Friday, February 27, 2015

Fencing with Live Steel: An Experience by Peter Morrow

A while back I asked, encouraged, and outright cajoled my friend, Peter Morrow, to write about his fencing experiences. I hope you learn something from his experiences with Historical Fencing, and encourage you to ask him questions!

Take it away Mr. Morrow.
  
Historical Fencing: Not Just for Porthos, Athos, and Aramis

About seven years ago, I took a chance on a new experience: Historical Fencing. 


Historical Fencing is the martial arts granddaddy of the modern sport of Olympic Fencing. It generally deals with the period of swordplay between the 1300s and the early 1800s and teaches forms of Rapier, Saber, and Small Sword combat. It differs from both Classical and Olympic Fencing, which focuses on more modern forms of Epee, Olympic Saber, and Foil.

Historical Fencing also differs from its more modern children in that you aren't confined to a fourteen meter strip with your other hand behind your back. You may move in a circular fashion, and have access to your other hand, to either be used in defense or to hold another weapon or small shield.

My first day of my first class, my instructor told us a story about the history of fencing. Life in the Renaissance for many people was horrible. With sanitation standards being nonexistent, and life expectancy being short, honor was all that mattered to most people. Criminal courts were almost unheard of, and the idea of civil courts hadn't been thought up yet.

Disputes and matters of honor were settled by the blade.

It paid to know how to fight.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Goals for 2015

Goaaaaaaaaaaal!

Hopefully, 2015 will be a very good year.

I've received two acceptances for my short fiction, and I'll be published for the first time later this year in anthologies.

One of my shorts is slated to appear in Volume XIII of Spark: A Creative Anthology.

I haven't received the contract for the second mag yet, so I'm keeping quiet until it's signed.

Like last year I have lofty writing goals:

·        Keep sending out more short fiction.  I think I'll try to binge write a few shorts in March. I also need to edit some shorts that are hanging out on the hard drive. They're not doing me any good there.
·        Work on my 2-Year-Novel Course novel, The Crossroads Troubadour. I'm going to take my sweet time with this one.
·        Organize the re-writes for my 2012 NaNo, Blood and Brass. I approached the big re-write haphazardly so I need to learn to organize like a non-crazy person.
·        Create a legit website. Whoo-boy. This will involve me thinking about how to market based on the style of my writing. Hmmm...

Other non-writing goals:

·        Take the dog for more walks.
·        Finish setting up and restoring my vintage banjo-ukulele (which is like 80+ years old). My, my but it's a purdy 'lil thing.
·        Take a goddamn vacation from the Day Job.
·        Test cook more new recipes during the week.

So, my puppies, what are some of your goals for 2015?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Forgiveness, Not Writing Every Day

Sometimes there's a crushing guilt when I don't write every day. It gets even worse, this almost sour feeling, when that non-writing time extends a little to a couple of days or--GASP--an entire week.

Because people keep telling us that "YOU HAVE TO WRITE EVERY DAY." Otherwise you're a hack, you're not a serious writer, you'll never make anything of yourself, you're a lazy bum, your writing will suffer, and quite clearly you suck a million kinds of suckage at the suck farm. This mantra keeps getting bantered around to newbies and old hopefuls. 

I've been stalking author Daniel José Older online a little, and in a series of tweets he mentions that it's "increasingly clear that procrastination is a guilt trippy interpretation of taking much needed time to process before sitting down to write." Not only that but "writing a book is in so many ways a gigantic, beautiful, painful act of faith [and] guilt will never be a healthy engine to do anything least of all anything creative."

I think much of the "write everyday" advice comes from the fact that many people say that they want to write, but many people I've met who say this...never do. Ever. In their lives. That "one day I'll write a book" thing that some potential writers sling about, but never actually take the plunge.

