Monday, September 15, 2014

Now Playing: SAMWISE THE BRAVE by Howard Shore

I listen to Film Scores Radio on Pandora while I write. It does a few things for me: for one, whenever it comes on, whether the song is familiar or new, it puts me in the mind of creativity. It's a bit like smelling a scent that takes you back to a time and a place you smelled it before--once the music plays, click! It's writing time.

But also, all these tracks correspond with some story or another. Pirates of the Caribbean. Skyfall. Alice in Wonderland. Inception. They remind me of great stories, and make me want to write some of my own. It's like they're saying, "You could have this if you would just GET TO WORK!"

Getting to work is one of the hardest things to make yourself do as a writer. I have hundreds of notes on my iPhone about future story ideas, and the oldest one is from November 2012. That's a lot of stories I haven't written! Granted, it's easier to jot a note than write a story, but still, as an amateur who wants to be taken seriously and publish short fiction and novels professionally, I have to write a lot. The music helps set the tone.

My personal opinion: Lord of the Rings has some of the best musical numbers in cinematic history. Sure, some tracks of other greats are amazing, like Pirates or Star Wars or Indiana Jones . . . but overall, taking the average, Lord of the Rings is just an amazing film score. Every track . . . so good. Every time a track plays, I give it the thumbs up--writers of science fiction and fantasy can never have enough Lord of the Rings, right?

In other news, I watched Peter Jackson's video blog about the making of the Hobbit--so cool! I would LOVE to be involved with making a movie one day, maybe as a screenwriter, or have a novel made into a movie . . . big dreams here. Anyway, they won't come true unless I GET TO WORK, so gotta run, more to come later.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pretty Cool Stuff

Now Playing: SO FAR DOWN by Creed
Just Read: THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir--So good! Funniest book I've read in a long time; I wish I had written it, because it was right up my alley and I loved the main character. Heard it's gonna be a movie!
Reading Now: THE PROMETHEUS DECEPTION by Robert Ludlum

In the past, one of my stories (Good Business, With Guns) was read on a science podcast, directed by a guy named Paul Cole. The podcast is called Beam Me Up, and they read fiction and talk about science and generally have a great time. I'm excited to say that a few weeks ago Paul read another of my stories, Skipping Stones, originally published in Daily Science Fiction.

You can listen to the hour-long broadcast here: http://www.beammeuppodcast.com/shows/bmu_416.mp3 My story is the last thing before he signs off.

It's always cool to see another's interpretation of your work. I was talking to a friend about that last night, particularly about writing screenplays and seeing an actor's interpretation. Mostly I think it's a great time, and though I know some people get up in arms when someone takes their piece in an unplanned direction, I think it's kind of fun.

In other news, I've been doing a lot of my own research on cosmic science and particle physics (because you know, I'm a sci-fi nerd and that's what we do). The coolest thing I've taught myself is how fundamentally connected we are to everything around us. How similar the DNA chains of any organism is to any other. How looking at distant galaxies is tantamount to looking back in time. And most heavily of all, how the elements that make up our planet and our bodies were forged long ago, in the distant and massive explosion of a dying star, ejected as dust until it underwent accretion and coalesced to form the unique, loved, amazing person that is you. That's spiritual. You are a spirit living in stardust.

Be mesmerized. Be imaginative. Be thankful.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Easier than Others

Now Playing: FLAWED LEGACY by Michael Salvatori and Martin O'Donnell

One way I know a story has a lot of potential is when it comes really hard for me.

I think Stephen King said that writing is best when it's a kind of inspired play. Well, the story I wrote for June (mostly that is--I just finished it tonight and we're a week into July . . . ) was all play until the time came to sit down and write it.

I had it all thought out: girl in trouble, girl figures way out of trouble, girl realizes her plan wasn't so foolproof after all and must deal with the consequences. I wanted it to be a longer tale, because I plan on subbing it to the Writers of the Future Contest, and in my experience the winners are longer stories. But I didn't expect the challenge this kind of length entailed.

It's difficult to keep momentum when the story is 12,000 words. You write a novel, you think, "I just have to do this sip by sip, and eventually I'll have downed the whole drink." In other words--one to two thousand words a day, and in two or three months you've got a novel. But a short story, for me anyway, usually starts with a different mindset: "Let's pound out a story, scratch it off the 'to-be-written' list, and move on to the next one."

June's story is titled "Frost and Flame." It refused to let itself be pounded out and set aside, to be crossed off as average stories are. It reached for greater depths, fished for more developed characters, and wouldn't let itself be neatly tied off, as I think I'm prone to doing (an amateur trait, I've come to think more and more). These are all good things, as they raise the bar for my quality; I can honestly say now that I've had a story idea that can hold its own against professionally published pieces I've read.

It's a bit like working out, maybe. Once you run two miles every day for a month, two miles isn't a workout anymore. You have stretch it to four or five. True, two miles is still something, and you should be proud of that. But you aren't here for a stroll--you're here to work out. So stretch it to four or five miles and be proud of how shaky your quads feel.

