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I Got Published

Someone pointed out to me that all of my blog posts are like 500+ words long. Perhaps some people like that, but I imagine most of you sit down, start reading, and then say to themselves a few moments later “I don’t have time to read this, forget it.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but either way today I have a very short announcement: I got published. It’s nothing major, but it’s also not just something unimpressive like an online zine that is practically begging for submissions and will take anything with proper grammar. I talked about Ether Books before (check the link to my review on them below for more info), and that’s who accepted a short story of mine. It took about a month and half for them to get back to me, but that’s not too bad considering that they are a pretty big company, and are always growing.

Within two weeks my first published piece of fiction will be available to download through the Ether Books app on your iPhone (or smart phone?) or through iTunes. You can download the iTunes app to your computer here. The story is not available for download just yet, so in the meantime I’ll give you a short taste of the story “Company Girl”. Enjoy.

 

He’ll kill you, Johnny.

    The asphalt felt like jagged teeth against the balls of my feet. Clawing, digging, biting at my bare calloused flesh with each hurried footfall. The chill breeze nipped at my skin, goosebumps pouring down my spine. How long do I have? I couldn’t see the moon in the sky. Clouds veiled the luminary like shadowy fingers—as if someone jumped me from behind; a bag thrown over my head as they pulled me into the darkness. I could hardly see my own hands in front of my face. How did I get myself into this mess?
    The rustling obsidian walls at either side exhaled a devilish howl, the icy wind clinging to my bones …

 

Want to read more? I’ll be posting as soon as the story is available for download; I’d much appreciate your support!

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Writing Communities To Watch, Prologue: How Can The Internet Help Your Writing?

As an unpublished (or even published) writer, the internet can be a very useful tool. That thought may come across as “the internet will help you find job and/or get yourself published”, but while that can be true, that’s not what I’m referring to. Getting published and making money doing something you love is great—wonderful even, but something comes before that, in my opinion.

What am I talking about?

Writing + Internet = ?

It’s not a cement concept I’m talking about here, but in simple terms, the internet can help you grow as a writer. How exactly? That’s where the idea gets murkier. You have to choose wisely where to “train” your skills, so to speak, on the internet. When you’re uploading your own material for others to critique, anyone can say anything. In spite of that, as a writer you should be able to take positive points even from the most wantonly negative feedback as well as the positive. Some people may simply pat you on the back for what you’ve written. There’s merit in that sort of thing, but it’s rather small. Encouragement is key for new writers to grow. After all, if you don’t have faith in your writing yet, having someone tell you it’s good is a vital step in the growing process.

Of course, what you really want to find is good constructive criticism. This can be difficult to find, but odds are that if you’ve shown your writing to anyone before, it’s been your friends and family. Sometimes that can be great, but it’s hard to get unadulterated feedback from your personal acquaintances (unless your personally know a writer or editor). Whenever my mother or grandmother happen to read something of mine, there’s a disproportionate amount of positive as opposed to negative. That’s natural, and that’s why it’s key to find unbiased, educated feedback on your work.

If you write unopposed, you’ll never grow as a writer.

That sounds like an odd term to use, doesn’t it? Unopposed. I thought for a moment when I typed that, and I think the word fits perfectly. As a writer, you are trying to convince your readers that you’re good at what you do. It’s a battle of personal skill, and it never ends. Even established authors receive terrible reviews. The aim is to convince the majority of your readers that you know your stuff. You can never get everyone. Look at someone like Stephanie Meyer who wrote what is probably the most influential and popular book series of the modern generation. Some people absolutely love the Twilight saga, and some think it’s absolute rubbish. I don’t mean to argue for or against how skilled of a writer Stephanie is—the point is that she hit her audience hard. There will always be haters, but in the end, if the majority of your audience loves what you’ve done? You’ve succeeded in what you set out to do.

But what’s all this business about your writing being “opposed”? Like I said above, you’re fighting for your readers’ respect in a way. To be successful in that endeavor, you want to bulk up your writing muscles. Any skill is like a muscle, and writing is no different. You practice continuously—and eventually the muscle grows. However, if you want successful exercise in this sense, you need resistance, tension, something pushing back against your effort. This is where the internet can come in.

