Friday, August 1, 2014

Pick Up A Pen Already

I was bored and stalling and trying to do something else creative and writing related without actually doing any writing.

I completed a brief, yet interminable, interview with a character I created years ago. By the end, the character was dangerously close to doing physical harm to the annoying interviewer.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the character profile questions themselves, my character just wasn't exactly the type that would submit to an interview. I knew that going in. And I did it to him specifically because it was out of character for him.

As things ended uncomfortably close to ensuing stabbiness, I blundered into further character questionnaires, but thought it best to let my interviewer leave with his scalp still intact.

After perusing them I tumbled down the rabbit hole of more and more links and writing prompts.
Creative Writing Now really does provide a lot of good starters!
Character Development
Dialogue Focus
Narrative POV
Plot Structure and Climax
Or let's say you're not looking for anything specific, you just want to start filling pages
44 Short Story Ideas

I'll even throw in a couple of my own...

Your character is stuck in a dead end job, so they take the leap and start going to night school/community college/trade school. What was it that finally pushed them to do it? How are they paying for it? What classes do they take? Why? What is the instructor like? How many other students are there in the class? What new social relationships begin to form? Does something strange/scary/exciting happen? Does it build towards that event, or is it sudden? How does your character respond?

Your character is new to a place (town, job, neighborhood) and wants to "be someone new" without actually changing very much. They start dressing a certain way, making up stories, hanging pictures of places they've never been. People are buying it. This new persona is swallowing the character more and more.
Then someone from the past comes in. Is there any recognition? How well did they know each other? Will this new person shatter what has been built, or can your character keep it going?
Maybe this person finds the lies, but doesn't expose them because they want something from your character? What? Do they become part of the bogus stories and events? What is their role in them and why has your character never mentioned them before?

Your character is a coward. They wish they weren't, but they aren't brave enough to be brave.
Why are they so spineless? Have they always been this way, or did something happen that made them like this?
An event forces the character to nut up or shut up. Do they dive deeper into their turtle shell, or do they react strongly and surprise even themselves? How do they cope with either decision?

This last one is rather trope-y, but have some fun with it anyway.
Your character is a complete nobody. They have a boring life in every possible aspect. Are they single? How much money do they have/normally carry (cash or plastic)? How are they dressed?
One hum-drum morning on the way to work (driving or mass transit) a man in a dark suit and sunglasses catches their attention. Does this stranger mean to? He either approaches the character a purposing commands that they do a task, or your character notices that the stranger leaves something (a folder/briefcase/package). Your character accepts, either on the spot or quails but then wonders all day and night and gives in when approached the following day. What is this thing they must do? Is it illegal, dangerous, harmful to them or someone else? Who is this shady, forceful stranger? What happens to your character as they go through with it?

Grab a notebook, open up a Word document...Aaaaand, GO!!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pack Light, Save Up, and Ship Out

I'm what some might call a prepper. I love wilderness survival shows and books and gear, but mostly it's because I enjoy the thought experiment of "How would I? What would I?"
I tend to lean towards 72 hour preparedness over long term, backwoods living. And I'm honestly not even that well prepared. If the turd hit the fan tomorrow, I'd be in sad shape to make a go of it.
But that's not what this blog is about. If you want survival tips, here's one - don't ask a worldbuilder nerd!

Enough of that. This is what I really want to talk about.

My blogger buddy Nils, of the recently launched ContactLight.net, and I were discussing what we would take in a new world colony scenario. Think as if you were one of the people NASA had selected to go to Mars. But instead of living in pods and spacesuits on a barren rock, your new home would be a lot like Earth - breathable atmosphere, arable soil, etc.

Let's say a very large global corporation is sponsoring most of the cost and essentials to start your new life.  When you arrive you will be guaranteed housing, employment, and medical care. Quality of those conditions is variable based on what "class" of traveler you are.
Your current debts are assumed by the corporation and you will be an indentured servant for a set number of years depending on how much you owe. Any training and tools required for your new job are provided. If you want more/better equipment, then you have to spend your own money or take on additional time in service to pay for it. This is much like the way it was done for early American colonists.

