I’m Back?

I think. It feels like it. I’m reading again, which is reflected on Goodreads and on my “What I’m  Reading” page.  I wrote the majority of an original short story the other day, and I’m still plugging away at my fanfiction. I’m ready to bring the plot points together and wrap it up.

I think.

There’s still a lot do for that story, but I feel good about it. Plus, my brain actually wants to start working on other projects again, so I need to finish this one.

Several books I’ve been waiting for come out in the coming months, and I can’t wait to read them all!  I’ll post book reviews when relevant.

So, don’t expect me to post with quite the frequency I did before, but suspect that I will be around. Hopefully I’ll finish Dead Beat this week, and can have a book review up for it some time next week!

Thank you to everyone that still reads this blog, even though I went AWOL for four months. I appreciate you.

Talk at you all soon!

 

BZ

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Wait… I Wrote How Much?

Hi guys!

I just wanted to stop by and share something pretty incredible with you.

So, remember when I said I was reading and writing a ton of fanfiction? Well, that trend continued through the month of April. I’m pretty sure I just wrote more words in a month than I ever have before.

As of 4/30/17, I wrote a total of 31,113 words. Of fanfiction. Jesus Christ. That is a TON of writing, the most I’ve ever done in so short a time. I’m simultaneously impressed and disgusted/disappointed. Why haven’t I pumped out so many words for my own original content?

Granted, fanfic is “easier” since there’s very little world-building or slogging through early character development. That’s mostly done by the time you get your hands on the content.  I mean, you should still have those things, but the amount of discovering and fleshing out are considerably less. Which is the vast majority of work I’ve been doing on From the Quorum.

So, in a way, this has been a nice exercise. One that  I have no plans of stopping anytime soon. I’ve got another 3 chapters (at least) to write for this particular story, a oneshot (i.e. short story) outlined, and then another full fic planned after that.

But, if I can keep up this pace, that means I should be able to fall back into my own original works once Mass Effect lets me go. Right? That’s what I’m telling myself, anyways.

Saturday was the release party for the third issue of The Audient Void, and it was awesome. There is some really great fiction and poetry in this issue, and the artwork is fantastic as always. The event coincided with Independent Bookstore Day, which meant there were a lot of people there who might not have attended otherwise, and there were snacks and extra special merchandise on hand.

Oh! There was also a cool marionette show, with an original play by Adam Bolivar, that was really quite entertaining!Jack o lantern

But, my favorite part of the event (aside from the customary after party) was that I thought up a new story while I was there. Just a short story, and I won’t go into details about it here, but I hope to write it this year and submit it to the A.V.

We’ll see where I’m at in a few months. If I’m still writing at the pace I am now, I have no doubt I’ll get everything done that I set out to this year, even with this detour. Remember, I planned to fall off the face of the Earth for about two months after  Andromeda came out, so I’m still on schedule.

Anyway, just wanted to share with you all that I am a writing machine these days, even if it’s just fanfic.

See you around,

 

BZ

The Matter of a Complete Overhaul

Blogland,

I’ve just sat down, printed out the “Draft 3” of The Portrait of Sterling Madison, and gone over it. Truth is, I’m not a fan of it. It’s a very rough first person narrative, whose narrator is weak-voiced and tells the reader everything. It’s aimless for the most part, with a few brief scenes of vibrancy.

These scenes are what give me hope.

After a careful read through, I asked myself, “Why is it vital that this narrator tell the story?” And I realized, it isn’t. It really isn’t. Things just happen to her. She has no control over them. The events in her life are horrible and inevitable. So why in the hell is it told from her perspective?

A great professor once told me that you want your narrator to be the person with the most information. Now, that doesn’t mean they necessarily tell all, but they have the most knowledge.

Turns out, my current narrator is very much in the dark. But the other character, the antagonist, is quite knowledgeable.

the-portrait

How do I not own any red pens?

So, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this particular story is a complete rewrite at this time. That’s OK. To be honest, I pretty much expected it. When I first wrote this story it was my second year of creative writing classes, and I was enthralled with the concept of unreliable narrators. I absolutely HAD to write one.

Turns out it is really hard. Like, lying awake at night cursing every author you’ve read that’s pulled it off, hard. I’m a straightforward person who writes straightforward third-person narratives for most of my fiction. This project was way ahead of my skill level at the time.

But I knew that, and would revisit the story from time to time to see if my further honed skills could do anything meaningful with it.

Now I’m willing to gut the piece entirely, walk away with a sense of setting, premise, and characters, and literally start over. Some of the scenes will stay, and the ending is the same, but they’ll be rewritten in another character’s voice and perspective.

