to my research, somewhere between 80 and 90K is what agents are looking for from new writers, but 97K isn't so far out of the ballpark as to not be feasible. The word count will, of course, change before I submit it to agents.

So what's next for Kricket's Song? Well, I've got a list of about 23 edits that need to take place before I have the basic story the way I want it. Some of these were things that changed as I wrote the manuscript, some were ideas that I got after I'd already written those parts, and some where things that I just plain forgot to write in. I'm currently about 30% done with those edits, and I hope to have them done within the next few days, before I get started on my Christmas break.

After the initial edits, I'm going to let the manuscript sit for awhile. If I do any writing at all, it'll be on something completely unrelated to Kricket's Song. If I go back and read through it looking for errors right now, I'll only see what I want to see, instead of what's actually there. So I'll give my brain a break and look at it with fresh eyes a couple weeks later.

After I read through it and polish it up as best as I can, it'll then go to beta readers, who will give me yet another perspective. While the beta readers have it, I'll be researching agents, drafting a query letter, and all the other little things that need to happen for a manuscript to be ready for submission. And after that...well, I guess we'll see!

I already have a LOT of ideas for the sequel to Kricket's Song (although Kricket's Song is designed to be a standalone plot), but I don't have a definite plot laid out for it yet. Right now, that's slated to be my next major project, but we'll see how things go before I officially put it on my active projects list.

As always, I'll try to keep this site updated with my progress. I know it's been awhile since I last posted. My excuse is, I've been busy at work, and all my spare creative energy has gone into the push to get this rough draft done. But let's be honest: blogging is boring when I've got nothing to blog about. I'm not one of those guys that talks about something just to be talking. So, when I have something talk about, I'll post again!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The End is Nigh...

The end of the first draft of Kricket's Song, that is!

Yes, yes, I know, I haven't posted in like three weeks. Maybe more. I'm going to make a blatantly obvious excuse here, and say that it's because I was focusing so much of my creative effort on Kricket's Song. And that's at least partly true. For those of you who haven't been watching the little progress gauge over there on the right side of the blog, it's been positively skyrocketing upward. The first draft is literally approaching the final stages!

I'm excited about it, if you couldn't tell. Creatively speaking, I've been eating, sleeping, drinking, and breathing Kricket's Song for much of the past seven months (seven months tomorrow!). It's been an absolute joy to work on, but I'm excited to get it done. I don't think it's going to require any major rewrites, and the flaws that I've identified already have solutions waiting to be implemented, for the most part. Of course, this is a noob talking, so I could be wrong. I'm not worried about THAT just yet.

The buildup for the final climax is happening now, and within the next two or three chapters, Kricket's crew will be starting the final mission of mind-blowing epic awesomeness. Or at least, I HOPE it will be that good. I'm still estimating about 90,000 total words, which leaves me about 15,000 to go. I can't see it going more than a few thousand over, all told. That total will come back down some during editing, no doubt.

Regardless, the end of this stage is in sight. Then it'll be time to start planning the next book while I give Kricket a break. Then I'll be editing Kricket and getting it ready to submit to agents. I feel a lot more confident about this manuscript than I ever did with The Serenity Solution. The story really came together well, and while I'm not naive enough to think it doesn't need some serious polishing, I believe it holds a great deal of promise for the not-too-distant future.

My goal is to have the first draft done before the end of the year, which shouldn't be a problem at this pace. I'd like to have it ready to go to beta readers by the end of the year. Then I could possibly have it out to agents before spring of next year. We'll see, so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Those Who Should Know Better

We've all been in this position before. A book or movie you've been waiting for and looking forward to for a long time has finally come out. Or maybe you haven't really been looking forward to it, but you see it being advertised or stumble across it in the bookstore, and the cover is amazing, and you're familiar with other books in the same series or setting. And you're thinking, "Wow, this ought to be so cool." Then you sit down and read it or--in the case of movies--watch it. You get to about the halfway point, and it starts to sink in: it's not that great, and it's probably not going to get any better.

That's a real downer. Unfortunately, that's the position I've found myself in over the past few weeks while reading one of the newer books in the Halo series. Yes, that Halo, the X-Box game that is both famous and infamous the world 'round. Whether or not you're a fan of the games themselves, I'm personally a huge fan of the story behind the games. I've read all of the books, and while they weren't of the most amazing quality (few books based on video games are), they were generally well-written and entertaining, with one or two exceptions. Unfortunately, Halo: Evolutions set the bar for low quality in the series.

Evolutions is actually a collection of short stories set in the "Haloverse" by a variety of authors. Most I've never heard of before, but there are a couple of more well-known authors from the military sci-fi genre, including Karen Traviss and Eric Nylund, to name a few. Both Ms. Traviss' and Mr. Nylund's shorts were fairly good, but the majority of the other authors left me with one burning question: What criteria did they have to meet in order to get published in this book? It certainly wasn't quality of writing.

Now, I could spend an entire day going through the book and pulling out specific quotes to back up my claim, but I'm not going to do that. Also, to be perfectly honest, some of my gripes are purely subjective. My main complaint was that these authors made it painfully clear they had very little, if any, idea how professional soldiers behave on the battlefield. Sure, each soldier is different, each organization has a different level of quality. But when a pair of Spartan-IIs are bantering back and forth like a pair of 12-year-old wanna-be tough guys, it rather detracts from the business at hand, namely, slaughtering Covenant forces and protecting humanity from certain annihilation. There was also a lot of behavior that seemed very contrived, whether it was to force a plot point or a shabby attempt at characterization. One example: the Office of Naval Intelligence is always deceiving people on their own side, and always has an ulterior motive. Like the whole of ONI is comprised of nothing but scumbags.

Another distressing trend I discovered is that all the short stories ended just when it seemed things were finally starting to happen. Most often, it ended with the main character(s) getting abruptly shot in the head, stabbed in the back, or blown out of orbit. I got the impression that the authors had a good idea for their stories, but couldn't figure out how to develop it, and just when they seemed to pick up the thread and get it rolling, they realized they'd exceeded their word limit and they had to cut it off. And here's a purely subjective point for you: I get kind of depressed when 60% of the short stories end with the main character being killed or most likely killed. I understand that survival is no certain thing, especially not in the Haloverse, but I'd like to think that someone other than the Master Chief is capable of taking on the Covenant and living for at least a little while.

So, what's the whole point of this rant? I guess it boils down to poor research, lack of realistic characterization, and some poor plotting. I really expected more, especially from a franchise where the consumers are used to high quality. In today's publishing world, where it's becoming nearly impossible to get published, quality is a must. We can't afford to have shoddily written books flooding the market, when there are plenty of quality writers out there who can't get published because the numbers are against them.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

In other news, Kricket continues to progress well. I'm about two-thirds of the way done with the rough draft. I've gotten into a sort of unofficial contest with another writer from the Absolute Write Water Cooler (see links on right) to see who can finish our manuscripts first. The deadline is January 1st of next year. If I keep writing like this, I should be able to get it done by then. Here's hoping!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boring Much?

Yeah, yeah, I know, I missed a week in there somewhere. Something about working 8 days straight--4 of them involving 42 kids and Uzi submachine guns (literally!)--kind of kills the motivation to work on the blog. But here I am, with updates on the writing projects and...something else.

It has slowly come to my attention that the content of my blog might be...well, boring. Let's get one thing straight. I didn't really set out to write this blog for the entertainment of other people. It was more a project to see if I could document some of the struggles, issues, and triumphs that I'm going through as I'm trying to become a published author. The problem is, along the way, it became nothing more than a place to post some numbers ("Yay, I wrote 1,701 words last month!"). And while I'm not trying to become the most popular blog on the web that people log onto every day to see if there's a new post, I don't want to bore people to death either. I want to provide something that's useful to the writing community. Writing should be fun, and so should blogs about writing.

I've noticed that a lot of author's blogs, as well as blogs by editors and publishers, do a lot of things like book or movie reviews, or interviews with authors, etc. Couple of problems with that in my case. 1.) I stay busy enough with my normal job that I don't get a chance to read very much. I could do book reviews, but they would happen only once every few months. 2.) I'm too anti-social to actually interview someone. I'd much rather read the book and then make snide comments about it while the author can't defend themselves. (Okay, I exaggerate slightly.)