You have to pay some money up front for your fare aboard the massive colony ship.
The occupancy limit is 15,000 including the crew of 3,000. That's a seriously huge ship! Nearly double the passenger count of today's largest cruise liners.
The parsec-hopping journey across the galaxy is guaranteed safe, but it is going to take several years (more than 3, but less than 7) to reach your destination. All amenities on this voyage are taken care of, whether that's like a swanky resort package or militaristic bare essentials, depending on how much you pay for your boarding pass.

You have a maximum of 1 year to save up. For some that means that without a mortgage, car payments, credit cards, etc. they can afford a rather high class passage with comfy, spacious staterooms and fine meals. For others this could be like a prison stay with a lumpy mattress and cold beans...which you paid up front for.

The cheapest pass is $10,000-15,000 dollars. That buys you a squeaky old bunk in general population housing with unsecured shelves for storage and a weekly, cold communal shower. The lights are never completely shut off.
The next cheapest ticket is $18,000-20,000. You get a cramped cabin with a locking door, storage is up to your creative use of floor space, and a twice weekly, warm shower in a curtained stall. You have 1 bare lightbulb for as long as you can make it last before buying a replacement.
Middle class tickets are normally $25,000-30,000. This is like a standard hotel room with 2 double beds, a closet/small dresser, and a private bathroom. Hooray, you get a few lamps and don't have to pay for lightbulbs.
Upper middle class fares are no less than $50,000 but that gets you a 2 bedroom suite with a small kitchenette, jetted tub, large TV, and in room safe.
High class staterooms are $75,000+. This buys you a multi-level townhouse unit with 30% off room service and a holographic suite open 10 am to 10 pm. Non-peak viewing hours are $12 per minute.
You can pay additional fees for room attendants (servants and security), "FREE" unlimited holo-suite usage, and select spa services. Such luxury amenities will run you $82,000 on the low end and easily in excess of $120,000.

Like modern air travel, there is a baggage weight limit per person (children under 12 are not accounted for) and there are certain items that are absolutely forbidden. Rifles, shotguns, and any form of collapsing long gun are not allowed. Handguns are allowed for personal safety, but nothing exceeding .45 caliber and high capacity magazines are forbidden. Blades under 25 cm/10 in are allowed. No machetes, tomahawks, or banana clips. No one is going to care about your nail clippers and 4 oz bottles.

Luggage maximums are 25 lbs, 45 lbs, 70 lbs, 150 lbs, and 250 lbs (up to unlimited) depending on which class fare you purchased.

So...what would you pay and pack?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interview With Author Matthew Cox

Today is our digital sit down with author Matthew Cox. He has written 8 short stories and 7 novels, one of which, The Awakened: Prophet of the Badlands received honorable mention by Writers of the Future.
You can read his running tale entitled Divergent Fate on his website at MatthewCoxBooks.com.

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For more about and by Matthew, follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mscox_fiction.

At what age did you first start making up stories and putting them down on paper?

Somewhere in my early teens. 

What was the title of your first (or favorite) work, or name of your main character, or plot synopsis?

The first thing I wrote when I decided to get serious about writing was Virtual Immortality. So far, of the things I've written, my favorite is Prophet of the Badlands. I'm fond of Division Zero as well, where Kirsten Wren, a psionic cop, deals with crimes and strange events involving paranormal entities in a far-future world.

Who is an author, or perhaps character, that inspires you? How so?

I've drawn inspiration from a lot of authors, films, and even video games. Though, I'd have to give the most credit to William Gibson insofar as inspiration goes for creating my favored genre.

What keeps you motivated? How do you keep the words flowing when writers' block is more like writers' Hoover Dam?

I've got 25 years of stories in my head from when I was unaware that I wanted to be a writer...as well as an addictive personality. The energy I once channeled into World of Warcraft now goes towards writing. So far (knock on wood) I haven't had much in the way of writers' block.