You’re not alone out here. There are thousands upon thousands of people who want to do exactly what you want to do. That’s a blessing in one way, and a curse in another. It’s a curse in that it’s difficult not to become lost in the flood; you have to fight to stand out. It’s a blessing in that you have many, many peers who are helpful and willing to aid in your growth as a writer. This input comes in many forms, but one of the strongest applets you have available to you is the public writing community.

If you noticed the title of this post, what you’re reading is a prologue. This will be a series, highlighting different writing communities across the web and the pros and cons of each of them. The purpose of this first post is to explain the merit behind using writing communities, while the installments following this will review various writing communities. Simple, right?

The difficult thing is using the internet in general correctly as a tool to improve your writing. It’s going to take effort and intuition on your part to find useful beta readers, critique, etc. On any given writing community, you can very well find a fellow writer who might be willing to read over your work in order to give you many forms of constructive criticism. Everyone is at a different writing level, so while one person may be able to help point out grammatical errors and minor things, another might be able to give insight into much deeper matters, such as character development and plot. It’s up to you to find the right person, and that can be a challenge in its own right.

I once talked quite a bit with a fellow writer—a young guy about a year younger than me. As soon as I met him, I could tell he thought quite a bit of himself. I can see that in people, because while I may not think “I’m hot stuff”, I can be relatively hardheaded and opinionated. I know how to be tactful, but at the same time, I have no problem telling people what I think. I’ve done a lot of critiquing myself for other writers, and I think I’m fairly helpful in that sense. I can sit down and tell someone “This is off”, but at the same time I can see why they wrote what they did. I can see the merit in it, regardless of execution. I always try to do something when I read over someone’s work to give them constructive criticism; I highlight how they can take the idea they are trying to convey to their reader, and make it stronger and more relatable.

This may or may not be him, but the idea of the attitude is clear enough.

When it came to this young man I was in contact with, like I said, I could see the kind of personality he had. Still, he wasn’t a terrible writer, and I’m open to all the criticism I can get. He read over a chapter of my novel Children of Solus and gave me some reasonable thoughts. At this point I thought “Hey, this guy is cool”, and a month or so later he messaged me, bored and wondering if I had anything that I wanted read over and criticized. Since he offered, I sent him a couple short stories. Awesome, right?

Not quite. In a setting where he had the Word document in front of him, and the ability to type his comments beneath each chunk of written story, his true colors were shown. I understand some critics are quite harsh, and I’ve received relatively harsh feedback. In fact, I like harsh feedback, because when I read it, I have to argue with myself why each comment against my writing is wrong. Sometimes those arguments in my head aren’t very strong. Sometimes they have holes. That’s when I have to take a step back and say “Okay, that’s actually a really good point”. In the end, it augments my writing and makes it better.

However when it came to this guy, he basically tore open every point he could possibly convince himself was “wrong”. To illustrate how petty he was, he wrote an entire paragraph bashing the fact that an eight-year-old said thank you, claiming that the simple phrase of “thank you” didn’t fit that age, and that it made the reader think the character was a teenager. He even ignored the fact that the child had a strict upbringing. No child says thank you, huh? All the while, he was so terrible at interpreting the simplest concepts that he didn’t even discern that the “thank you” he ranted about so much was said in a sarcastic manner. It was an incredibly simple concept within a story that was written in a very dumbed down fashion from a child’s perspective.

Still, any insight can be useful, and a few of the things he brought out I did consider into an ongoing second draft. Funny enough, the next criticism he brought out basically told me “You’re stupid and wrong” concerning the title of a certain therapist in the story. Little did he know I’ve personally been to psychologists and psychiatrists too many times to count, yet here he was telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about, and to do some personal research before I make things up. From this point alone, I could tell he was a know-it-all.

Still, like I said, even the most uselessly cynical of criticism can aid you in your writing—you just have to grow some thicker skin. I replied to him, explaining certain points that I did not agree with him on, explained my personal experience with therapists, and I thanked him for his effort and the points that he did bring to my attention that I agreed with (even though after the first section of the story, he decided “This sucks, you need to rewrite the whole thing” and didn’t even read the last three quarters of it). He came back at me swearing and generally being an ass, telling me my story was Jr. High level at best, along with a slew of other needlessly hurtful comments. The fact that I even slightly criticized his criticism just made him flip out. I can’t imagine how this guy takes criticism on his own stories.