So what does that leave me with? Well, whatever the heck I feel like at the time I'm writing my blog post. I can't guarantee it'll be orderly, and I can guarantee it won't be earth-shattering. I can promise that I will try to provide something useful to fellow writers, whether it be something new I learn, or just something that I observe that provides a point to ponder.

While movies and TV shows aren't exactly the same as writing books or short stories, they do have a lot in common. First, they all start with writing. Second, they usually involve some kind of research or technical expertise. This is especially true with military/police-themed works, whether it be historical, modern, or even science fiction. I saw something the other day that absolutely blew my mind away, in a good way. I was watching the TV show "Flashpoint," a series about a Canadian Police Special Response Unit. I've always admired the show for its technical accuracy. (Plus, it's got actors that don't look like they just strolled off the catwalk, which is a huge bonus!) But they took it a step further and actually did something that I teach students every day in the Defensive Handgun courses I work in.

As one police officer handed a confiscated pistol to another police officer to process it as evidence, the officer taking custody of the gun did a chamber check to ensure there was no round in the gun. Amazing! I have never seen this before in a movie or TV show. 9 times out of 10, they drop the magazine and then start waving the gun around like it's actually unloaded. Every semi-automatic handgun that I know of is capable of holding a round in the chamber even after the magazine is dropped. The only other times I see chamber checks is when the hero is about ready to jump out the airlock and kick some alien butt, and that doesn't really count, because who wouldn't do a chamber check when they're about ready to go up against aliens? But one thing we teach at my job is that when you pick up a weapon, give custody of weapon to someone else, take custody of a weapon, or just want to be absolutely sure of its condition, the very first thing you do is a chamber check. Guarantee the weapon is in the condition you want it to be in: loaded or unloaded.

Kudos to "Flashpoint" for getting it right.

Yeah, yeah, I know, most people don't notice or really care about these miniscule details. Many times, in books or short stories, if you took the time to run through all the correct procedures, you'd burn up way too much white space. But there are little things you can throw in here or there that add authenticity to the work. And in the case of "Flashpoint," it was one guy in the background doing a chamber check that took about a half a second. And yet, they earned my undying respect. Until they all muzzle each other in the next episode while talking over coffee...

Next week, what NOT to do to earn your audience's respect, and yes, it will have something to do with actual writing.

But no post is complete without those lovely numbers! I'm please to announce that the rough draft for Kricket's Song is over halfway complete! I've been able to do some solid writing on my days off, and the project is proceeding well. I'm hoping to have at least another 4,000 words written before I head back to work on Monday. As for the short stories, well... I haven't reached a final decision yet, but I'm probably just not going to bother with them any time soon. My heart's really not into the publishing process with them. Through research and reading the various markets, I really don't think my stories are the kind that editors are looking for right now. They're just too..."concrete?" Definite beginnings, definite endings, unambiguous morals, and *gasp* personal values!? In other words, not confusing enough to be called real writing.

Or it could be that I haven't yet mastered short story writing and I'm just a noob complaining about not being understood.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Life As Usual

Now that I'm finally starting to get really settled down in this new town with this new job, I've been able to start making some progress with my writing efforts once again. Not a lot, mind you, but at least I'm moving forward.

I don't really have too much to talk about this week, but here goes what I have. I mentioned in one of my recent posts that I'd be submitting "Exequies" again to various places in an attempt to get it published. My latest effort has already returned with a rejection, so it's on to the next market for that short story.

Right now, most of my writing efforts have been focused on getting Kricket's Song moving forward again. It's been slow going, trying to get back into the swing of it, but I've been making some progress. I'm nearing the halfway point on the word count goal, and I think I'm more or less halfway through the plot. I won't ever be entirely sure until it's actually done and I feel the story has been adequately told. I'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress I make with it. I'm excited to see how it will turn out!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Settling Down

Transition periods are never easy, and this one has probably been more complicated than most that I've been through. Maybe I was just lucky in the past, or unlucky during this one. But it seems that nothing has worked out the way it was planned, and though I think everything is finally coming together, it feels like it's just been one set of frustration after another.

That being said, as I had hoped, I've been getting decent amounts of time off, and I've finally started working on some of my writing projects again. I spent two days re-reading Kricket's Song and going over my notes to get back into the flow of it, and I intend to continue working on the rough draft over the coming days. I also spent a couple of hours yesterday editing "Exequies." Some concerns had been raised by one or two beta readers that there was some content which might be disturbing to a mainstream audience, simply because it might be taken the wrong way at first. So, I tried to tone that stuff down a bit - and make it less open to misinterpretation - as well as just generally tightening up the manuscript. I plan to spend today looking for another market to submit it to, to hopefully get it published.

After that, it's back to Kricket's Song, as well as looking at a couple of the other short story projects I'd been working on earlier this year, including "The Wall" and "The Abyss." I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Back...Finally

Well, I finally made it back to the civilized internet world. I honestly didn't think it would take me this long to get internet access back, but as they say, Murphy is alive and well... After around three weeks of languishing without internet, I finally have it back, and I can finally keep working on this blog.

I got successfully moved to southern Nevada for the new job, and I started with them in an official capacity last weekend. It's definitely going to keep me busy, and I'll most likely be on the run for the first few weeks as I try to set my pace and figure out how everything is going to work, as far as my personal life fitting in around the job itself.

That brings me back to the topic of writing. Unfortunately, I don't really have much new progress to report on that front. Thanks to staying busy and a healthy dose of procrastination, I haven't done any real writing during my transition. Kricket's Song remains my top priority, but I've also planned out a fan fiction, just so I can switch things up a bit and work on the military science-fiction side of things for a bit. Keep an eye on my fan fiction page (link on right) for that piece, if I actually ever finish it.

That's about all I've got for now. I hope to get things rolling here in the next week or so. It's good to be back!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Transition Time II

Creative title, I know. But, that's still where I'm at. Packing began in earnest so I can move to my new job location in a few days. There's still a lot to do, and I've still got a couple days of work at my current job. Basically, things are nuts.

Thankfully, I had a bit of spare time after work last week, and I was able to sit down and make some serious progress on Kricket's Song. I was able to write approximately 2,000 words, finish Chapter 13 and a short 14, and begin Chapter 15. Jonah and company are currently finding out what happens when an airship decides it's taken enough of a beating and doesn't want to keep flying anymore. Despite what so far has felt like non-stop action, I'm hoping that I'm getting the character development down and creating what will be a unique story with excellent character interaction. It seems to be working out well so far, but it's one of those things you have to wait until the end to see if it actually is what you wanted it to be. But, I'm finally nearing the halfway point on the intended word count goal; in reality, the story will probably be around 10K words shorter than that goal, so I'm kinda sorta getting close.

Mostly, this post is just to let everyone know that I'll probably be going dark for the next couple weeks. I'm moving at the end of this week, and once I'm in my new apartment and settled in to the new job, I will still have to find internet service and get it hooked up before I can get online again. Who knows how long that will take. But, once my life is somewhat stable again, I'll be back to trying to post once a week. And, hopefully, writing more regularly. As usual, it seems, time will tell...

See you next time!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Transition Time

Hard as it is to believe, my summer is almost over. Honestly, it feels like I've done a whole lot of nothing. True, I've had a fairly decently paying job. But as far as writing goes, I think I've completed maybe three chapters on Kricket's Song and done a bit of brainstorming for the new rewrite of The Serenity Solution. And that's about it.

I could make excuses. I could lament the lack of progress. But I've learned that's just a waste of my time. I've got about a week and a half left in my current job, and then I'm making a mad rush to get packed, and get myself to Southern Nevada, where I start my new job - and that transition time will take about four days. It's going to be nuts.

I'm going to try to work more on Kricket this week in the evenings after work. We'll see what kind of progress I make. After that, I probably won't get any writing done until after I'm settled in at the new job. The good thing about the new job is, it looks like I'll be having three days off per week instead of only two, and I will be able to come home every evening after work. Oh, I'm sure I'll find excuses as to why I can't write then, as well. But at least fewer of those excuses will be valid.