Do you believe in killing your characters and/or sparing your villains from the horrible death readers think they deserve?

Once of the things I try to do is create complete, believable characters - both for the good guys, bad guys, and everyone in between. I've never been terribly fond of character death in other things, but sometimes it does make sense for the story to do it. If the story warrants it, it can happen...but it's not something I enjoy doing. As far as killing off the villains goes, again I'd have to say it needs to feel like a natural evolution of the plot. If the "hero" would kill the villain given the circumstances, it'll happen - but not just because the villain has to die at the end.

How much of you do you inject into your characters?

Any of this, at least so far, would be at a subconscious level. I think to a point, a writer will always inject a little something of their own psyche into a primary character or even a bad guy. I could probably go character by character and find traits that I think leaked out of my own head, though I have not deliberatley made an alter ego.

When you get that first inkling of a story idea, how do you polish it by developing characters, setting, plot, etc?

I'm an outliner. When I get a story idea it can begin as little more than one or two sentences. I'll take that concept and build it out to a chapter outline. I tend to establish the characters more strongly and then process everything with their mindset, which can sometimes alter the outline depending on how the scenes evolve while I am writing them. (The most prominent example in my mind is when Althea from Prophet demanded a change about 65% of the way through.)

Is there a classic work (book, film, music, etc.) from which you can extrapolate your own original story? For example, Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Think in terms of Stephen King basing his Dark Tower series from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
(This goes beyond the realm of mere fan fiction)


It's been a long time since I've read any of "the classics", though I have heard it said that all stories have already been told. Anyone who tells a story is invariably reinventing a plot that's been done before, while changing the greeblies on the outside. At the moment, I've got more ideas than I can find time to write down, and I haven't made a conscious decision to draw on the classics for inspiration yet.

Do you have a magnum opus? 

Well, Virtual Immortality is pretty long. I'm not sure if I'd call it my magnum opus though. I haven't been doing this long enough to feel like I've peaked yet. Again, maybe 10-15 years from now I'll have a better answer for this.

Do the good guys wear black? Do they always win?

Most of my protags wear grey. One (Althea) is about as white-hat as it gets, Kirsten is pretty close to being a paladin as well, but for the most part I think characters that are "too good" or "too evil" are unbelievable. There are degrees of both sides in every character. Generally, I prefer satisfying endings. I can't give too much detail here without spoiling, but for the most part, the good guys win... though, at least in the case of Division Zero, winning isn't necessarily perfect happy. For Archon's Queen, less so (given the overall scope of the character/series).

How do you deal with over-exuberant fans?

Thus far? Gratitude :)

For more about and by Matthew, follow him on Facebook and Twitter @mscox_fiction

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Interview With Author James Wymore

Today we meet a man whose life time has been spent seeking loopholes to nature's laws and gateways to other realities. Since he hasn't found them yet (or has and just isn't sharing) he's writing instead. Meet award winning author James Wymore. He's written 4 novels, a dozen short stories, and comics dubbed Parting Shots. He also collects and paints minis for tabletop gaming, as well as, invented his own game to go along with the book The Acctuator, which he co-wrote with Aiden James.

Check out his website http://jameswymore.wordpress.com/

At what age did you first start making up stories and putting them down on paper?

I wrote my first book when I was in high school (16 or so).  I started making up stories before that, but mostly they just got me into trouble.

What was the title of your first (or favorite) work, or name of your main character, or plot synopsis?

My most recent title is Salvation.  The main character, Elwood, wakes on a frozen battlefield when a scavenging couple finds him among the dead. As they nurse him back to health, he is struck with the horrible realization he can’t remember who he is or anything about his past. Taken in by the kind pair, he begins helping with their farm. She even takes him to meet her family, especially her single sister. The ideal life offered in the high mountains of Winigh is shattered when he sees a transport bringing enemy monsters to the shores below. Cut off by high snow on the pass, their fate will soon be the same as the town his company failed to protect in the last battle, if this estranged soldier cannot help them fight off the next wave of invaders. Even worse, the people of the town don’t trust this Selene soldier. He has a strange resistance to their folk magic which some say make him as dangerous as the enemies preparing to destroy them.

