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I Wrote Something!

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Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

Kidding aside, I’ve finally found motivation to write.  I’ve been plagued with ideas for stories based my Mist world and finally found the means to make it happed – The Magic Spreadsheet.  It works similar to something I used several years ago, except now a lot of people can see it and I feel compelled to at least make my minimum word count (250 at the moment).

It works.  I’ve written everyday for the last week and a half, so far totally right at 13k words.  Good times.

I’m going to keep at it.  I’m ready to get back into writing regularly.  Even if its only 250 words a day, it beats the 0 I’ve been doing for a while now.

Tools of the Trade

Yesterday morning I started writing a story.  I know, a freaking miracle.  However, about a page in I realized that this was a fine time to get Scrivener installed and learn how to use it properly.  So I download it, install it, and start working through the tutorial.  Hours later (spread over the course of a day, finally finishing this morning), I was drowning in way too many features and way too much information. How much writing did I get finished during this time?

Absolutely none.

However, once I completed the tutorial I felt I was ready to start getting into the story.  I start a new project and get ready to write.  I look in the binder and I am immediately awash in a load of pre-generated text, folders, and sample material.  WTF?

How about just starting with the basic structure of a Scrivener project and letting me populate with MY material?  I don’t need your sample material, and for a beginner with the program, we may not exactly be comfortable with editing the composition of a template.  I know I’m not.

I could take the time to figure out Scrivener, and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who will quickly deride my post here and tell me I’m a tool bag for bad mouthing such a fine program.  I will make it clear here, right now – I’m not putting the program down.  I just don’t think it’s the program for me given the time I have (or lack thereof).

And I’m still not getting any writing done.

Of course, I’m writing this right now, so I guess there’s that. :)

So I shut the damn thing down, reopened my original document from yesterday (in Open Office Writer, a fine program with very little screen clutter to get in the way), and get back to work.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I know a lot of writers out there swear by Scrivener.  But then again, there are a lot of products out there that writers use daily that they feel is the best thing since the invention of paper.  There are a lot of tools out there for writers to get their ideas onto a page.  Many are just there to catch the writer and to get them to fork over decent money for something that, at the end of the day, is just an over-glorified word processor.

Seen the commercial on TV for Dragon Naturally Speaking?  Where they try to convince you that writers can benefit from the program?  The “writer” they use for the commercial is rather lackluster in writing skill.  Maybe she’s just a bit melancholy…

So far I’ve managed to write, edit, format, and submit all of my stories using Open Office and Microsoft Office.  Those are my tools.  I may occasionally feed a manuscript to an analyzer to see if I’m using certain words too often, but really, I don’t need much else.

Some writers may still find my needs too much.  Those folks write longhand, with a pen and a piece of paper.  *shudder*

Let me get back to my story.  It’s not going to write itself.  Wait, I bet there’s a writer’s tool out there for that, too…

The Submissions Grinder

Listed over there on the left is probably one of the best sites I’ve ever found on the internet that helped the writer.  It’s Duotrope’s Digest.  It was a fantastic resource as it listed tons and tons of markets for writers, helping them find a home for that story about the hermaphroditic Sasquatch that no one else wants.  They were free and their data was extremely useful.  They took donations on a “pay as you like” basis.  I donated the proceeds from several stories, because, well, they helped me get stories into home.

Well, starting on 2013, they now charge a fee.  A pretty steep fee, too.  $50 a year, or you can pay $5 a month.  You can imagine the outcry from people who merely felt they were entitled to free stuff and now they would have to pay for it.  After that storm blew over, the real users of the site came out and started bringing out the real facts – the stats will now suffer because only those that pay for the service will now log their stats.  Very true.  Also, usually writers don’t have a lot of disposable cash to pay for something like that.  I know I have $50 to spend on it, but I have other things that I need more than a subscription to a site that I can use a spreadsheet and Writer’s Market from Barnes & Noble.

I won’t get into the good or bad of Duotrope going to a pay model.  I don’t care, as I will not pay for that and if you want to, please, do so.

Enter the awesome David Steffen from Diabolical Plots.

I won’t go on about this, but I will direct you to the article, and information about their attempt to create a (free) replacement for Duotrope – The Submission Grinder.

Article

The Submissions Grinder

Good Start to 2013…

I received an email this morning informing me that I had been paid for my story “Terminal,” and that the anthology containing it, Dark Stars, was out on Amazon today.  I happily took my hard earned loot and headed over to Amazon to check it out.

You should too, just click on the picture…

Dark Stars

Hmmm.  My name seems to be missing a letter on the cover.  How vexing.  However, it’s spelled correctly inside the book at the story as well as in the author bio at the end.  It’s also spelled correctly on the Amazon listing.  *shrug*  Irritating, but nothing to get too worked up over.

And no, I didn’t see the cover before release.

Anyway, it’s only $3 for your Kindle, so why not? :)

2013

So long 2012.

I can’t complain too much.  I have a good job and a wonderful family.  In these times, these are the thing everyone wants.  I don’t need piles of cash or a fancy car (though it would be nice!).

But, I miss something dearly – writing.

I spent all of 2012 working my butt off.  I have a job that is demanding and stressful, but yet at the same time I find it to be very satisfying and fulfilling.  Not many people can say that.  However, it has taken up all of my time that isn’t filled with my family.  My free time is relegated to time in front of the TV after my son has gone to bed.  Lately it has been spent playing Rocksmith or in the last week, Assassin’s Creed III.

The urge to write is there, though.  And lately, it has been making it’s presence felt.

