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

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.