Who is an author, or perhaps character, that inspires you? How so?

I love the work of Kurt Vonnegut.  His books seem casual and fun as they progress, but they end with a powerful conclusion that never fails to blow my mind.

What keeps you motivated? How do you keep the words flowing when writers' block is more like writers' Hoover Dam?

I've never had writers' block.  I have so many ideas that I have to choose carefully which ones I spend my writing time on.  Ideas are never the limiting factor.

Do you believe in killing your characters and/or sparing your villains from the horrible death readers think they deserve?

Death doesn't come to those who deserve it in this life, but it is a fact of life.  I don't save anybody from it, though.  I let the characters choose their own paths, but they can't always escape the consequences.

How much of you do you inject into your characters?

There's a little of me in my characters, of course.  Mostly, I try to remove myself from them.  It's fun to explore different types of people in writing.  So I tend to try and make them different from me, so the experience is more fun.

When you get that first inkling of a story idea, how do you polish it by developing characters, setting, plot, etc?

I usually start with ideas or themes.  Once that happens, it leads me to a genre where I start world building.  Usually I start dropping characters in after that point.  Plot comes last because I'm a discovery writer.  Once I set all the players in the world, I just let them run and see where it goes.

Is there a classic work (book, film, music, etc.) from which you can extrapolate your own original story? For example, Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Think in terms of Stephen King basing his Dark Tower series from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
(This goes beyond the realm of mere fan fiction)


The story that I once felt is most like me is Notes from the Underground by Fyodr Dostoyevsky. Not that I lived through that exact plot, but the character in it has some things about him that shocked me and tuaght me much about myself.

Do you have a magnum opus? 

I have a yet unpublished book which I think will be my magnum opus or my biggest failure.  Not sure which yet.  Currently it's called Elsewise and it's about a guy who wakes up one day to find all the barriers (space, time, minds, etc) are gone from his life.

Do the good guys wear black? Do they always win?

Good guys usually win.  They don't always wear black.  My upcoming book, Exacting Essence, has a Goth girl as the main character.  So she wears black!

How do you deal with over-exuberant fans?

I appreciate them and try to reward their enthusiasm!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Interview With A King Sized Author

For my first interview we'll be sitting down with an author whom needs no introduction, but will receive one anyway. The Mr. King.
You may have seen him at Barnes & Noble book signings, surround by fans and stacks of his work.
You probably saw him at the LTUE convention hob-nobbing with the likes of Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson. 
And if you were there in April at the largest Comic Con EVER you should  have seen him at his booth and on panels. He was hard to miss, right between all the professional cosplay girls and the crowded pre-release video game trailer - well before the Star Wars and Back to the Future booths.
If you missed your chance, he'll be doing it again at the groundbreaking premier Fantasy Con in July.
I consider myself extremely lucky to call him a close personal friend and to able to say we've played D&D together in his basement, my basement, even in conference rooms of the software giant Adobe.
It is my great pleasure to introduce my pen-to-page mentor, Jason King.
Who did you think I as talking about?

These two titles are available now, and he has at least 3 more books currently in the works as sequels to both.


At what age did you first start making up stories and putting them down on paper?

I wrote and illustrated my first books when I was five. I still have one of them. It was my stylish answer to Go-Bots, a cardboard hardback called Ror-Bots.
 
What was the title of your first (or favorite) work, or name of your main character, or plot synopsis?

My first feature length written work was a screenplay I wrote when I was sixteen called Descent. It’s a crime noir featuring a really smart, cool, and insane villain named Victor Reese. I’d like to update it and adapt into a novel someday.

Who is an author, or perhaps character, that inspires you? How so?

Brandon Sanderson of course. I love his work, and feel that I have a claim on him because he is a local author and a member of my faith……and because I have him trapped in my basement.

What keeps you motivated? How do you keep the words flowing when writers' block is more like writers' Hoover Dam?