Here's hoping.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Slow Summer, Slower Writing

Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing is fun. It can be a much needed break from a hectic life, a chance to clear your mind and relax. But sometimes, it really gets on your nerves - especially if sitting around and doing nothing is ALL you ever do. Such has been my life this summer. I have had absolutely no fires to fight this summer, and while that's good for the forests and grazing lands - I'm a firefighter. If I'm not fighting fire, I'm sitting around doing nothing, essentially. For me, doing nothing tends to kill my motivation for doing anything at all. Thus, it's been hard to sit down and write, even when I do have some spare time.You may have noticed I didn't even get up the motivation to post for the last two weeks.

That's not to say that I don't want to write. It's just that, well, objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Equally, it's hard to get my brain in gear and start writing when all I've been doing is staring at the forest all day thinking "Why won't you catch fire already!?" (I jest...mostly.)

Kricket's Song finally made some progress this last week. I would say "good progress," although that won't be entirely evident in the word count. A lot of the progress was in finally resolving some of the planning and visualization issues I was having with later parts of the book, particularly around the climax and the events leading up to it. While listening to the "soundtrack" I've selected for the book, I got some good brainstorming done. Hopefully, that will translate to faster typing during those times when I can convince myself to sit down and write.

I've also been thinking on The Serenity Solution and what I want to do with the rewrite, but I don't have anything definite there yet. Short stories are pretty much on hold right now, though I have been thinking about finally finishing that rough draft of "The Abyss" and maybe revising "The Wall" again. "Exequies" is on hold as far as submissions go, simply because I'm out of touch with the entire world - internet included - while I'm out at the remote guard station. That doesn't make for prompt communication. When I'm finally relocated to my new job and have consistent internet again, I'll try to get moving on that again.

And that's about it for now. Stunning revelations I know. This is the hard part about being a writer. It's all about that grinder...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Marching on the Grinder

When I was in Navy Boot Camp in 2005, our Recruit Commanders referred to the parking lots outside the barracks as the "Grinders." For the first couple weeks, I always wondered why that was. Perhaps it was because they were in poor repair, and the gravel ground up tires? I soon learned they were so named because they actually ground down recruits' morale. The Grinders were where the divisions of recruits practiced their marching skills. Over and over and over again. It didn't matter how hard we practiced or how well we did, it was never quite good enough.

Working a full time job that keeps me away from home five days out of the week (sometimes more if days off are cancelled) is kind of like the Grinder. It doesn't matter how hard I try or how determined I am to get some writing time in, it's just not going to happen as often as I'd like. And even if I do get a chance to sit down and start up the laptop, I'm constantly interrupted and distracted, and the writing I do get done is usually sub par.

But the secret to success on the Grinder in Great Lakes was to not let the less-than-perfect performance get you down. You just had to keep marching, work on making that about-face smoother, practice the left and right faces until they were sharp enough to make civilians think you knew what you were doing. And then, at the end of the day, you got the satisfaction of knowing you were going to beat the socks off the divisions who didn't practice on the Grinder every day.

Writing is kind of like that. Sometimes, I'm not going to write as well as I want to. Sometimes I'm not going to be able to write as long as I want to. Sometimes I won't be able to write at all. But that's not the point. The point is to keep doing my best to make the time, and when I write, to write as well as I can. At the end of the day, I'll have the satisfaction of knowing I made some progress and that my writing will benefit because of it. And that's about the best a writer can hope for anyway.

Over the past week, I made some more progress on Kricket's Song. Chapter 12 is done, and Chapter 13 will see our characters leaving Gryphon's Reach and heading for Amberford - the Headquarters of the Guv Navy. Yes - it's about to get crazy.

I also did an hour-long brainstorming session for The Serenity Solution. That proved to be a bit more complicated than I'd originally planned. Mostly I was focused on the motivations of the shadowy group of bad guys who wanted to take over Serenity. The original draft of the manuscript gave the indication that they wanted power over Serenity for the sake of power. That's all well and good, and indeed, real life often happens that way. But it honestly doesn't make for a very interesting story. So I was working on the motivations for such a hostile takeover, and with every idea I came up with for that, I was forced to consider and modify major plot elements and motivations for the individual characters. Definitely tricky business. But, I think I've come up with some fresh ideas that will prove interesting and possibly very far-reaching for any books that come after the first one. Time will tell.

That's about all for now. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Challenge Continues

Unfortunately, there's not very much new to report this week. I am happy to say that I made a bit more progress on Kricket's Song this last week while out at the guard station than I did last week. I was only able to sit down and work on it one evening, but I wrote a little over twice as much as I did last time.

Working as a wildland firefighter is a time consuming and tiring job, even when I'm not actually fighting fires. Even on days that I just spend driving around, I'm usually pretty tired when my shift is up, and all I feel like doing is sitting around doing nothing. Of course, for a serious writer, that's not really a valid excuse. And so, I'll keep taking my laptop out there and I'll keep making myself sit down and write. I know I can do it at least once a week, so this time I'll try to write at least two of the evenings.

I did finish Chapter 11 last weekend while I was home, and now I'm well in to Chapter 12. Jonah and his companions are confronting a female crime boss known as "The Matushka." Jonah discovered in Chapter 10 that she has information regarding Katerina's whereabouts, but now, he realizes that Matroyna Demochev's connection with Katerina is far more complicated than he previously understood. The Matushka is no friend of the Guv, but will she be willing to help a ragtag band of would-be heroes and opportunists?

That's it for now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Easier Said Than Done

This last week was the first week during which I lived entirely out at the remote guard station that I've been assigned to for fighting fire this summer. As you'll recall from my previous posts, I waxed eloquent about how I was going to continue writing during the evenings after I was off shift. Well, as I predicted, doing so is far easier said than done.

Of the four evenings I spent out there at the guard stations, I was only able to do any writing on one of them. I was called out on a dispatch on one of those evenings (nothing I can do about that) but the other two evenings, I was basically just being a lazy bum. So... I've got a lot of work to do.

But, I did make some progress with Kricket's Song, so it wasn't a total loss. I'm nearly done with Chapter 11, and our company of heroes are about to move on to the next set of challenges and dangers in the search for Katerina and the secret she disappeared with. Jonah knew the Guv was his enemy, but he's discovered a new enemy along the way, one that could be even more dangerous and relentless than the Guv itself. The Grounders are a fanatical sect devoted to the same Professor who wrote the journal that Jonah carries with him as his clue to finding his fiancee. And they want that journal back. Their strange powers make them formidable indeed, and they foreshadow the challenges that Jonah and the crew of the Kricket will face when they finally reach their as yet unknown destination.

So, stay tuned. I'll keep plugging away at it, and hopefully I can make some progress on the rewrite for The Serenity Solution as well. News as it happens! Or rather, when I get a chance to sit down and write about it...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Soldiering On

This last week has been a little difficult for me in a couple of ways. It started out with the news that "Exequies" had absolute no success in the Writers of the Future Contest. A nice little one line e-mail dashed all hopes with that. I'm not sure which market I'll be looking at next for it. Honestly, anything related to short stories is pretty low on my list of priorities right now. If something comes up regarding "Exequies," I'll let you know.

The second thing that's been difficult is trying to find the energy and motivation to write after coming home from 9 hour work day (I get an hour lunch, but in this line of work, you're lucky if you actually get 30 minutes) that is both mentally and physically challenging. On top of the hours I actually spend at work, I've got to spend time learning material for the job I'm picking up after the summer, which further eats away at my time and energy.

So I'll be honest, Kricket's Song made very little progress this last week, and the rewrite for The Serenity Solution made absolute no progress. I did get lots of inspiration from music that I've come to associate with Kricket's Song over the past couple months, but inspiration isn't words on the page, not yet. I still plan on taking my laptop to the fire guard station I'll be living at for most of the week, and hopefully I'll make some progress on my projects after business hours.

We'll see.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Maintaining Momentum

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, I did get a job in Southern Nevada, and now my summer job fighting wildfires has started. The temptation for me (and, I suspect, for many writers) would be to say "Well, I'm busy now, I guess I'll just have to write on my days off." The problem with a job like wild land firefighting is that there's no guarantee I'll get my days off. And even if I did, that's only two days out of the week for writing. And let's face it, that sort of progress would be dismally slow if I'm serious about getting books published.

So now, perhaps more than ever, it's time for me to get serious and put the writer's age-old adage into practice: "If you want to write, you've got to MAKE the time to write."