Like with many things, practicing every day is a good way to learn. In music, I was told absolutely by a variety of teachers that I was to practice every single day for a bare minimum of an hour, preferably longer. Music is a lot of repetition, muscle memory, and learning to listen, but it's something else too. Just like writing you have to see your errors, accept them, work on them at your own pace, and move on. 

As Older says, "Can't slink up all guilty and twisted. Gotta bring that swagger to the process, to the writing desk, to the keyboard. Gotta bring the love."

It's the love part we forget about sometimes.

Do I write every day? Yes, I try. But sometimes those blue periods in between the active writing sessions are when my writing problems suddenly become clear. The problems character. That weird plot hole. That slightly creepy atmosphere I was struggling to get right.

Have any of you ever had problem you had to get away from to solve? Is there something you try to practice every day?

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014, a Year in Review

I had a lot of lofty writing goals for 2014.

Like most of my goals, they always go from: do this, and this, AND THIS, and OMG THIS! To Hey, maybe I should like, you know, focus on one single thing.

This year I stuck almost exclusively to writing and submitting short stories, which I've always considered the weakest part of my writing craft.

Here's a slice of what submitting shorts looks and feels like:

·        Polish shiny new story! Yay! Excitement! It's awesome!
·        Write down a whole bunch of places to send it.
·        Look up guidelines and realize that Kick Ass Ninjas Magazine doesn't accept stories about monkeys (hey, my shiny new story is about ninja monkeys!) Cross off list.
·        Look up guidelines for next place and realize they only accept gritty stories about monkeys in zoos. Cross off list.
·        Finally find a mag that likes ninja and/or monkey stories. Read guidelines and make sure it's formatted in Evil Helvetica, written in your own blood, underlining all the exclamation points!
·        Gleefully send it in.
·        Wait.
·        Wait a bit more.
·        Wonder if the long wait means they really, really like it.
·        Wait longer.
·        Obsessively check your e-mail/mail every day.
·        Anywhere from a couple of days to 2-4 months later you see an email/mail in your inbox and your heart skips for a second. Did they like it?
·        The letter begins: Thank you for submitting "Ninja Pirate Monkeys in Space" to Big Bad Magazine. Unfortunately, this does not fit our needs at this time. Thank you, The Editors
·        Wonder if you suck, if your writing sucks, if the world is telling you to quit.
·        Look at next mag on your list, make sure it's formatted ALL IN CAPS, written in someone else's blood, with no exclamation points, and add a bad ass biography listing all of your previous publishing credits (uh…credits?).
·        Send it in.
·        Go through all the previous bullet points.
·        Try to send to next magazine on your list only to find they're CLOSED to subs between May and Forever Infinity and Beyond.
·        Repeat. Start on new story. Repeat with that one.
·        Keep all of those balls in the air, keep them all moving.

So stats for me this year are:

8 short stories
37 rejections
3 dead markets, no response
1 acceptance
7 pending responses - still got one out at 265 days and counting

The quickest rejection response: 3 hours
The slowest: 146 days

So what's in store for 2015? Not sure yet. Pretty sure I should legit finish the re-writes and edits of at least one of those three novels. I'll continue to sub out various short bits in the meantime, but probably won't write a ton of new shorts unless an Anthology theme catches my eye.  

Here's to the non-suckitude of 2015.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Exploration of Immortality


So this link I got from Lynn Viehl over at Paperback Writer had a random generator for fake French book titles and book covers. You can play with it here

I decided "Hey wouldn't it be fun to write stories based on them? Especially with the bad Google translations?"

For some reason the above photo reminded me of something you'd see at a community pool, which got me thinking of water.

The title translates as "Exploration of Immortality."
         
Exploration of Immortality
1,000 words

"And I'll send ya' ta' yer watery grave" was the last thing she'd ever heard.
         
That stupid Bobby Finnegan had said that they were playing pirates and ladies, even as he kissed her. She'd wanted to agree because he was a whole year older--a worldly seventeen--and he'd called her a wimp. She wasn't a wimp, not ever.
         