Passion keeps me motivated. I don’t usually get writer’s block. My struggle is with depression. When I have a bout of it, I lose my desire to write even if I have plenty of ideas. Passion for the art helps me overcome that, and deadlines.

Do you believe in killing your characters and/or sparing your villains from the horrible death readers think they deserve?

My villains usually get their comeuppance, but often their defeat costs the life of one of my heroes. 

How much of you do you inject into your characters?

I try to avoid it, but it inevitably happens, never intentionally. It depends on the character. 

When you get that first inkling of a story idea, how do you polish it by developing characters, setting, plot, etc?

I day dream about it, listen to music, write down notes. Sometimes I outline. 

Is there a classic work (book, film, music, etc.) from which you can extrapolate your own original story? For example, Beowulf, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Think in terms of Stephen King basing his Dark Tower series from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
(This goes beyond the realm of mere fan fiction)


This will show just how uncultured I am, but I’d love to take the plot of Final Fantasy 6 and write it as a novel. It has a story that is too rich for a simple videogame.

Do you have a magnum opus? 

Not yet. Although Valcoria may become that. 

Do the good guys wear black? Do they always win?

In the long run, good always triumphs over evil in my stories. Do I have antiheroes? Is that what you mean? Sometimes, but they usually turn into full heroes by the end. I am very much about my heroes growing and becoming better people.

How do you deal with over-exuberant fans?

I would smile at them while calling security. Just kidding. I think you can harness their enthusiasm by turning them into evangelists for your work. Reward them and make them president of your fan club or something. From my experience as an over-exuberant fan, nothing is cooler than a friendly, down to earth author.

Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

An additional bit of info to speak to the value of his guidance, his 10 year old son just published his first book!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Nine Hells

It lives!

As you may have noticed, I've been away awhile. But I have not been idle.

I have spent the past couple weekends dabbling and dithering in my neglected Nerdatorium.
I was away from my deviantArt account for several months, but I've recently reactivated and spent hours building my favorites album. In so doing, the muses smiled upon me and many new ideas were born out of the inspiring genius of other artists' works. I never lack for ideas when browsing good art!

As I continue to flesh out my new notions and ponderings (and get the artists' permission to share their work here) I will post more and more. In the meantime hopefully this will satiate you *cough* Nils *cough*

This was a story idea that took root about a week ago, but I didn't know where it was going to go until earlier today. I was thinking of using it as a more urban, East Coast counterpart to my western-themed zombie apocalypse story, Dead Reckoning, but the timelines didn't go so well together. That one is not-so-near future; whereas, Nine Hells hits much closer to the present.

It begins July 1, 2017. The contagion escapes the facility and infects the immediate area within 24 hours.
The surrounding areas follow the day after.
Day 3, which just so happens to be the 4th of July, the ill begin to inundate under-staffed metropolitan hospitals. The first deaths occur that morning.

Day 5, the sickness reaches the far corners of America and takes root. The news makes mention of the earliest fatalities and advises those feeling persistent symptoms to seek medical attention. It's far too late for that.

By Friday, July 7th, people in the major urban centers are dropping dead. Many die at home, or in their cars headed to the already full hospitals.
Saturday, one week since Outbreak, the CDC declares a nationwide state of emergency and halts air travel indefinitely.

July 9th, a day that comes to be known as Bloody Sunday, corpses arise and begin to feast on the living.

Monday, July 10th, the first double-digit day since Outbreak, the world has gone all to hell. The infection made it to every other populated continent before air traffic was grounded. The end isn't nigh...it's already here!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fantasy Name Generators

I don't know how I haven't stumbled across it before, but today I found FantasyNameGenerators.com and I'm immensely impressed with what it has to offer. The options are almost overwhelming and nearly limitless.

And a very cool feature is that on the off chance you can't find something to inspire you, you can easily drop suggestions to the site author.

There is even a feature for artistically-inclined visitors to submit artwork for use with the multitude of generators.

Do yourself a favor and check it out. From one nerd to another, I promise you won't be disappointed.