Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Relocation of Sorts

After checking with my editor/mentor today, I was given the go ahead to post more about our project, "The Valcoria Anthology" currently under contract with Curiosity Quills, due out in October 2017.
But because I wrote my short story under the name C.J. Workman, and which I'll continue to write under, I am likewise creating a new blog Author C.J. Workman.

As I mentioned in my last post, most of my recent writing has been posted to my DeviantArt gallery. For the next little while, I'll be moving those writings to my new blog. I'll also post any new writing there.

With any luck, if those bits of flash fiction and ideas turn into contracted/published works, I will remove them for contract/copyright reasons.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Living with Immortals

What have I been up to lately? Well, let's see, "lately" encompasses the 608 days since my last post, so the answer is both "quite a lot" and "a whole lot of nothing."

Being a dad and a busy data entry guy take up most of my time. What time I do have generally still finds me in ye old Nerdatorium, clacking away at the keyboard just as I do in my day job - but having way more fun doing it.
Nearly all of my posting efforts have gone to my DeviantArt gallery, but I've also been working on a couple of things that I'm not going to splash onto the interwebs for free (for fear of it being taken and published by someone else before I get to it myself).

Over Christmas I began writing a short story to contribute to Author Jason King's anthology, due out in about a year. That took several weeks and tweaks before it was sent off to the editors.
That more or less contributed to me joining Jason's new publishing house, Immortal Works, as an Acquisitions Editor. Currently I'm working on my first assignment and loving that I'm contributing (again).

As I devote more and more time to writing and/or editing, I have less and less to waste on things like video games, rolling dice, Youtube, and Facebook. But like so many in this digital age, I continue to find myself sucked in again and again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Worldbuilding For Beginners (a.k.a. Newbuilders)

First of all, welcome to the worlds! Glad you could join us! There is a whole wide world out there waiting for you...to create it!

My pal Nils is hosting this month's RPGBA Blog Carnival: A New Year, A New World.
Most of my worldbuilding is done purely for pleasure, some for stories, and some for RPG play.
But before launching into the specifics, there are a slew of general questions that need answers to get you going. 

Worldbuilding is all about questions. The first of many is 'What in the world is worldbuilding?'
It helps to know right out of the gate. When I began doing it years ago, I had no idea what to call it.
Wikipedia gives it a pretty solid definition.
J.R.R. Tolkien, arguably the grandfather of what we know it as today, dug even deeper and called it mythopoeia.

Don't get scared off. You are in complete control. This is yours to do with what you will.

Let's wade in slowly. Lots of Ws are coming your way.
The very big, over-arching W that you will come to again and again is 'WHY?'
The first 'why' is "Why are you choosing to build a world?" Is your purpose to write a short story, a novel, an epic saga that will conquer an entire bookshelf? Maybe you're designing an RPG campaign. Or like me, do you just do it because you think it's fun?
Knowing what your goal is is the best way to start. It's a huge undertaking to build a world, so you'd better have a clear idea of why you are doing this at all.

Now that you know where to begin, you need to decide on where you are, or better yet where it is. 
WHERE is this place? Is this a completely fictional setting, or does it take place in the real world? Maybe you’re using Earth as we know it, but you’re making up an address in a town that doesn’t really exist. Or you can mix that together. Let’s say it is a world very much like Earth, but it’s not this rock we all call home. This is kind of a shortcut because it already lays a solid foundation.

[My personal preference is to find an inspiring map and fill it in. A great place to start looking is Cartographers Guild. Just be sure that you ask permission before making use of anyone's works.
Or if you want to make your own map...well that's something else entirely. Fantastic Maps has terrific, easy-to-use tutorials and tons more info about worldbuilding in general.]