Don't let overly negative feedback affect you.

Obviously I found someone who was not a very good critic. I knew my story had issues (I wrote it over the course of a single night), and certainly needed cleaning up, but the points he picked on were terrible. I could have read it over myself and created better arguments with myself. Still, the entire thing kind of shook my faith in myself. I know I’m a pretty good writer. There’s a lot of room for growth, but I know I don’t write Jr. High quality work. Regardless, I felt like crap for a few days after until I showed the story to a trusted friend of mine who not only writes, but also is a talented comic artist. She’s tough too, and she pulled apart things as well, but they were useful things. Through her input, I know that when I do sit down to create the second draft, it’s going to be a lot better.

That’s the thing when it comes to this subject. You have to glean good criticism from bad, and negative doesn’t equal bad. Odds are that facets of your stories suck. When someone points them out, hopefully they do so in a tactful way, but even if they don’t, you need to take their input with a grain of salt. Your writing will benefit. All the while, look for markers in the personalities of people who criticize you. If they’re acting like a holier-than-thou know-it-all, you’re probably not going to get very useful criticism. Looking back at my bad experience, the only written material the guy had online were political rantings and mediocre poetry. It’s smart to look at written work of someone who might review your writing. If their writing sucks, they might not be able to help you much.

In the next installment, I’ll talk about a writing community that I have quite a bit of experience in, called WritersCafe.org. Be sure to follow me or check back soon for an in depth review on the first writing community in this series!

Storiad.com

Today I decided to talk about a site that I stumbled across awhile ago, and have just now been looking into more deepy. It’s called Storiad.com, and put short, it’s a writing community created with the purpose of connecting publishers and various other media professionals to writers.

The site is put together pretty well. I’m still learning the ropes myself, but it’s easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye. The founder of the site, a writer named Ramzi, launched it back in 2010, so it’s still in the beta phase and constantly evolving. It’s free for writers to sign up right now (I’m not sure if that might eventually change), so there’s really no reason not to go sign up and check it out. For media professionals looking for writers, it costs a monthly fee, which is actually rather fair. It’s a great resource for either side from the looks of it.

The focus of the site is to “pull” in a traditionally “push” industry. As a writer, you do a lot of pushing to get jobs. The idea behind Storiad is to create an environment that a publisher can come into in which they pull writers into job opportunities. Having your work speak for itself sounds nice, doesn’t it?

The profile setup is pretty detailed, creating something along the lines of a resume. Beyond that, you can fill out pages for each of your projects, adding tags for archival purposes, as well as a short “pitch” for your story just as you might include in a query letter. It’s encouraged that you post a portion of your story (the first chunk or so) so that scouts can read over part of your story, as well as your professional information and query letter behind the story, all without you having to do anything.

Sounds too good to be true, and with a slew of writers on the site, it might be a little difficult to find people just coming to you. I haven’t fully investigated and tested the process, but what I see looks good. There’s also a marketplace section of the site that lists various media companies who are looking for submissions from short fiction to screenplays. It looks like there’s a good community aspect of it as well, which I won’t go into because I haven’t experienced it yet for myself, but it looks like you can find critique from other writers on Storiad too.

Since I’m no expert on this matter, I’d suggest you check it out for yourself. Remember, any publicity is good publicity!

Five After Midnight: A New Original Serial

Over the last few months, I’ve put a lot of effort into my novel Children of Solus. I’ve also thrown a lot of time into a handful of short stories, one of which I submitted to Ether Books, and the other which might just be too insane to ever show to the public eye. I even pounded out two flash fiction stories within the same realm as the Children Of Solus saga.

I find that I need to break up my attention. Not in a completely procrastinating fashion, but in a way that I can keep my mind fresh. If I sat down and spent every waking moment on my novel, I would wear myself out. My writing would suffer. Instead, when I break off and accomplish a few low impact projects on the side, I’m able to come back to my massive undertaking fresh and enthused, often with a different perspective on things.

So what’s my latest distraction? It’s still a concept, but for the moment we’ll call it Five After Midnight. The original idea behind it was a short story, delving into a woman’s thoughts over a certain tragic event. An emotional, introspective tale, like I seem to write all too often. As I began writing it though, my entire viewpoint shifted.