And as a lady he should tie her up with real rope, take her out on that crappy little paddle boat on the lake, and then tie her ropes to a big rock.
         
Jenna had struggled. And tried to scream.
         
He waved at Jenna with his big dumb lopsided grin, even when the water had filled her mouth and down her throat with a burning trail of fire.
         
The sloshing noises of the water in her lungs still bothered her, even as she stirred now from her dreaming. The water in her ears had long ago become a constant buzz, like the world was a big drum head to hum into, deep and constant.

Maybe one day she'd stop trying to get out of these dumb ropes, stop trying to climb out of the muddy, silty bottom of the lake. Maybe one day they'd dredge it and find her here. But no kids really played hookie here anymore.

Who knew how long it'd been.         

Sometimes when she was awake the fishes would give her their nibbly fishy kisses, their pucker mouths almost tickling at her distant toes in the mud. Sometimes if the hunger was too much, she'd snap them up in her teeth and chew on their slimy, bloody guts as they tried to slither out of her mouth. But she always ate what she caught. That's what Papa had taught her when they used to go fishing together.
         
Today she was awake.
         
She flexed her long fingers in front of her. Funny thing was, she'd grown since being down here. Her hands were lily white like all those flowers at her granpapa's funeral, and delicate like her Ma's. Out of eternal boredom she decided to gnaw on the thick ropes, but even after all this time--maybe years?--she'd barely made a dent in the thick fibers. Sometimes she gnawed on her own wrists, but that only left wispy bits of flesh hanging from her like some big hangnail. The fishes wouldn't leave her alone when she chewed on herself too much. For whatever reason she didn't bleed.

When Jenna blinked, she saw that the little tree roots had grown closer to her. So close now! The water seemed to scrape over her heavy eyelids and down over her pupil. The sand always got in her eye, especially when the fish decided to kick up some mud. Her hair no longer flew over her face, because so much gunk and old leaves weighed it down.

She glanced above her to see the light above her for the first time since she'd sunk. Maybe this was a drought year. Ma said sometimes the lake went dry. If she stretched…

She could make it.

Then she'd find Bobby. Punch his ugly freckly face. She'd tell everyone what he'd done to her. Even if she hadn't really died. Even if the still water made her float to the end of her tether, bobbing so softly that she wanted to sleep again.

Today, she'd escape.

She saw a large almond-shape above making a small wake in the placid water.

A boat.
         
She reached out to grasp the tree roots, bigger and sturdier now. Jenna hooked a finger around the slimy outside of one and bobbed closer. She strained her weak muscles, and it seemed as if grasping the root took all the time in the world. Maybe days. She'd have to lift herself and the rock tied to her out of the water.

When she pulled, the root snapped.

She reached for her hair and pulled out a twig. She reached as far as her tether would let her and she hooked it over yet another root. But that too snapped. Her face felt all hot the way it used to when she tried not to cry. Bubbles no longer escaped from her mouth; there was no air in her lungs to push out. Her rock was too heavy to move, like it'd always been.

But there. A sharp rock beneath the tree root she'd broken. Hidden all this time. With a smile of glee, Jenna reached for it. It fell beneath her numb fingers. And she began to saw.

 When the ropes parted, it felt strange to have her arms float apart from each other. Her legs too. Weakly, she pushed against the familiar silt over her lily white toes.

Jenna crested the barrier between her watery world and above. The light scorched her eyes. Water and mud flowed over her lips, dribbling.

The boat. It was almost on her.

She tried to wave.

A middle-aged man peered down at her, his oars half-lifted.

She vomited, trying to form words around a mouth that couldn't feel, with lungs that didn't pump. A gurgle-sound escaped her, like a busted hose with a hole in it.

Her fingers curled around one of the oars.

The man simply continued to stare at her, sitting there in his flannel shirt and fishing vest, and he slowly lifted his beer can to his lips to take a long pull.