I'll be pulling eight hour days, five days a week, and if there are fires going on, I could be working as much as sixteen hours a day. In addition, I'll be spending all of my work days out in the woods in a cabin where there is no internet and the electricity is less than stable. My intent is to take my laptop out there with me and to keep working on Kricket and TSS, regardless of the situation. I plan on writing at least 1,000 words a day, except maybe on those 16-hour days (I'll need that sleep if I'm actively fighting fires). Now, planning is all well and good, but only time will tell if I can maintain my current momentum (which actually isn't all that fast right now). It's time to test my dedication to writing.

Once I transition to the other job in Southern Nevada after the fire season, I will have more regular days off (possibly as many as three a week), and it should be easier to maintain a writing schedule. Again, time will tell.

For now, Kricket's Song is progressing nicely. I reached the official 1/3 complete mark a couple of days ago. I believe it's turning out to be a fairly clean manuscript, which means at this point I don't see myself having to go back and do a lot of rewrites on it. But, that may change once I get the first draft completed and some beta readers get their hooks into it. Right now, I'm just taking it one thing at a time, and I have to get the first draft finished first. I started Chapter 11 last night; I don't know how many chapters there will end up being, but I've been pleased with the progress, especially considering all the traveling I've been doing on top of looking for work and graduating college.

As for The Serenity Solution, I've finally got a bit of progress to report on that. Following what seems to be the very successful formula for Kricket, I wrote out some detailed biographies for the main and major secondary characters for the book, just so that I have them firmly in mind when I start the rewrite. The next step is to outline the overall plot, and hopefully keep it from being too ambitious as was the last attempt. Then I'll start doing detailed outlines of a couple of chapters at a time, and it will then be time to actually start writing. I know it seems like a very structured system, but so far, that seems to be the way I work best. Once I get my skills polished up a lot more, maybe I can be more lax on the structure.

For "Exequies" and the Writers of the Future Contest, I honestly have no idea what's going on. I thought they were judging Q2 for 2011 in which the story was entered, but looking at their site, it would appear they have just finished awarding the winners for Q1. So...who knows when something will happen with that. It appears they may be a bit behind schedule right now. That's fine, I've got plenty of other stuff to be working on with Kricket and TSS.

That's about it for now. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Kricket Project, Part 5

Let's roll into the last of the cast from Kricket's Song, and then I'll move on to the other news related to my life as it impacts my writing.

Matroyna Demochev (Mattie): Crime Boss Lady. Mattie runs the underground smuggling and criminal ring in Gryphon's Reach, a floating city where the Guv has very little control over the people. Mattie is Katerina Kroichev's mother, but she took back her maiden name after leaving her husband, the Vice Minister of Defense for the Guv. Mattie, like her daughter, can be very controlling and manipulative, although in general, she has a good heart. She's like a mother to everyone she considers a friend, but is capable of shocking brutality if she feels someone is endangering her friends or her "business" interests.

When Katerina's clues lead Jonah and his friends through Mattie's domain, the Matushka takes it upon herself to thoroughly vet them and their motives for looking for her daughter. The Guv may be dangerous, but there's nothing as deadly as a mother protecting her child!

Admiral Evander Greystache: Legendary hero. Admiral Greystache is the Guv Navy Officer responsible for the destruction of the fleet that belong to the infamous pirate captain Morrigan. He captured the hearts and minds of the populace after that heroic battle, and he seemed to be the Guv's perfect poster child. But only a few years after that battle, Greystache retired from the Navy, and led an expedition into unknown lands, apparently seeking a fable floating city. His entire expedition disappeared and was never heard from again...

Until now.

Okay, that's it on character. I was going to add another one, but as the story has progressed, it seems more and more likely that he will play a background role. He may not even show up at all, though his influence will certainly be felt. If you've been keeping an eye on my progress meter to the right, you can see that - when I get a chance to write - Kricket's Song has been moving along nicely.

So that leads me on to the other parts of my life that affect my writing. I'm happy to report that I've successfully gotten that job I was working for, and I should now be gainfully employed for the majority of the year, with a relatively flexible schedule. This may, I repeat may, prove to be very good for my writing. We'll have to see, as I don't actually start that job until late August. I'll be doing firefighting for the summer, as I have been the last two summers, which can be rough on writing. However, I intend to make a concerted effort to continue making forward progress on Kricket and my other projects.

I still haven't heard anything on "Exequies," although they are now apparently working on judging the quarter in which I entered it. So hopefully, I'll hear something soon.

More as it happens. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Kricket Project, Part 4

I finally made it back home, after what amounted to almost a week and a half between school in Texas and Oregon, where I permanently live (for now anyway). There's more news, but first, let me continue the Kricket Project by posting a few more character bios.

The Boostmeister: Kricket's booster tech. The Boostmeister is a rather strange fellow. He's extremely short, almost dwarfish, and seems to be getting well along in years. He's still spry, however. He's fairly crazy, possibly schizophrenic, though it usually doesn't interfere with his job. His sole purpose on the Kricket is to maintain and operate the ship's boosters, which give her a sudden, temporary burst of speed when normal steam power isn't enough to outrun an enemy. The boosters are dangerous devices, and the Boostmeister always wears goggles, gloves, and protective leather clothing to guard him from the showers of sparks and flames the boosters are prone to emit.

Boostmeister's motivations are simple: he lives solely to make Kricket fly like the wind. He spends all his free time working on the boosters, which means sometimes they don't work like they should - or at all. He seems to have deigned that his current location is good enough for one of his talents, though it's uncertain what he's really attached to: the crew, or Kricket and her highly illegal, mind-bogglingly fast boosters.

Ricky-Tick: Kricket's cabin boy. Ricky-Tick was an orphan before Skip picked him up and gave him a job aboard the ship. Like most young boys, he's simultaneously curious, adventurous, friendly, and sometimes rebellious. He regards Skip as something of a mother, much to her chagrin. He's very smart and resourceful; he obsessively eavesdrops and he remembers every thing he hears, even from long conversations.

Ricky-Tick wants to do just about everything. He wants to see the whole world, become and accomplished gunship pilot, blockade runner, smuggler, army commander, president, etc. Skip is trying to train him to be her navigator and cartographer, but Ricky-Tick merely tolerates her efforts to educate him along those lines.

Katerina Kroichev: Jonah's missing fiancee. Katerina was a fellow student of Jonah's at the University in the Capital. She has a penchant for getting into other people's business, and as the daughter of the Vice Minister of Defense, she's got more access to such business than the usual person. Unfortunately, her attempts to expose the Guv's many secret plans has landed her in trouble, and she's gone missing. She fancies herself as something of a revolutionary, and she can be very manipulative on top of that. Her disappearance is what prompts Jonah to get into all sorts of trouble in the first place.

And I'll go ahead and stop there with the characters for now. I'm listing them in order of descending importance to the story, at least as it stands right now. You may have noted there seem to be quite a lot of characters. Honestly, one or two of them (maybe more) may end up being dropped out of the story and saved for other works. I've got three more to list, and those will show up in the next post.

As for other news, I already mentioned that I've returned home after a long trip home from Texas. However, the rest of this month and the first part of June is going to remain extremely busy for me, apart from writing. I've got an Instructor's Course for a possible job to attend starting next weekend, and I probably won't be back home until the following weekend. Getting that job is about 50/50 for me right now; until I know, I can't say for sure what my schedule in the coming months will be. However, I hope to keep writing and keep updating this blog as regularly as possible.

I'm looking forward to word on how "Exequies" has fared in the WOTF contest any day now. Not much else to report in my other writing projects at this time.

Until next time!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Kricket Project, Part 3

Well, here we are again for the continuation of the introductions to the major characters of The Kricket's Song.

I'd just like to say that I appreciate the response to the project so far. Several people seem to have been reading the posts, and some have left a comment, which I always enjoy. Please do comment if you read the post, as it lets me know it's not just bots phishing for information or something. And of course, if you just can't live without the updates from my blog, click the follow button on the left-hand side. Thanks!

But I digress. Characters!