What is it now? Well it’s only about two pages long (big ol’ Word pages, but still), but at the moment it’s looking to be a continuing serial following the character Peter Chase, a private investigator working on a dead end case in New York. I won’t give too much away, but the serial will be set in the late 70’s and will be completely free to read. The installments will likely be posted here, so check in often!

Interested? It’s classic, a little cliche, and a genre that’s been beaten into the ground, but to hell with all of that. There’s nothing like a good old murder mystery. Here’s an excerpt from the working first installment!

 

 

A man died on November the 16th. Winter hung upon the earth with its subtle malevolence, grass and sapling alike fell into peaceful hibernation, the sky acceded to the icy invasion. They cordoned off an entire acre of Central Park in the morning. Why? Robert Pennington wrenched himself from life’s grip a little after midnight between a pair of looming oaks, cold and alone…
    Or so they think.
    I pressed the soles of my wingtips against the edge of my desk, leaning back and letting out a smoldering plume from between my lips. My eyes shut as I took another drag, swirling the thoughts around in my head, mixed with scotch and nicotine. The habit was going to kill me—I knew that—but the idea sounded so hollow every time I looked down at a bloated corpse fished out of the river, or some kid face down on the concrete with a bullet in his back. Cigarettes didn’t put them in their early graves; who am I to argue with that logic?
    Ringing snapped me from my reflection. The phone. I dropped my feet to the floor and plucked the receiver from its base. The coiling cord stretched out to me as I brought the speaker to my ear. I knew who it would be before I answered.
    “Yeah,”
    “Chase, I’ve been paging you for the last hour and a half! Where have you been?” The man on the line said.

 

Stay tuned for the full installment. (AKA, follow me!)

Dan Dos Santos: Amazing

I thought I’d highlight one of my favorite artists today. Okay, scratch that, this guy is my favorite artist. I’m a big fan of odd, almost abstract styles of art. Styles that really come across to you on a level where it’s like “Wow, that artist is so original and interesting.” Now that’s cool and all. That’s what I like. That’s why it’s all the more pertinent a point that Dos Santos is by far my favorite artist.

Why? Well he doesn’t create art using some crazy, unique style. He doesn’t need to—at all. That’s how talented this guy is. There’s nothing wrong with having an original style, but in Dan’s case, his “original style” is just incredible skill. He does make excellent use of color, and the luminance of his work is breathtaking, but besides that, it’s no frills art. It’s powerful, vibrant, realistic, and surreal all at the same time. He’s illustrated loads of book covers, and even done art for Magic The Gathering cards.

His art speaks for itself, and the fantastical element to the subject matter makes each piece all the more incredible to see. I admit it, 10 years down the road I would kill to have a book published with his art on the front cover, but one step at a time, right?

But don’t take my word for it; check out his work for yourself! You won’t be disappointed, I guarantee that.

http://www.dandossantos.com/gallery.htm

Children of Solus – Chapter Seven Is Up!

The latest chapter to my working post-apocalyptic novel is up for public viewing! Keep in mind that it’s in first draft form, so feel free to let me know if you come across any kinks that you think could be worked out. I love seeing my reading from my readers’ perspectives!

If you haven’t read any previous chapters, head over here and catch up!

 

Chapter Seven

The table was drenched in blood, the floor around it stained and slick. Kerning lay on the floor motionless, his clothes as soiled in red as the ground he rest against. Tavis’ eyes were closed, his hands flush against the side of the table as he watched silently over his friend.
    “Tavis… is he?” I had to catch my breath”the whole scene caught me off guard.
    “Gonna be nursing a nasty shiner in the morning? Yes.” His reply didn’t seem the answer the question in everyone’s mind. “I punched him. He’s fine”it’s not his blood.”
    Kerning moaned incoherently, rolling to his side. He did have it coming.
    “How is she?” Alyssa scooted past me, going to Jane’s side.
    She didn’t look good. The amount of blood she lost was staggering; her skin now shaded a pallid white. She was still breathing though. I guess Kerning didn’t have any blood to transfuse. Even if he did, I’d hate to guess who it was from. Maybe she was better off with whatever she had left.
    “She’s hanging in there…” Tavis crossed his arms, his voice barely above a whisper. “We won’t be able to tell if the venom is still spreading until later tonight.”