She inhaled around the pond-slime in her nose and made her first word in years, "Hellllp."

Then he grinned.
         
The freckles were faded but still there.
         
"It's Davy Jones's locker for the likes o' you lass," he drawled.
         
The oar came up and crashed into her skull.
Nothing really hurt anymore. Bunching her muscles, the weight of the world bore down on her.

Jenna wasn't just going to punch him in the face.

She'd snap up his guts with her teeth, just like the little fishies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your Writer's Platform

Here I shall stand upon my Writing Platform, doing…er, writing platform-y things…Vote for me based on my platform, and I'll give you four years of awesome.

Or not.

Being an unpublished writer has its drawbacks. I don't have any material to push in order to say "buy from me!" I don't have my VOTE FOR ME pamphlet that I hand out to all yous guys. I feel if I had even one tiny insignificant piece pub'd somewhere any-goddamned-where then it would be easier to sell me. The writing "me" as a persona could then be traded, and promoted.

This is most obvious when I submit to pro and semi-pro markets that ask for a cover letter (usually listing your publishing credits) with a short bio. I've had a helluva time writing my bios. They're damned excruciating considering that most editors are looking for 1) a sentence or two about what makes you mildly interesting as a human being, and 2) your most recent and/or most impressive publishing credits.

I ain't got none of those, kids. (And no this isn't a pity party…Okay, maybe a little).

And I feel like I need at least four or five different bios based on whatever genre I'm submitting. I try and inject a little humor and/or sarcasm into my bios no matter the genre, because hot damn, that's who I am at heart. I've finally got my crap together and instead of altering a single bio each time, I'm writing and saving about five different ones. Dark Fantasy and Horror? Evil hell-yea. Science Fiction and Fantasy? Sindarin word for yes. The couple of Light Romances I've written? Sexy yes-OH GOD YES. Literary with the barest whisper of SF? Of course, I'm glad you inquired.  

I'm selling me. And it's hard. Because I'm not a brand yet. I'm not even sure what my brand is. Do I have a voice specific to me? Do I have a style? I'm sure I do. But I'm not certain what the hell that is yet. I feel like my persona is splintered between whatever genres and subgenres I'm writing in and exploring. It's like I've got multiple personalities, and they're all struggling with what façade to put forward in order to sell sell SELL!

There are venues to try promoting yourself out there. Hello, my old friend the Internet! But again, it's difficult if you've got squat to sell. My granpappy always told me I could get by on ma' charm and personality, and man am I tryin'. At some point I plan to have a real live legit website, all tricked out and purdy, because I've seen some terribly designed websites for authors before. There's actually one paying horror market I refuse to send work to because their website is such a unprofessional looking mess that it makes me cringe. Hopefully, I know enough HTML (and IT Crowd types to help me) and have enough aesthetic sense to put together something clean, good-looking, and easy to use.

In the meantime the best thing I can do is to work on is the writing itself. And send more stories out into the submission aether. And deal with rejection woes. And then write even more after that.


This topic brought to you by the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, where other profesh-n'-noobie writers are all standing up on that platform. I'm sure they're not gonna' fall off. I'd VOTE FOR THEM. Really, I would. Your Candidate for tomorrow's tomorrow is Senator Gilroy Cullen over at Swords vs. Pens (The Senator part is really more of a honorary title, I'm sure). 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Ukulele: A Lesson in Writing


Recently, I decided rather on a whim to buy a ukulele.

Because my varied interests aren't quirky enough.

I'll admit that I've been thinking for some time of picking one up. I mean, every time I'd see one it would make me giggle. Giggle. Not only is it cute and ridiculously small, they also come in eye-searing colors and the occasional one shaped like a pineapple or other fruit. Like a watermelon.

Aside from the fact that they make me smile, I'm familiar enough with music and musical instruments to realize that yes, you have to put time and effort into learning it. Granted, I've only had my relatively inexpensive Makala Dolphin soprano uke for about two months. I can already strum a handful of tunes.