Ayemdhi: Kricket's first mate. Ayemdhi (pronounced ay-em-dee) has been Skip's best friend since before she came to own the ship. Ayemdhi is a silent fellow; he never talks. No one even knows if he can, or if he just doesn't feel the need to. He communicates just fine, though, and the huge automatic mass driver that he carries around as his weapon of choice ensures no one crosses him. He's loyal to Skip and the Kricket's crew, to the death. Despite his silence, he exudes wisdom and experience, and when he does seem to offer an opinion on something (usually through expressions or hand gestures), it's wise to listen to him.

Ayemdhi's motivations are, in large part, Skip's. He often treats her like a daughter, but she's also his boss, and what she says, he does. His job is to keep Kricket flying and her crew as safe as possible. Nothing is out of bounds when it comes to accomplishing that mission.

Blazer (Blaze): Kricket's gunner. Blazer is a bit of an enigmatic fellow. He doesn't share much about his background at all, but his mannerisms and knowledge of weaponry indicate some sort of formal training in the past, possibly with the Guv Navy itself. He was recruited by Skip and Ayemdhi shortly after they got Kricket up and running. He's generally a quiet sort, and despite the fact that he enjoys blowing things up with the biggest weaponry possible, he likes to have a good reason for doing so. He's definitely not the average weapons tech.

Blazer tries to keep out of things that don't pertain to him. His job is to make sure Kricket "has the teeth to fight with the big dogs" if and when it comes to that. He's loyal to Skip and her objectives, but he's been known to voice opposition on rare occasions, usually with good reason.

Shove: Kricket's stoker. Kricket is a steam-powered airship, and that means she needs coal. Shove is the man that makes sure her fires are hot and her full steam capabilities available for Skip's command. Shove is the newest member of the crew, recruited about two years ago. He's outgoing and friendly, and enjoys sharing stories of his life in plying the trade lanes of the skies. His open and carefree demeanor is good at getting people to open up to him.

Although Shove appears to be a loyal member of the crew, he always seems to be missing at certain critical times. Is he everything he claims to be? Or is he even more?

Well that's it on characters for this week. More next week, working our way down from most important to least important, at least as things stand with the story right now. It's always evolving.

In other news, I finally graduated from college today, with a B.A. in English Language and Literature, "Cum Laude." Somehow, a two-hour ceremony seems anti-climatic for four years of work (spread out over nine years with a stint in the Navy in between), but I'm glad to be done. Time to move on and try to get that next awesome job that will not only be fun, but perhaps educate me and inspire me for my writing.

The next few weeks are going to be a bit crazy, as I've mentioned in previous posts. I start my journey on Friday, and it'll take me around a week to get home, as I've got a stop along the way. I'll perhaps try to post before the trip starts, otherwise I'll probably miss posting over the weekend. However, I'll keep writing, and I will update this blog as best I can until things settle down again.

Comments are welcome, and so are followers! Thanks!

Edited to Add: Beta reading on the first draft of The Serenity Solution is complete! Although The Kricket's Song is going to be occupying most of my time for now, I will be starting to brainstorm and plan for the new, rewritten version of TSS. Using what I've learned from the first draft and aborted rewrite, as well as with what I've been learning on my latest projects, I think I can keep the spirit of the story and characters, but make it much more powerful and hard-hitting. And hopefully not take 179K words to do it! Keep watching for new information regarding The Serenity Solution Project soon!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Kricket Project, Part 2

There are a couple pieces of good news this week. The first isn't related directly to writing. I'm officially finished with my last classes for my B.A. in English Language and Literature, so now all I have to do is survive until graduation next weekend. It's a big weight off my shoulders, so hopefully, I'll be even more inspired to write in what little free time I'm going to have over the next few weeks. Between traveling and preparing for what will hopefully be my new job, I'll be extremely busy, and there's just no way around that. Not unless I want to end up driving my truck off a cliff.

The other good news is that I've finished rewriting the first four chapters of The Kricket's Song, and I've begun making forward progress with the book again. You can take a look at the counter on the right side of the blog to see how many words I've currently got. I'm much, much happier with the new version. I feel like the pacing had developed much better, and I think the writing in general is a lot more solid. Of course, there will always be room for improvement.

So, as I promised last week, here's some more info on the Kricket Project, starting with some character bios for the main characters. These will be pretty limited, of course, as I don't want to give any spoilers for the book itself.

Character Bios, Part 1
Jonah: Jonah is the books main character. He's a registrant (student) in the Capital's university, studying repulse-tech, which is a new form of propulsion for airships. He's very smart, but a little stuck up. His sense of humor can be abrasive or condescending. Despite these faults, he does care very deeply for his friends. He's not good at showing it, though. He strongly believes in improving oneself constantly, and in doing the right thing, no matter the personal cost. He keeps his beliefs to himself though, and it can be hard to get through his sardonic manner into the real Jonah.

His main goal for this book is to figure out what happened to his fiancee, Katerina, who has gone missing. He suspects the Guv has something to do with her disappearance.

Skip: Captain of the airship Kricket. She's a daring young woman with something to prove. Sometimes a smuggler, sometimes a salvager, but NEVER a pirate. She keeps her past to herself for the most part. Like Jonah, she's got a bit of a pride issue, which creates friction between them fairly early. She's independent and distrustful of organizations, especially the Guv. She's extremely loyal to her friends, but it's very hard to become one of them. She's a good practical problem solver; for problems she doesn't know how to solve, speed, firepower and guts in varying but excessive proportions usually do the trick.

Skip's motivations in helping Jonah search for his girlfriend are the potential benefits of discovering whatever secret the Guv is hiding. Katerina knows something about it, and Skip hopes to use the information to her advantage.

Mouse: Jonah's self-professed "best friend" an inventor wannabee. Mostly she just adapts other people's inventions and comes up with new names for them. She's very intelligent, she just hasn't found her niche yet. Like Jonah, she's a student at the university, but she still hasn't figured out what she wants to study, despite being there two years. She's very friendly and intensely loyal. She's curious about EVERYTHING. She has no sense of tact when talking to others. She's not much into "action and adventure," but if she can be convinced she might discover something for a new invention, she can be coaxed into just about any dangerous situation.

Mouse's goals are to stick by Jonah's side and do her best to keep him out of trouble. She doesn't care for Katerina much, but she can't stand to let Jonah run off by himself on this one.

That's it for now, in the interest of keeping posts at a reasonable length. More next week!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Kricket Project, Part 1

As my multitude of faithful readers may remember from last week's post, I've started devoting most of my attention to a new work tentatively entitled The Kricket's Song. This is going to be a stand-alone novel of about 90,000 words, with aspects of the fantasy, science-fiction, and steampunk genres. You may have noticed that my little counter on the right hand side of the blog hasn't been going up for the past week. That's because I've started - yes, already - a rewrite of the three and a half chapters I've written so far. I posted the opening chapter for review and critique on Absolute Write, and got some very good feedback. Since I didn't want the entire novel to have the same errors I'd made in the first chapter, I decided to rewrite the first chapter, and go from there. The new version ended up being very different from the original. I posted the new version for critique just last evening. So far, it appears to be earning much higher marks than the original, so I'm pleased. I'm hoping to get into Chapter Two tonight for what will also be an almost complete rewrite. Once I get these three and a half chapters rewritten, I will continue with the rest of the novel.

In the meantime, I thought I would share a little bit more about what The Kricket's Song is really about. Today I'll just share basic setting and plot, and next week, I'll probably start sharing a bit about the characters. Hopefully this will give you some idea about what this project really is, aside from requiring me sitting at my computer for many hours.

Basic Setting:
The Kricket's Song is set in a rather eclectic world. Much of it is fantasy-based, with such elements as floating cities, magical (or unexplained) forces, flying ships, etc. There are also science-fiction elements, primarily among the type of weaponry used. Characters and their airships will be sporting anything from Gatling guns, mass drivers, rail guns and more "modern day" gunpowder-based kinetic weapons. There may be a few swords, all the same. So where does the steampunk come in? Well, most of the airships derive their power from burning coal to generate steam. There are also a variety of other machines and gadgets that are powered by steam, including some rather fearsome weapons. The airships themselves are hard to classify, because although they derived their movement from steam power, they are able to fly because of a magical element that is commonly found throughout the world. Some ships have highly dangerous and unstable magnetic "boosters" that somehow interact with the world's magnetic field to give the ship a short-lived boost - think of it as NOS for a car. Other ships, usually ships belong to the Guv Navy (the Guv being the world-wide central authority or government) are being outfitted with the new "repulse-tech" which is a new, more efficient way of getting ships around faster. Repulse-tech also works with magnets, but in a much more refined and stable way than the magnetic boosters.