 

Read the rest of the chapter (and other previous chapters) here!

Creative Process

What’s a creative process? Well, if you need hourly caffeine intake, that’s creative process. If you need to write your story from end to beginning, that’s creative process. If you need to stand on your head to get the brain juice flowing… that’s just weird, but I suppose that’s creative process too. Basically, anything that enables you to effectively siphon what’s in your head into written material is a component in your personal creative process.

Naturally that means some people have awesome creative processes, where they both channel their imaginative and productive abilities and are able to pound great writing out. Some peoples’ creative processes are slower, more procrastinating, and even if they stay true to their imagination and what they love, they don’t get much done. I’m pretty sure that’s always been me.

Even when I was little, I loved to write. I’m talking probably 6-years-old and up. I remember the first story I really sat down and tried hard to write (on paper); it was called Wally The Waterbug, and it wasn’t a comic, it was a written story. He walked across the road, almost got ran over by a car, and got flung up into the bed of a truck. After the truck pulled into the garage, he got flung into the house somehow (repetitive flinging, I know—I was 6 or 7) where he fell into the cracks of a keyboard. I never got any further, but the idea was that kilobytes and megabytes (in the form of Pac-Man-esque evil creatures) then would chase him around trying to eat him. This poor waterbug clearly had a very upsetting life, and I don’t think the story had much purpose beyond that, but hey.

Imagination is great and all, but if this happens to you, call a doctor. (Image by xbooshbabyx @ devART.)

The reason for the useless trip down memory lane is to highlight the birth of my creative process. I started on something, got bored, and never touched it again. Totally understandable for a little kid, but the problem is, I did that same thing for the next decade or so. I’d start writing something (usually fan-fiction about whatever I happened to be into at the time), and would quickly grow tired of the project before moving onto something else. My creative process was a rather nasty cocktail of procrastination, impatience, and boredom.

So how did I kick it? I didn’t. Well, I did, but bad habits are the hardest ones to kick. I think over the years I’ve gained a little more patience simply through getting older. I make a strong effort to read what I write after the editing process just to see what I’ve accomplished and say “Hey, that’s pretty darn good. This is worth continuing.” I also make sure not to embark on projects that won’t hold my interest. I wrote a short story not long ago that didn’t fall under any of the genres I love so much. It was a thriller, maybe with a little bit of a psychological element thrown in for good measure. I had an idea, and I rolled with it. I put it on paper over the course of a few days. I made sure not to let the ideas in my head grow stale. Why? That brings me to my next point.

I’m what they call a pantser. I explained the term in another one of my posts, but I’ll explain it again.

Pantser: Writes by the seat of his pants—dislikes planning and outlines.
Planner: Plans their writing ahead of time—swears by the use of outlines.

Simple enough, right? Right off the bat, you can probably pick out which one you are. Now most “novice” writers are pantsers, but many famous authors can call themselves pantsers as well. I think when a writer hasn’t developed their craft yet, and hasn’t established exactly what their creative process is, they’re a “novice”. Once you pin down those things, you’ll probably form a structural process. As in, maybe you’ll discover that sitting down and throwing all your ideas down into a document helps you move your story along faster and more effectively. But on the flip-side, many might find that they just prefer flying free. There’s no right way, only the way that works best for you.

In the past, I was young and lazy. I never made outlines, I never did any of that stuff. I just wrote when I wanted to, and ditched my work when I got tired of it. Nowadays? I still don’t use outlines. I’m not against them, but I run with a different method. I have a good memory when it comes to my stories. I know what’s going to happen and when—not because I wrote an outline of it—but because I’ve got the scenes imagined in my head. When you can see the scene in your head as a real, moving scenario, I think you’re far better off than simply referring to a quick, dead blurb of text on a scene such as “Thieves ambush the protagonist, gunfight ensues.” If it’s in your head, you can see the dust fly, smell the gunsmoke, imagine the inner thoughts of your character as he fights for his life. It’s more real, and that translates well when you actually write the scene.