The point is that I'm seeing music--and by extension my writing--in a different light again.

The ukulele by nature begs to not to be taken seriously. Four nylon strings. An undeniably pleasant sound. All of this in a world of popular music that's sometimes heavy on perfect electronic sounds, autotune, and a ridiculous amount of instruments and layers and layers of sound.

The ukulele has forced me to pare down what I think of when I look at a piece of music. To see its bare bones. To see the piece for what it is, or was in the hands of another musician. To see what it could become if slower, or faster. Strummed rather than plucked, or vice versa. To work with my voice, rather than against it. It's hard for a uke to drown out other instruments or someone's singing voice. To work within the bounds of my current skill set--and to see where it can be taken beyond.

Even Jake Shimaburkuro, a uke virtuoso (yes, just watch this, seriously), says that there would be more peace in the world if only everyone played ukulele.

I watched him say in a video that it's easy to see those four little strings as limiting, that you always want more strings, more sound, more more more. "If you know what you're trying to say, or what you're trying to communicate, then sometimes you can just do it with three strings rather than four."

The uke has helped me see that it's not the instrument that's limiting, it's your mindset. The instrument is just that--the tool, the object of where you focus your emotional energy to convey what you want to say.

It's made me look at my writing styles, and the way in which I present my voice. To see the bones of what I do, or what I'm trying to convey. Sometimes that means simplifying. Editing heavier. Sometimes that means switching up genres, trying genres I've shied away from for various reasons. With short stories (I'm really a more of a novel writer), it's showing me how to get to the point in a small amount of space, to pare down the conflict to its most important parts.

To use just four strings. 5,000 words in a short story. Or 500 in a blog post.

And most of all: HAVE FUN. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Other Blogs Do You Read?

Blogs. Blogs. Bloggie blogs. They're everywhere. I'll admit that there are few blogs I actually read anymore. Gone are my days of absorbing the business-industry-sacrifice-a-unicorn to get published type advice. I used to keep track of literary agents, and publishers, and the Great Mojo of Agent Queries, Miss Snark.

I don't read those anymore.

One, because the publishing industry is changing faster than I can give a two shits about  keep up. Two, because I'm beyond the simple show-but-don't-tell type writing advice. Three, because many of them say the same thing. Four, because traditional publishing is really freakin' depressing.

So what are the regular blogs I keep track of?

Aside from reading the travails of my fellow noobs, unpublished and published authors (on the MGR), few of them are writing blogs (really, Paperback Writer is the only one). Instead, I like to dick around on the internet expand my horizons to other things that interest me.

1. Global Table Adventure

Food. International foodies read it. Read it so hard. It's written with such passion and sweet innocence for food and the countries that food comes from. Just a mom with a vision to create 195 weeks of food from each country every week. And with a picky toddler and a Mr. Picky Husband in tow. I've made numerous dishes from these recipes, and have enjoyed every one of them.  

2. Apartment Therapy

I never thought I'd get to the age where I'd give a crap about what my living space looks like. Seeing as I don't live in a dorm room anymore, and no longer have that sweet Fight Club poster as décor, and I rent my space...well, I want where I live not only to be comfortable, but to express me and all the me-ness of me. AP has neato DIY projects for small spaces, and spotlights unique rented spaces that don't look like they'd be on the cover of Uncomfortable Shit You Buy For Your Stepford Wife's House Magazine. Although there is the occasional apartment walkthrough that looks like it'd be in Trendy New York Hipster Magazine.

3. Colossal

Colossal appeals to the part of me that loves visual art (I just signed up for an online life drawing class). Not only visual art, but strange and wildly different as well wacky art installations. Frequently, the piece exhibited for the day/week is made in a unique medium. My favorite has been the porcelain artist that makes bowls that appear as if they're made of splashing liquid.

So my little ones, what bloggos do you follow?