I’m actually really excited about it! I’ve been sitting on this story for years, and it’s stagnated in my indecision about how to tackle it. Finally I have a game plan. A complete rewrite isn’t ideal, but I guarantee the story will be better for it. Already this character’s voice is so much stronger. He’s endearing and funny, which will make the ending so much better.

I’m counting this as “Edits” on my whiteboard, by the way. I just went through, gutted the entire piece, and outlined its reincarnation. That sounds like “Edits” to me.

I’m not sure that Jordinn’s Story will see much action this week after all. Unfortunate, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading and working on house projects. There’s still the rest of the evening and tomorrow, so hopefully I can finish chapter 7. Just 2,000 more words…

Man, my writing muscles are out of shape!

Also, for those of you keeping track, I finished listening to Elric of Melniboné. elric

…Well, kind of. I fell asleep listening to the last 30 minutes of it. Three times. I’m calling it good. I won’t be doing a full fledged review because I don’t have many nice things to say about it. Perhaps it was the audio narration, but this book was dry and boring. Elric was such a drama queen, and Cymoril was useless. She was intelligent, but Elric ignored her counsel time and again, after which she existed only as property to be fought over by Elric and her brother Yyrkoon.

Also, these names are cool, but ridiculous. Especially when you’ve only been listening to them and are trying to Google search them in order to ensure proper spelling for you blog post… Good grief, man!

There were a lot of gods and demons mentioned and named, but never really explained. I think this book suffered in its audio format, but I don’t think it will be so greatly redeemed by a paper version as to seek it out and give it another go. Two weeks of listening was enough.

I’m hitting stride with Golden Son, and still powering through this listen of The Neverending Story. It’s starting to live up to its name. I’m on disc five, but the movie is pretty much over by the time these events occur. I’m worried about the eight remaining discs. Very worried.

My next “chores” audiobook, aka what I read when I’m not driving, and don’t have time to read my physical book, is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I always wanted to read The Dark is Rising Sequence as a child, and just never got around to it. Hopefully this narration is better than the last one.

Oh yeah, this came in the mail today too. You could say I’m pretty happy about it.Bachelors.jpg

See you all soon Blogland,

 

BZ

 

 

The Trouble with “Intro”

This Intro to Writing Science Fiction class is killing me.

I spend so much of my time struggling to read through seemingly endless pages of passive verbs and switching tenses that my brain wants to explode.

And suddenly I understand why my Intro to Creative Writing class was so restrictive. In 2009, when I first took Patrick Michael Finn’s class, I was so frustrated. What do you mean it has to be ten pages or less? And no speculative fiction? So, you’re saying no spaceships or alien races?

What the hell am I supposed to write about?

And then I spent two years writing general fiction, honing and perfecting my ability to tell compelling and interesting stories in as little as six pages. Actually, I wrote and published a story that was just less than three full pages three years after that Intro class.

And here I am today, in a class that has almost no restrictions.

In fact, it has a page minimum. All stories must be at least 10 pages long, with no maximum page limit. That’s insane. Multiple stories have been 30+ pages, and guess what? I don’t read them all the way through. I see enough within the first 8 pages to know whether the story is worth reading.

Because they are riddled with “newbie” mistakes.

Now, I understand that this is an Intro class. The professor even said that those of us with experience probably shouldn’t take the class (but there’s no Intermediate Writing Science Fiction course). But, he’s not really offering any guidelines or feedback. I feel like I’m teaching the class, along with a couple other people whose stories have been at a higher level as well. So many times I’ll write a comment on a manuscript, then laugh, because it’s something Patrick would have said.

And I feel bad for these new writers. They’re hearts and brains are in the right place, but they’ve basically been thrown into the Pacific, told to breaststroke home, when they don’t even know how to dog paddle.

It’s painful to watch. And it happens 4-5 times a week.

And so now I understand Patrick’s limitations. And I appreciate them so much. Things that I consider basics in writing, aren’t universally known. People have to be taught. Shown. And these poor students are being taught by having their first drafts (and quite possibly their first ever attempts at story writing), butchered by fellow students.

So, what are these “newbie” mistakes that are driving me insane?