As you can see, it's pretty hard to fit this work into any one genre. At this point, I'm thinking it will largely be classified as fantasy, with various characters and organizations utilizing different technologies (whether more advanced or less advanced) to suit their particular needs or based on their budget.

Basic Plot:
The story will be told from the 3rd person point of view but focused on the main character, Jonah. Jonah's fiancee, Katerina, has gone missing. She's the daughter of the Guv's Vice Minister of Defense, and she caught wind of some secret operation the Guv was undertaking. When she started investigating, she vanished. The story starts with Jonah stealing an artifact known as "The Professor's Journal" from the Guv's Royal Librarium, because he believes it has clues as to where Katerina may have gone. Aided by his friend Mouse, a fellow student at the University, Jonah flees the city with the Guvvie Arbiters hot on his tail. They secure passage on a small airship called Kricket and they team up with the ship's eclectic crew to figure out what the Guv is up to.

As they follow the journal's clues from city to city - pursued by the Guv Navy and harassed by extremists known as Grounders who are loyal to the eccentric "Professor" himself - Jonah, Mouse, and Kricket's crew begin to realize that more is at stake than Katerina's disappearance. The Guv wants Jonah dead because of what they're afraid he might find in the journal. Unfortunately for him, the last few pages are missing - because Katerina took them before she vanished.

As Kricket sails just out of reach of the Guv and the Grounders, her crew is rushing headlong into massive government operation that the world doesn't know about. Somehow, it involves a hidden floating city called Borealis and the mysterious, possibly alien, technology that it protects. Technology the Guv wants - at any cost.

If you want a taste of the story, head on over to Absolute Write and check out Chapter One in the Share Your Work forum under Science Fiction/Fantasy. Next week, look for some brief character bios on the main characters.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I R Lerning

At least as far as my writing goes, it's been a rather eventful week. I'm still not sure where exactly it's all going to end up, so I won't get into too many details at the moment, but here's a brief overview of what I've been up to.

The new project I mentioned last week has started progressing nicely. After a week of brainstorming and jotting down notes (about 11 pages of them) as well as 7 pages of character bios, I finally started writing the manuscript last Sunday. So far, I've written almost 9,000 words on the project, tentatively called The Kricket's Song. Considering that prior to that I was lucky to get 2,000 words a week, that's a huge jump in activity for me. I likely won't be able to sustain that in the coming weeks, simply because I'll be so busy graduating from school, traveling, and working on that job opportunity I mentioned a few weeks back. But I'm hoping that I can make good progress on it. I've mapped out the major details of the books plot, and I'm aiming for it to be a lot shorter than The Serenity Solution was; thus, hopefully it won't take me two whole years to write it. Look for some Kricket's Song Project posts - much like I did with TSS - in the coming weeks for character information and plot teasers.

The encouraging thing about Kricket is that I seem to have learned a great deal from the debacle with TSS. I was able to get the action in the story going a lot faster, characters seem to be connecting better, and I wasn't as overly ambitious with the plot this time around. I submitted my first chapter for critiquing on Absolute Write and learned that, although I still have plenty of areas to improve, I also did a lot better this time around - at least in my opinion. So I've learned something anyway.

As for short stories, yes, I'm still stumbling through with "The Abyss." Made a little bit of progress on it this last week. I think once I finish it, I'll probably be done with shorts for a little while as I focus on Kricket and start planning and preparing for the TSS rewrite. I'll probably be doing both simultaneously, just because I don't want TSS to sit around for a year with no progress. I've learned a lot regarding how to write novels since I last tried to submit TSS to an agent, so here's hoping it will be several times better this time.

Still no word about "Exequies" with the WOTF Contest. First I was hearing that no news is good news as they send rejections out first. Now I'm hearing that they send out notification to people who got short-listed first and rejects get told about it... whenever. So now I'm confused and don't know what to think. Guess I'll just sit tight and wait till I know for sure, then go from there.

With all the ideas and projects I've got piling up right now, I need like a month off to do nothing but work on them...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Return of the Muse

I've often been complaining - to myself, anyway - that my muse abandoned me sometime ago, probably because most of my time was consumed with boring but necessary aspects of life. Like college. It was sort of a running joke with my friends from Absolute Write that my muse was AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave) and that if it ever came back, I'd shoot it for desertion. Well, it eventually did come back, at 6am on Monday morning, waking me out of a dead sleep. I was half asleep and so confused I couldn't do anything but start writing down notes.

I won't get into too much detail about the idea I've been developing over the past week. I want to make sure it actually goes somewhere and I start making some definite progress on it before I get everyone interested in a project that may or may not go anywhere. However, I will say that the ideas started clicking into place so well and so fast, that I spent two plus hours on Monday morning handwriting three pages of notes regarding characters and plot lines. I've since expanded the notes on characters into a seven page character bio file, which outlines background, personality, motivation, and physical appearance for each of the major characters, as well as a couple of the more minor ones. I've also done what I call some "setting teaser" pieces, bits of writing that may or may not be included in the actual manuscript itself, but help to establish the physical setting and the ambiance of the work for my own benefit. I will also say that right now, I plan on this being a novel-length work.

Furthermore, I will also say that this work seems to be falling into the genre of steampunk. I've never written anything steampunk-ish before, and I'm barely familiar with all the various details of the genre. I've decided that first and foremost, this work is going to be fun. I'm going to focus on making the storyline as awesome as possible, the characters as in-depth and three-dimensional as possible, and the world itself as interesting and amusing as possible. I'm going to be making a bit of a break with my tradition of having technology in my works be at least plausible or explainable, and just have fun with the airships, guns, and floating cities that will be in this project. Knowing me, it will end up being steampunk with strong elements of science fiction and fantasy thrown in.

Yes, I know, I've got a lot of other projects lined up right now. The Serenity Solution is still in the beta read phase. My beta reader just finished through Chapter 11 on it, and has requested the next several chapters. So progress is being made on that front, it's just taking time. I'm starting to get tidbits of ideas on how I want to go about rewriting it as well, once the time comes for that. Regarding the short stories I have going, yes I still plan on working on those as well. I'm hoping that with a variety of projects of varying genres going on, I'll be able to stay motivated and not get into a rut.

Speaking of projects that are lined up, and projects I've talked about on here that have yet to go anywhere, you may remember the few posts I made about the Bounty Hunter Quartet. Well, during Absolute Write's Flash Fiction Challenge last Sunday, I wrote a 1,900 word piece that is sort of an unofficial prelude to the first book. I'm not sure it will ever see the light of day, but it was good to get back into the fantasy genre a bit and work with a familiar character. Based on the prompt "the new job," the piece was a quick look at the events directly leading up to the start of the first book, which has been started and stopped three times now. And it's still in the brainstorming phase right now.

I will, of course, let you know when I've got more news regarding any of these projects. And I'm still waiting to hear from the Writer's of the Future Contest regarding "Exequies;" right now, no news is good news.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tension Rising...!

I wish I could say the tension I speak of is in one of my writing projects. Unfortunately, it's from a few different things in real life. But since this is a blog about writing, I won't go into too many details with that.

One area of anxiety does have to do with writing, however. The Writer's of the Future Contest, Quarter 2 ended on March 31st. I haven't heard anything yet, and all indications I've been able to glean from various sources say it'll be anywhere from May to June before I hear anything definitive about how "Exequies" placed. As nearly as I can tell, nobody has heard anything official yet, though I did catch rumors of someone being told they'd been "short-listed." Though there's no telling if that's for this quarter or the last one. The general consensus among fellow contest participators is that rejections go out first, so I suppose the longer it takes for me to hear from them, the better. I believe "Exequies" to be a good story and fairly well-written (my first professional-grade short since 2003), so I've got a lot of optimism for it. It's just a matter of whether or not the subject matter is what the judges are "looking for" at the time. And that's the way so much of the publishing industry runs.