Next up is 'WHEN?' Do you have at least a broad idea of the time period? Is your story taking place in the ancient past, the far future, or somewhere (somewhen) in between? Knowing the when of what you're doing will dictate a lot of what is in your toolkit with which you will be building. That can depend on the genre you are aiming for.
It seems a majority of fantasy is set in a roughly medieval period. Ya know, knights, swords, castles, dragons, etc. Maybe your when is literally in the middle - the Middle Ages. Nothing wrong with that. It's a good time to start with because there is lots and lots of information to draw upon.
Oh you don't want the same old, old feel to it? You want to shoot for the stars? Okay. Science fiction it is. I can't help you much there, but I'll try. I'm a student of history, not so much of science. This gets into a realm I'm not especially familiar with, so I will say just this little bit.
Writing/building forward instead of backward can be tricky. There is a lot of speculation because we don't know what's coming because we haven't been there yet. But we can guess and speculate a lot based on what we do know. Whenever you choose your right here, right now, there must be a reason for your doing so.
 WHO? Who are you building this for? For players of a D&D-esque game? For readers? Just for you? Let's say you're doing this because you want to tell a story. Okay. Who's story? Is this a peasant who dreams of becoming a heroic knight, slaying dragons and saving damsels? Is is a hard-bitten, streetwise gumshoe out to solve the mystery of the big man's murder? Is this a newly commissioned star captain given the keys to a massive marvel of technology with which to explore the galaxy?
Maybe it's a farm boy on a desert planet that will board a spaceship to rescue a damsel and save everyone from monsters and an evil ruler all while wielding an ancient sword! (gasps for breath). But that story has already been told. Tell yours.

Now that you know who is in the story you can move on to...WHY?

Wait, what? How did we get back to why? We just started.
Actually, look back at what we have covered. You know why you're doing this. You know where it is.You know when it's happening. And you know who you are doing it for, and you know who it is about.
But why is it about them?
There must be some reason you have chosen to tell their tale.
Some will tell you that building a world around your story as you write it is the best way to go. I somewhat agree. It can be. But that method can lead to you painting yourself into a corner because you come up against something you didn't plan for.
I'm a planner. I like knowing where I'm headed, why I'm going there, and who is going with me.
Thus I prefer to build/outline first and make sure I have at least some broad strokes painted first.
Huh? We're painting now? I thought we were building. But then that turned into writing...

Channel your inner 5 year old. Ask 'Why?' and repeat it over and over and over? When you get sick of that, you're at the end of Ws for a while.
Now ask HOW?
How did any this come to be? That is a colossal question with which humanity is still wrestling and arguing and calculating. But this is your world, so you of all people should know. Did the gods just up and decide to create this thing? Maybe they were bored and wanted to kill a few eons by posing and answering question upon question for who knows how long or to what end. Basically that’s what you’re doing. Right?

Okay that's a bit all-encompassing. So let's pare it down to how things happen within the world. How do seasons work? How do people tell time? How do they communicate? How do they build? How do they know?
See what's happened here? You got tired of answering Ws and now you're getting sick of all these Hs.
Deal with it. If you are building right, you will never reach the end of them. Because not every question has been asked and no one knows every answer. Not even you, the Creator. That's right, by now you've earned your capital C.

And if you are completely nuts and drunk on power and you just can't wait to answer more and more questions...well here you go.
Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C.Wrede.
I give you this link to over 1,000 questions because if you Google "worldbuilding questions" hers come up again and again.
If you're wanting a short list of dos and don'ts
Do: Top 10 World Building Tips
Don't: 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

I must give credit, where credit is due. It was the amazing TalkToYoUniverse blog that led me to Patricia's in depth questionnaire.
And if that still isn't enough for you, consider joining the school and guild I belong to.
Worldbuilding School and Worldbuilders Guild. They're kind of one and the same, but an excellent trove of information.

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 on purpose and commands that they do a task, or your character notices that the stranger leaves something behind (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. Or the left behind thing throws your character for a loop and they are swept along regardless of their intentions. 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.

perf6.000x9.000.indd Virtual_Immortality_FB

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!