  • Tense changes. Pick one. Present or past? Also, 9/10 times, you should pick past.
  • Point of View change. “I went to the store, and she bought eight apples.” I’m not kidding, this is a thing. Pick one and stick to it, religiously. Also, when starting out, 9/10 times you should pick third person.
  • Passive voice. “She was having a hard time controlling her emotions”. NO! “She struggled to control her emotions”. There are times when passive voice is unavoidable, and that is the absolute only time you should use it.
  • Dialogue punctuation. It is either incorrect, or simply doesn’t exist. No joke, I read a story this term that had ZERO dialogue punctuation. “‘I don’t understand you’ he glared at her. ‘What’s to understand’ she asked.” Please, please, please, research proper punctuation for these scenarios! You are not Cormac McCarthy, so use proper punctuation! “‘I don’t understand you.’ He glared at her. ‘What’s to understand?’ She asked.”
  • Adverbs. Can you use them? Yes. Should you? Debatable. Sprinkle them in. Chances are, if you’re using a bunch of them, the writing is suffering. I will say, I haven’t noticed too many adverb abusers yet.
  • Length. This is what’s really killing me. This is a short story class. We’re reading and analyzing professional short stories. Now, they’re all about ten pages each. Some a little longer as they have more world building, character development, etc. So, when a student posts their rough draft and it’s 50 pages long, I’m immediately skeptical. Then I read almost 10 pages and I still don’t know what the plot is? Oh, then I’m pissed. Most of these stories could be shaved down to a fraction of their current length, but these writers don’t know that, because they haven’t learned to tell stories that way. They haven’t learned to start as close to the action as possible. They haven’t learned to develop characters and plot while describing someone/something. So they info dump, and give needless backstory. And. it. is. boring. as. fuck.

I’m dying. I opened three submissions that I’m supposed to be critiquing this week, not a single one of them was less than 15 pages. One of them was 40+ pages. And by page eight I gave up because the two established characters were still standing in the same room talking around the same vague issue. I scrolled through to the end to see what happened, and by then there were three new characters that apparently have nothing to do with the initial scene. Which means that the initial scene is COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY!

I work two jobs, have another class to work on, a husband to spend time with, a house we’re trying to buy, a lit mag to edit, and a mountain of books to read. I absolutely do NOT have time to critique your FORTY PAGE monstrosity of a “short” story!

Please. Just, please. Read short stories. Mimic them shamelessly. Not a single short story we’ve read this term just blathers on about the relationship between two characters while they talk to each other about nothing. Not a one. So please, I’m begging you, STOP!

Ok. This is a little more accusatory than I initially planned. I know that it’s not really the students’ faults, it’s the professor’s. But I’m also incredibly frustrated. My short stories were never like this!

I keep all my original drafts. I’ve gone back and read the first short story I ever wrote. 12 whole pages. Guess what? No switching tenses, no uncertain point of view. Some passive voice, some wild adverbs, but nothing that made the story unbearable. Nothing that obscured the story itself, or left the reader unsure of motivations and intentions.

That being said, it’s not a good story, and I have zero intentions of sharing it with the world at large. But it’s a hell of a lot better than most of what I’m reading in this class.

So please, read fiction. Read in the genre you’re trying to write. Please stop torturing me!

 

BZ

 

A Calm Moment

I came here today to write the book review for Calamity, but wasn’t sure I could get it done in an hour, so I’ve slated it for tomorrow when I have more time.

So, instead, I’m here to just clear my head and talk about whatever. Feels like it’s been forever since I’ve done that.

Finals are over. I have almost two weeks off from school, in which I will play Uncharted 3 and Pokémon with reckless abandon. I’ve been reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and though it’s not bad, it’s… really slow.

Like, I’ll find other things to do than read this book, which isn’t normal for me. I like it… Ok, I can’t even say that. I’m completely ambivalent about it. I don’t hate it. But, I don’t really care about it either. Not a good place to be when I only have a week to finish it.

Submissions for The Audient Void are still coming in. I know Obadiah, the creator and Commandant of the magazine, sees a lot more submissions than I do. He gets them all, sends me the most promising ones, either because they need some line editing or to get my feedback about accepting them.

So far, I’m thoroughly impressed with the content I’ve seen. And we’re still accepting submissions! Check out the Facebook page here: The Audient Void for submission guidelines.

Hmm… What else is happening in my life?

Oh, I had a terrible term and am anxiously waiting to see what my grades will do to my GPA. Pretty sure my chances at Suma Cum Laude are gone. But, I should be able to just make Magna. I tell myself this is acceptable, and yet I’m still pissed.

But, next term, starting March 14th, I take two English classes! One of them is Intro to Writing Science Fiction, and I am so excited! I haven’t taken a writing class in forever, and I miss it terribly.

One of my favorite bands releases their new album in April, and is stopping in Portland in May, so I’m stoked for that.

What else?