The other short story I finished recently, "The Wall" may be done, but I don't feel it's in publishable form right now. Why? Well... it's hard to explain, but I don't feel it's gripping enough. I didn't quite convey the various themes and tensions as well as I wanted. So, it's sitting in the back of my mind and taking a break right now. As you may recall from one of my earlier posts, "The Wall" was an expansion from a 800-word flash fiction piece I'd done for Absolute Write's weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. Now I'm sort of wondering if it really should have been expanded; briefer might have been better for it. After I'm done with "The Abyss," I plan to pull it back out and work on it, along with trying to rework the idea for "The Unfound," a short I abandoned about a third of the way through in February.

As for "The Abyss," it's still progressing. It's currently in nothing approaching professional-grade either. I think I've got the story down well enough, but characterization and thematic development are both proving a challenge. Also, what little science I do have involved doesn't really seem all that plausible. I need to tweak that a bit and clean it up. But, this is all practice, and I'm learning. The idea with all this short story writing isn't to have a professional, publishable piece with every attempt. It's to explore ideas, hone my skills, and above all, keep writing. Yes, I do hope to be able to publish several of these stories in the not too distant future, but above all, I don't want to let my skills rust while I'm waiting for my beta reader to finish The Serenity Solution. That goal, at least, is being accomplished. Any writing is better than not writing at all.

Now for a couple of side notes. First, I just wanted to mention this blog has been running for about ten months now. That's the longest I've ever had a blog going for, while posting regularly. That's a pretty big accomplishment for me; likely because writing is about the only thing I'm passionate enough about to actually talk about on any sort of regular basis.

Also, I've been toying with the idea of starting another blog that would be strictly for me to post a weekly flash fiction piece, apart from the pieces I do off and on for AW's FFC. The idea here would be to give me a variety of things to work on, aside from my short story projects. Plus, if I have the idea of a weekly goal or deadline, it might help motivate me more. I'm thinking it would be a project where, once a week, I take a one word prompt and try to write a piece that's under 1,000 words on that prompt. It doesn't have to be a complete story, but it should be a complete scene at the very least.

So my question to my myriad readers is, what do you think of that idea? Feel free to leave a comment, and if you're just dying to offer some sample prompts, go ahead! Perhaps it will motivate me to write some more. More is always good. I spend too much time sleeping as it is.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Life Beyond Writing

Believe it or not, I do have a life outside of my writing. I almost never talk about - mostly because it's so boring it's almost lethal. But it seems that it may soon be intruding upon my writing, more than it already does. The last thing I want is another "hiatus" the likes of which I took late last year; it was well into February of this year before I could get myself out of that idle state, and as a writer, down time of that length is wasted time.

I will finally be graduating from college early this May. It's been an effort a long time in the making. I started classes in fall of 2002, attended a year, then took a year off. Then I went back for the fall of 2004. After that, I did 4 years in the Navy, and wasn't able to get back to classes until fall of 2009. But now, finally, I'm a month from being done.

I also have some job opportunities opening up. Right now, the plan is to go back to work in my usual summer job, but there may be other opportunities as well. They're in the works. Suffice it to say that the entire month of May is probably going to be a no-go for writing, simply because I'll be so busy traveling around the country on trips related to school and work, and I'll be attending work-related classes and courses.

All this to say, if I drop off the face of the earth in May, don't worry, I'll be back.

If you've been keeping an eye on my project tracker, you'll see I've been making some slow progress on "Abyss." I'm still working on it, and I hope to get some more writing done on it this afternoon. I've got a ton of ideas for it; the challenge now is to make them fit together into something that is both interesting and coherent without getting bogged down in all the little details. And that, my friends, is what I have trouble with in my writing: avoiding detail overload. It's a common problem among writers who are struggling to make the transition from amateur hobby writers into published professionals, but it's a heck of a problem to get fixed. Especially when every detail I come up with is "just so interesting." Hopefully I can learn some thing with "Abyss."

More as it happens.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More Short Stories

Last week, I completed the first draft for the rewrite of "The Wall," a short story about the dehumanizing effects of long-distance space travel. It came in at about 2,600 words, just slightly shorter than the 2,800 I'd planned on. I'm not entirely happy with it, though. While science doesn't factor too much into it, there are more scientific details in the manuscript than in any of my other current projects. Even if there's only a little bit of science in there, I'd like it to be at least plausible, and right now, I'm not sure that what I have in there is plausible. A second look at it will determine whether or not I need to make the science plausible, or if I should just take the science out and let the reader fill in the gaps with their own imagination. In other words, is the science really even necessary for the story?

That question promised to be a difficult one, so I decided to let the manuscript rest for a bit, and move onto something else in the meantime. I'm currently working on another short story tentatively titled "The Abyss." It's about a civilian technician who has contracted with the Civilian Corps of Engineers to maintain "accelerator stations" in deep space. These stations are critical to interstellar merchant and military traffic, and when the largest network of the stations spanning a vast, starless sector of space known as the Rift starts malfunctioning, she's called into fix the issue. But there are two problems: a huge civilian passenger ship is transiting the bridge, heading straight for disaster unawares. The other problem is, this main character recently lost her best friend to an extra-vehicular accident, and now she's terrified of working in vacuum and has been ruled mentally unfit for her job. In addition to these main issues, I'm hoping to explore aspects of the human mind in relation to the vast and dangerous universe we seem to think we own and rule. There may even be sub-currents of faith involved.

That's a terrible summary, I know, but I'm not making a sale pitch here. The story itself is still in flux.

No news on the Writer's of the Future Contest yet. I'm expecting it will be at least a month and a half before I hear something. Seems like a long time to wait for news on a short story, but I believe this contest to be worth it. Nothing new to report on The Serenity Solution either, except to say that perhaps after finishing the first draft of "The Abyss" and hopefully polishing up "The Wall" I might start work on the rough draft of the rewrite. I'm hoping to participate in Absolute Write's Flash Fiction Challenge tomorrow at 9pm EST; that usually produces some interesting ideas for future projects, so we'll see what comes of that as well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Madness

I've actually got stuff to blog about this week. I won't be scrounging around for little tidbits of info to make a full post out of. I guess that's an accomplishment in its own right!

So the first bit of news it, I after getting the rejection last week on "Exequies," I tweaked it just a bit (tried to make the opening paragraph stronger) and submitted it to the Writers of the Future contest. I generally don't make a habit of saying who I'm submitting works to, just because I don't believe in throwing names around until/unless I'm actually going to get something published with them. But contests are a little different, I think. For those unfamiliar with it, the WOTF contest is one of the premier competitions for science fiction and fantasy short stories. If by some miracle I actually won the competition, it would be amazing. Even if I just made quarter-finalist that would be significant. For me, anyway. I probably won't know any results until May or June, so it'll be a bit of a wait, but worth it. Refer to the link at the bottom of this post for more information on the contest itself.

In other writing news, if you hadn't been able to guess by watching the non-moving word count tracker on the right hand side of this blog, "The Unfound" hasn't been going anywhere. However, I have started working on a different short entitled "The Wall" which I believe has much more promise. "Unfound" needs some more planning work, but "Wall" is already planned out, and should clock in at around 2,400 words. It started out as an 884 word flash fiction piece for the Absolute Write Water Cooler weekly flash fiction challenge, but I was intrigued by the idea I'd come up with, and wanted to expand it. So that's my current project.

Still getting beta reading feedback for The Serenity Solution as well. The literature professor who is reading it has completed the first six chapters, and is eager to read on. So, the diagnosis that the story is good just a little slow to get to the point is probably accurate. More on that as I get it.

Writers of the Future Contest

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Next On My List

Well, "Exequies" officially got its first rejection from my top pick of SF magazines. In hindsight, it probably shouldn't have been my top pick, but as I've said many times before (and continue to relearn repeatedly) in the writing business, sometimes you just have to learn as you go. I did several hours of market research online (multiple evenings), and I read the magazine itself. It seemed like it might be a good fit, so I went with it. All the effort got me was a form rejection.

But, that being said, that's just one magazine, and there are several more out there. So, now it's back to the research to pick my next target. I think most of the ones on my list now are US-based, so perhaps I won't have to wait as long between attempts. Although 3 weeks for a UK magazine really is not bad.