That’s not to say that making use of an outline makes your writing less powerful, or simply worse. On the contrary, sometimes it helps you remember key details that would otherwise be lost. That’s why everyone’s personal creative process is different. I can use my head. I can remember. When I put something into an outline, it takes some of the life out of it, and further than that, it doesn’t allow my story to have the twists and turns and last second changes that I often incorporate. If I sat down and started outlining everything, the writing just wouldn’t be honest. That’s a problem.

Some people feel just the opposite, and that’s totally fine. In the end, you do what works for you. That’s the most important thing. Just remember not to feel bad about yourself because you don’t have some articulate, masterful process of outlining each scene, summarizing every character, etc. If your quirky process creates material that you’re proud of? Well then you’ve got nothing to worry about, friend.

Blog Spotlight: Sloane Talks Shop

I’d like to take an opportunity today to highlight the blog of a friend of mine. Sure, that sounds a little lame, like I’m just sending a shout out out of favoritism or as a favor, but really that’s not the case.

The Sundance Press is not responsible for any nightmares incurred as a direct result of seeing this picture.

First of all, I put up a post everyday here. I need things to talk about! Terrible reason, but still. The truth is, the girl who runs this blog is something else. She used to live nearby (down the street from me, actually) when we were kids. We didn’t talk very often, but even back then it was like “Dang, this girl can draw.” Years later, she’s made some impact in the comic world. Her stuff is beautifully disturbed. If you don’t believe me, the page hasn’t finished loading yet, and you haven’t seen the picture embedded in this post.

She also does some writing I think (I suppose comics do involve writing; I’m no expert there), and she’s starting up screen-printing. If that takes off, I don’t know about you, but I certainly want a tee with that thing on it. It’s quality work, and it’s wildly original. If you wanna check out more of her stuff (I know you do), hop over to her blog: Sloane Talks Shop. I’m not sure how much is up there, but from her blog you can find her DeviantArt account as well as other stuff.

There’s a permanent link to the blog down in my blogroll, so if you ever lose track, take a looksy and support Sloane a few other cool little blog writers.

What do you think of the art? Don’t tell me here! Head over to Sloane’s blog and tell her yourself!

Children of Solus – A Post-Apocalyptic Epic In The Making

As you know, a large purpose of this blog is to spotlight projects I’ve either completed or am working on. For my first real post, I’d like to shine a light on a novel that I have a lot of heart invested into: Children of Solus. (For a preview of the first chapter, look to the bottom of this post.)

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Children of Solus takes place on future Earth, where unexplained celestial events have razed the planet. It now lies a wasteland, ruled over by lawless thugs and warlords who fall as soon as they rise up. Twisted creatures scour the wastes, solar storms flay the flesh from hapless travelers. It’s a dark tale, but all the while there are fantastical qualities, where energy has become tangible, and emotions do more than touch the heart.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

It’s a work in progress (title art by me), still in the first draft, with the first handful of chapters available to the public here, and chapters will be regularly added (I will continue to post updates to when new chapters become available). Due to the nature of first drafts, there are bound to be errors and much of the story will undoubtedly receive face-lifts as time goes on. For now, however, feel free to dive into the world of Solus!

fdANY CHARACTER HERE

Chapter One

It was cold. Really cold.
“No way, this one’s still ticking.” A muffled voice broke the silence.
The silence… It felt fragile, like something that had been kept for a long time. Like a priceless relic that shattered as the simple phrase sounded out. But it was gone now, replaced by shuffling feet and reverberations of movement against the walls. There was a sharp hiss of air; it surrounded me, buffeting against my face and forcing me to wake up.
“It’s just a kid…” Another voice murmured.
Just a kid? A twinge of bruised pride sprung up, but confusion quickly took its place. Maybe I was just a kid. What was I exactly? A boy, a girl? fifteen-years-old, fifty? Everything was just… blank. And cold, did I mention that?
“Easy, we don’t even know if he’s stable.” A male cautioned, his tone almost scolding.
Alright, he. Nice to know.
“I know what I’m doing.” A fourth voice replied; a younger one, female, still different from the others.
Four different voices, four people. I could make out a blurred figure now, but my eyesight was terrible. Wherever I was, it wasn’t bright, but that only reduced the trauma of the entire experience and replaced it with more confusion. It felt like I had a screen over my vision …

Read the rest of chapter one (and more chapters) here!