Still waiting to hear more from Beta readers, but what has come in so far has been promising. I knew when I sent The Steel Armada out that it needs some major tweaking. It’s thin. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. It’s the malnourished body of a story that, given some additions, could be fully fleshed and detailed.

And that’s what the feedback so far has told me, but my Betas are fantastic because they’re telling me what they want more of, and where. It’s magical!

This weekend I want to get the second draft printed out and put in the binder. That way, when all the Betas have chimed in I can get to work fixing everything.

… I think that’s everything. Come back tomorrow to read all about my experience with Calamity!

 

BZ

Side Projects and Goodbyes

Hi Blogland,

Today was a rough one for me. On top of being in a generally bad mood all day, my cat was euthanized. Though he hasn’t lived with me for over six years, he was my childhood cat. A black short-hair named Louis, after Anne Rice’s vampire. He was the runt of his litter, and I treated him like my baby. I taught him to eat hard food, and to use a litter box successfully. He slept with me, curled against my chest as a kitten, and later in life curled at my feet. He was vocal and demanding, loved the most ridiculous of people foods, and was generally weird, like most cats.

IMG_0390

My black cat, resting on an Edgar Allan Poe omnibus.

And today my mom decided that living through kidney disease, vomiting multiple times a day, was no life at all. I tend to agree with her. He was losing weight, fast, and though his personality was intact, he was sick frequently. I understand it, but it doesn’t make it any easier to think about.

But, it’s not just Louis. I’ve been pretty frustrated lately. Mostly with school. It’s boring. It’s not remotely challenging, and it is really disappointing to me that this is what upper level education looks like in America. That this is what’s keeping me from focusing on my writing.

It’s making me crazy.

So, to keep my sanity, I’ve taken part in a side project.

The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy is a new magazine, started by a friend of a friend here in Salem. Thanks to our mutual friend, I’m now included in this awesome publication, mainly as an Editor.

And guess what? We’re currently accepting submissions! The submission period ends March 20th, and we’re looking to publish the first issue sometime in April.

Learn more about submission guidelines by visiting us on Facebook.

So, that’s awesome. So far, the poems and short stories that have come through my inbox are really quite impressive. I wasn’t aware Lovecraftian fiction and gothic poetry still had a viable presence among modern writers. It’s been quite the pleasant surprise!

So, you’ll probably be hearing about The Audient Void from time to time, as we work toward publishing issues.

Other upcoming topics of interest include:

  • Mistborn: Secret History book review
  • Continuing edits on Draft 2 of The Steel Armada
  • Preparation of Query Letter for The Steel Armada
  • School, especially next term’s Intro to Writing Sci-Fi class

So, keep a weather eye out for some writing projects in the near future!

See you soon, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

Two More Weeks to Freedom!

So.

the-lies-of-locke-lamora-US
I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora last night. And though I’m dying to write the book review, I simply don’t have time today. But, it should be out tomorrow. Be prepared for a long one. I really enjoyed the book and have lots of things I want to talk about, both from a purely “reader” perspective, and from a “writer” perspective. I learned a lot from this book.

And now I’m chomping at the bit to buy the second one. That’s part of why I have no time. I have to shower, then go to the bookstore, and then sit and read at Starbucks for a solid hour.

Priorities, all right?

If you pop over to the 2015- What I’m Reading page, you’ll see it’s been updated. My next read is K.J. Parker’s Purple and Black. It’s a novella, only 113 pages long, and it’s Epistolary.
PurpleandBlack

For those of us who aren’t walking, talking Literary Dictionaries, that means it’s told in a series of letters, or correspondences of some kind. I’ve read a few books like this, mostly when I was a kid. Snail Mail No More by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger comes to mind. And, of course, Frankenstein, since I’ve reading/discussing it for FOUR MONTHS now.
SnailMailNoMore

Anyway, I’ve never seen or read a Fantasy Epistolary story. I’m curious to see how the world-building works when the story is told in letters. Plus, it’s going to be a really quick read. My goal is to finish it either today or tomorrow, so I can jump right back into Red Seas Under Red Skies.
Red Seas Under Red SkiesStardust

And, of course, after that I start in on Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

So, I finished all my homework today, so I could commit some serious time to blogging and writing my Caladria story. School’s hit panic mode with only two weeks left before summer. I just have to keep up the good work until May 1st, and then I can have all kinds of free time!

Plus, the Library scheduling has finally hit a nice mix with my Starbucks hours, so I feel less like a zombie, and more like the really driven woman that I am.

So, May should be a really productive start to my summer! Can’t wait to relax by reading and writing more!

Anyway, see you tomorrow blogland!

BZ