As for other writing, well, it just hasn't been happening. I'm still in that paper/project crunch time before Spring Break, which is now only a week away. Hopefully over the break itself, I can get back into some writing. In the meantime, I'm probably going to stick to Beta reading, market research/submission, and perhaps some brainstorming or research for other projects. If anything spiffy happens, I'll let you all know.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Progress Hurts

So as you've probably seen on my little project tracker down there, my short story hasn't gone anywhere. I try not to make excuses about how I don't have time for writing, but this time, I think I'm justified. Starting last week, I realized that I had four papers and two presentations due between then, and these upcoming two weeks. Most of my creative energy has been spent trying to make sure those projects are at least halfway decent.

There has been progress with The Serenity Solution, although I'd have to say overall, it's been less than pleasant. I knew there would be problems, which is why I asked some people to beta read it for me. Of course, I had hoped they would really turn out to be minor, and it would just be a matter of hacking out all the unnecessary words I'd filled the manuscript with. Alas, it's not going to be that simple. It seems most of my first chapters probably shouldn't be there at all. I take way too long to get the ball rolling on the major action, and I use way too many words to describe simple things. The rewrite of the book I had started seemed to take care of many of the slow parts in the original manuscript, but I felt it was lacking the flair and style which made the project unique to me to begin with. So now, it looks like another rewrite is going to be coming up, with some sort of balance between the two being struck. I may well have to fully rework the plot as well, in order to have everything fit together.

The encouraging thing is, most other writers have to go through this process. There comes a point when your level of writing skill becomes professional enough to be publishable, and most writers are cranking out pages and pages of manuscripts years before they reach that level. It's not a waste of time, or effort. The only way you can learn about writing and get better at it is to, well, write. So, hopefully, my apprenticeship is nearing and end, and I may soon be able to call myself a journeyman, if I can maybe start cranking out some publishable works.

I still haven't heard anything back from the magazine I sent "Exequies" to. That's not surprising at all, considering they are overseas, and things move slowly in the publishing world. Of course, you will hear about any news here first.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yes, Progress

Well, it turns out I wasn't getting ahead of myself when I predicted that maybe I would start making progress now. It hasn't exactly been mind-numbing progress, but it IS progress.

As you can see on my new "Active Project" gizmo, "The Unfound" is slowly making headway. I have a sneaking suspicion this story may not actually go anywhere. At least not as a short story. Were I to expand it into a book, I might have something. Or, I may have to rework the idea in order to keep it as a short story. But, writing is writing, and right now my main concern is just to get the rust off my writing skills.

Progress is also being made on The Serenity Solution. My beta readers have gotten into the first chapter, and suggested some ways on how I could cut it back. I was surprised to see I was using a lot of words to describe something, when I really only needed a few. Of course, most of the original manuscript was written before I went through a creative writing class at school that taught me how to be more economical with words. Waxing eloquent is still a habit I have problems with. Initial predictions show that as many as 1,000 words will be cut out of the first chapter alone. If that can be done for each chapter, my 179,000 word monster will be more like 147,000 words. That's still too big, but at least it's manageable.

TSS is bound to be a slow process though, so in the meantime I'm going to keep working on short fiction, trying to get my name out there a bit. I'll also be polishing ideas for future novels. I still haven't decided if I want to do another military science-fiction novel, or try my hand at some of the fantasy ideas I've got floating around. The success or failure of TSS will probably have a bit part to play in that decision.

More as it happens.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gettin' The Mojo Back

At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, or even prematurely optimistic, I daresay I've finally gotten around to writing again. Just maybe. I haven't been lacking for ideas, but the pieces on a few of them finally started clicking to where I thought I could hack out something moderately intelligible. The result: a new science-fiction short story. The idea is still in rough stages and taking shape as I write it, so bear with me.

Two years ago, the Fifth Expeditionary Defense Fleet was wiped out by the Coronii Battle Force in what has since been known as Earth's greatest military defeat in history. Over 80,000 crew members died aboard their ships. 1,537 were rescued by a relief force. Fifty-two went missing, and were never found. Until now. When the First EDF makes first contact with a new alien species, they are surprised and overjoyed to find their missing comrades aboard the ship and eager to return home after two years on the alien home world. Among them is Lieutenant Joseph Wilson's wife, whom he had presumed dead. As Joseph tries to get used to the fact that his wife is alive and well, he starts to suspect she's not the same woman he said goodbye to two years ago. Literally.

"The Unfound" is the working title for my new science-fiction short story, and was inspired by several different things, most of which I can't even remember now. The important part is, I wrote down my ideas so I wouldn't forget them! And that's how I came to start writing again. Hopefully the trend will continue. Who knows, if I can develop the background and character better, it may even end up being a new novel-length project. The Serenity Solution started out as a short story idea and grew into a novel, after all.

I also wanted to point out that I've made some additions to my blog. On the right side under my bio, you'll find a list of my "Active Projects." These are stories or novels that I'm currently working on and trying to shape into something that will be marketable in the hopefully not-too-distant future. As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, numbers motivate me (not in the mathematical sense, but more in the "I'm making progress!" sense). And, this will allow you, my avid and devoted readers, to see if I'm actually doing anything or if I'm just wasting time playing video games. I'm all about honesty, after all.

Below the "Active Projects" you'll find a list of links. These are sites that I've found to be important to my writing career and may also be for fellow writers, or that I've found to be interesting in some way. The list is pretty short right now, but it will grow. In general, I'll try to keep the links in the writing-related field. Check 'em out; you just might find something useful. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 4, 2011


So yeah, it's been a pretty slow start to the new year as far as writing goes. General lack of motivation seems to be the main issue, with no motivation to do anything about the lack of motivation, either. But, I know the rule: if you want to write, all you can do is sit down to write. So I won't complain or make excuses.

However, there have been a few promising developments shining a light on the otherwise dim outlook. After a final review and edit, "Exequies" was sent to a science fiction magazine, in the hopes that it will be published. If it doesn't get accepted at that magazine, I'll continue down my list and submit it elsewhere. I hope to hear back one way or another within a couple weeks about it.

On another front, I gave the first three chapters of The Serenity Solution to my academic adviser at my university. He's an English professor, an avid reader of science fiction, and he teaches a summer science fiction class at the university. The problem, I told him, was that the original version of the story was just too long. You'll remember I was bemoaning the fact that it had been completed at 179,000 words, when the industry standard seemed to call for between 80,000 to 100,000 words. As you'll remember, I started rewriting the book, but I'm just not feeling it. The characters seem more lifeless, the settings feel rushed, and while the plot works on a technical level, I'm satisfied with how it lives up to the original concept. Thus, I'll be giving him the original version in installments, with the hope that I can get some professional critiquing on what parts of the story can stay and what parts absolutely need to go or be reworked. My problem right now is lack of objectivity. And since I can't be objective and don't really have any clear idea of what I need to do... you guessed it, motivation becomes an issue. Hopefully this will solve that.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to tinker around with some other short story ideas and see if something falls together as well as "Exequies" did. If I make any progress on anything, you'll hear about it here first. ;)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year, New Start... Maybe

I could make a lot of excuses as to why I didn't get any writing done over the holiday break, or why I didn't even update this blog at all. But let me save you the time and effort of reading all those excuses: I procrastinated. I wasn't motivated, and I was lazy. So, there it is.

There were other reasons, like my credit card company crying "Fraud!" on every little transaction I tried to make, which seriously delayed my market research efforts as I needed to make some purchases. But those were minor things and really shouldn't have stopped me. I just used them as excuses.

So, here we are with a new year, and hopefully, a new start into my ongoing writing projects. I have been thinking a lot about The Serenity Solution and what I want to do with it. There's no doubt it needs to be rewritten. There's no doubt the first nine chapters I have rewritten are better - in most respects - than the original nine. However, as so often happens with rewriting, I've found yet more ways in which I need to improve the story. The big one right now is the fact that my main character is rather two-dimensional. Aside from his professional motivations, there's really nothing about him that will make the reader actually care what happens to him. In a mundane military science fiction novel, maybe that's all that's needed to keep the reader turning pages, since action is often the primary focus.

But I'm not aiming for a mundane military science fiction novel. I want my debut to knock the reader out of his chair and keep him on the floor because he's too busy turning pages to get back up again. I want people to ask about me, "Where did this guy come from and who the heck does he think he is?" And more importantly, "Can he do it again in a second book?"

So until I feel like I've achieved that result TSS will keep getting reworked. Updates on progress as it happens. Stay tuned.