That's the way I feel after finishing "Frost and Flame." Like I just maybe ran a bit farther than I could comfortably handle, but here I am, and now I can't go back and run a two mile course because I know that's beneath my ability. That's wanting to stay comfortable, but working out isn't about being comfortable. Neither is writing--the good stories, the ones that tell you they want to go somewhere, leave you aching all over once you type "The End."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sit Down

Now Playing: World Cup, duh
Just Read: THE CAPTAINS by W.E.B Griffin--Pretty fun and historically informative. Not the most exciting novel, but funny at times and definitely enjoyable.
Reading Now: A TIME TO KILL by John Grisham

Most young writers I've spoken to agree: one of the hardest parts of being successful is finding the time, energy, and dedication to actually sit down and produce. We usually have lots of ideas and a grasp of the craft that will surely get better with practice, if only we could make ourselves sit down.

A great part of being a member of Write1Sub1 is that it holds you responsible--you committed to a story per month (or week), and you have to report in each Sunday on your progress. It's like a fabricated deadline. You have a reason, a requirement, to do your work.

I am terrible about putting things off if they can be done tomorrow. What's the number one thing that can be delayed? Writing, of course. I have to go to work. I have to go to the bank or post office before they close. I have to run to the grocery store and then cook dinner and then clean the kitchen, and since I've got the broom out I might as well clean the rest of the apartment. Then there's a world cup match on, and some friends want to get together to watch it. Well . . . you can see there isn't much time in there to write a novella.

This month's story is particularly long for me--I'm already at 4000 words and it seems like it's barely started. With five days left in June, three of which I work, it's going to be a challenge to complete it.

So I added another fabricated deadline. A girl I work with is also a writer, but she hasn't written anything new in a long time. I told her that if she could finish a story by July 1, I would too, and we could swap. So now I'm obliged twice to finish this story by the deadline.

Better sit down and get to work.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gratified and Determined

Now Playing: SURFIN' USA by The Beach Boys

How is that every month seems busier than the last?

It's the first day of June and I'm two weeks into my new assignment, working at Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I have barely had a free minute to write, but I started a story to finish for this month's W1S1 challenge about a girl who takes a risk that later spirals way out of hand. 

I was so happy to see my story "The Ascension Song" published in Every Day Fiction; I believe I've updated the link list to the left so you can click on over and read it if you want. I was especially flattered by the number and quality of the comments on my story. I've never had such a positive reaction, and it meant a lot. Thank you all so much for reading and being moved enough to tell me about it. 

Reading people's comments makes me want to write like nothing else. I recently heard that my girlfriend's mom had shared a link to "Dancing in the Black Blizzard," and her friend who didn't know me read it and enjoyed it so much that he looked up other stories I've written and commented on those as well. What a gratifying and rewarding experience, to be on the receiving end of such high praise. Thank you!  

I don't take the fact that people read my work lightly. I know how tough it is to find time to read short fiction, especially by a young author without many notches in his belt. But know that your efforts to read my stuff have direct effects on me. Over the past week, I've been more determined than ever to write, and write a lot, and write awesome, quality fiction for people to enjoy. 

I hope to have more published stories for you soon! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Story Accepted!

Now Playing: SOLAR SAILER by Daft Punk

Happy to report another story acceptance!

My piece "The Ascension Song" will appear in Every Day Fiction on May 25. This is a flash fiction piece with which I tried to focus more on the writing, the nuts and bolts of the language, because the story came to me pretty simply and completely.

I submitted it to some pro magazines with some positive rejections, but only when I got a rewrite request from EDF did I realize the problem that comes with a story plot's arrival in your brain seemingly complete.

It had some gaps. I fell victim to the same trap that gets me so frequently--unwillingness to break apart the plot and send it in another direction. But the editors requested I do just that, and that was all the push I needed. I worked on it for a day, resubmitted it, and they bought it!

I'm looking forward to seeing my piece in print there. This is my first publication at EDF, hopefully the first of many. If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happily Home

Now Playing: YOU KNOW NOTHING by Ramin Djawadi
Just Read: FOOL by Christopher Moore--Very fun, super funny and witty. I loved the language and the humor. Good example of a book I don't have the talent to write, haha.
Reading Now: THE CAPTAINS by W.E.B. Griffin

Successfully back on the East Coast!

It was a long drive all by my lonesome, but I gotta say, it was a great time. Just me, my Camaro, and the open road, from California across the Nevada desert, through the Utah rock structures, up into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and down in the rolling plains of Kansas and Missouri, back to the forests of Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains of winding West Virginia, down through the hills of Virginia and finally the Piedmont of North Carolina. Home!

I think everyone should drive across the country at least once in their lives. Take some time to see the land flying by your window and realize how far people have come, how much work they did, and how much wonderful wilderness is still out there to enjoy. The American cities are amazing and cultured and have so many secret details. The memory pool I can pull from for settings now is so much more detailed.

As soon as I got home I was gone again. It was my best friend's birthday, and we went to Disney World to celebrate and to watch his girlfriend compete in Dance World's 2014--a great and fantastic show, so proud and happy for them! In between shows we got to drink beers at every country in Epcot, ride super rides, and watch live music. So hard to beat Disney, and one of my favorite parts--the fireworks show--I can remember watching as a ten year old kid and wanting to write stories as exciting as that show. It was the same at twenty-four.

Lots of work ahead of me--I made a list of stories to edit, and it's a long one. I still have to pound out April's W1S1 story, and I got a rejection from my story that was on hold at the Writers of the Future contest, so that story has to get back out there somewhere. One thing about writing, there are always more stories to be written. The work NEVER stops. But I wouldn't have it any other way.