I have a document with story ideas in it.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve added about three pages to it.  Each idea is anywhere between a sentence and a paragraph, but enough to help me work with it.  The real key to that document isn’t the individual story ideas.  It’s the possibility that those ideas can be combined into a totally off the wall idea that will make an awesome story.  I have read many times in the past that writer’s best ideas didn’t come from the idea they had in the middle of the night, but rather when they merged it with an idea they came up with two years previous.

But I’m out of practice.  And I hope that 2013 will allow me to get back into things.  So, I have decided that there are some things I need to do to make that happen -

  1. Eliminate as many sources of negativity as I can.  That includes cutting back my own innate negativity.  I’m a pessimist, despite my best efforts to be otherwise.
  2. Manage my stress with exercise.  My stress isn’t intolerable, but I feel it does limit my desire to do things and holds me back.  So, I will make an honest effort to exercise and get my stress manageable.  Oh yeah, it will make me healthier, too. :)
  3. Eat better.  This goes in with the exercise.  I really need to stop plowing through a Zaxby’s Nibblerz Meal with fries and a Diet Coke.  I know, the diet drink makes it healthy, but it can’t do it all on its own. (I’ve always joked that I can eat whatever I want as long as I had a diet drink with it, as that made it healthy)
  4. Read more.

So, if I can accomplish these things, I can get back into the writing mindset.  The words are there, and as my friend Dario likes to say, they will come in time.  I feel I need to help them along if I ever want them to come forth.

And these aren’t resolutions, as I feel people make them with full intentions of breaking them.  I’m merely setting goals, that I can meet at any time, be it in 2013 or beyond.

The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell

(This review appeared originally in Bull Spec #7)

These aren’t your usual RPG heroes…

All too often the fantasy genre depicts heroes joining forces against an unstoppable evil that threatens their world, and they set out on an epic journey to defeat this foe and bring peace to the world.  It’s a formula that has served the fantasy genre well over the years.

However, from the very beginning, Ari Marmell’s The Goblin Corps takes that tired old cliché and turns it on its ear.

The Charnel King, a wizard who turned himself into the undead in order to gain greater power and to live forever, is defeated by the forces of good, and when he gets his revenge, the nations of the world unite against the undead lord and threaten to march on his lands.  As part of his preparation for war, he creates a Demon Squad, comprised of a kobold, an orc, a troll, a gremlin, a goblin, a doppleganger, a bugbear, and an ogre.

This unlikely crew is sent on various missions to further the goals of their Dark Lord and his queen.  The situations they find themselves in are amusing and gruesome all at the same time, often taking the ignoble route to solve a problem.  These goblins are wicked creatures, though they do betray a sense of humanity from time to time and help each other to survive.  The action is intense, the character interactions fun, and their views on the world often amuse.

However, any player of roleplaying games will quickly see this book for what it is, and that is a novelization of someone’s tabletop game.  It read like the original campaign ended at the start, then the Gamemaster decided that it would be fun to run the bad guys for their next campaign.  The missions the squad take are the standard fare of RPGs, such as “go find this spell component for the wizard” and “go destroy these threats to my power.”  Further underscoring this point is when Marmell writes that the group has 400 feet of rope between them.  When you know rope comes in 50 foot lengths (in most RPG systems), and with 8 members of the party, well, you can do the math on that one.

Don’t take this as a condemnation.  Being a player of these tabletop games, it did provide a level of connection to the story.  I did read most of the book expecting the author to tell me about dice rolls.  Thankfully, that never happens.  It only nagged in the background and didn’t ruin the story.

My only other point of contention with the book is in some of the dialog between characters.  Sure, the orc is crass and the ogre speaks in halting man-speak, but that’s to be expected.  What isn’t expected is a math joke (“Do you always speak in such oblique angles?”) with an answer from the kobold that doesn’t even fit with the world at all (“Call it a bad case of non-Euclidean grammar.”).  This exchange completely jarred me out of the story and it took me a while to get forget this out of place conversation.

Despite these flaws, anyone looking for something different in their consumption of fantasy novels cannot go wrong here.  Action, excitement, crude humor, and just plain horrible behaviors all combines into an enjoyable read that will fill the gap between denser reading material.

How things change

About a month ago, I pulled Mist out of the office and started reading it.  In case you don’t know, Mist is the novel I wrote a few years back.  So large I broke it into three parts, because each item by itself would be the length of a novel.  Well, I was ready to get to work on it.  I think I read about two chapters in it (and damn, they need some work).  Then, something else stepped in my path.

As you know, I’m the Assistant Managing Editor at Tangent Online, a fairly large and well known short fiction review site.  I haven’t done much with the position since earning it last year, aside from maintaining it’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Well, the Managing Editor ran into a rough patch, and needed me to take over for a while.  So I’ve been learning that, in addition to various other personal life items that just kept me busy in the evenings.

Swallowing your time (and your soul) since 1996

Oh yeah, there’s also Diablo 3, but that’s another story.

Anyway, I’ve nearly gotten my hands around this editor thing, which is pretty demanding work when I have work to do.  I have a new appreciation for what solo editors have to do to keep things floating, I can say that for certain!

So I just keep on moving.  I haven’t written much in well over a year, aside from some gaming material for personal use.  I have a lot of ideas flowing and lately the itch to sit down and write something has started to grow.  I think here in a few months, once I get past a few other hurdles, I will be ready to get back into the writing game.  At the moment, I have noting even to send out to publishers, and I really need to correct that!  I have a ton of finished stories.

Well, finished as in the first draft is done.  Which means I have about 6 or 7 more revisions of each one before they are ready for sending out to people for consideration.

Mist looms, as well.  It’s time to get it right, and get it out into the world.  I just need to get this next review posted to Tangent…

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