Brought to you by the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour (P.S. you should be reading this blog).


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

HELP! Help My Creative Process

POST THE NAME OF A SONG

This March, I asked some pals to give me a song, and I'd write a short story. I'm not really a strong or frequent short story writer, so any and all shorts I write makes it feel a little like a victory.

Being part of FM Writers "Great Rejection Slip Contest" has really goaded me into writing more shorts, if anything to get more of my work out there in the traditional publishing world. My fellow Rejection Slip Contest players have also inspired me to aim high as far as the publishing world, so I'm getting over many of my self-imposed restrictions that my writing isn't ready for the big time. My motto now is to submit and let them decide, rather than to decide for them by never sending it in.

However, because my creative process is a bit wonky, in that pretty much every single thing I write has come about because of a song I was into at the time, I'm going to ask for help.

My music tastes run the gamut. A playlist of mine can go from bluegrass to opera, from jazz funk to old school Delta blues, and 80's metal hair bands all sorts of indie weirdo folk fusion stuff.

So, my puppies...

Help my creative process! So's I can haz more short stories to send to publications.

POST THE NAME OF A SONG that you've recently discovered and are totally into. If you're extra cool, you can give me YouTube linky-love, but I will hunt any strange song down with all of my Google-Fu skills if you just give me the title.

So far others have suggested:

"Mad World" the cover by Gary Jules (story done)
"Cigarettes and Coffee" by Otis Redding
"Star Trek + NIN Closer Mashup" by er, Gene Roddenberry and Trent Reznor

Edited to add suggestions:
"We Are the Dead" by David Bowie (working on this one)
"Don't You (Forget About Me)" cover by KT Tunstall.

So, give me a shout out my pepperpots.








Saturday, February 22, 2014

Villainous Villainy

Recently, I read one of the best blurbs from Sir Anthony Hopkins: "I don't play villains, I play people."

I've always struggled with villains. I could never quite get into their heads. I frequently shy away from writing from the POV of any villain. Fear on my part? Yes. I always worry I'll ruin them by suddenly growing a liking for them. Which of course is a little stupid. Better villains are the ones that are close to you, mentally all up in yo' headspace.

For this blogo-post, the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour (or as a blog reader calls it "Writer Roulette") topic is to showcase one of my own villains.

Meet Dr. Conrad Frost. He's dead in the first chapter. Murdered.

In a early Victorian-era full of automatons and empaths, Dr. Frost set his sights upon the burgeoning field of psychology, testing his theories of the mind by--inventing an human-like automaton with the full range of emotions given to any true person. Raising the automaton, William, side-by-side with his son, Horatio Frost, he aims to allow his creation the time to become an adult with needs and wants and free will. To ultimately become a real person.

Before he sets out to destroy his creation's sanity, using his son as a baseline.

Though I never wrote from the POV of Dr. Frost, I very much wanted him to have a valid reason for being such a cold, calculating father figure. He's manipulative, domineering, obsessively focused on his goals, is impatient and dismissive, has ridiculously high standards, and genuinely assumes that most people are intellectually beneath him--because they frequently happen to be.

But he also genuinely loves his son, though he's unable to express it properly. He's devastated and ultimately driven in everything he does by the knowledge that his wife committed suicide due to her empathic abilities. He wants to find the key to empathic mental illness so no one will die the way his wife did. And in the course of things, he's torn between treating the automaton William like a person and true son, and continuing with his all-consuming experiment.

Dr. Frost was one of the first antagonists I tried to write while not being afraid to delve into his more sympathetic qualities, while giving him qualities that I admired. Of course, things are still in the early stages of writing, so he may not come across as dynamic as I think he does (but I love every moment he's on the page ruining things).

Anyone else have problems with less than dynamic villains? Do you love stories with villains or do you prefer stories where the main conflict-baddie is more insubstantial than one person?

This post brought to you by the Snidely Whiplash Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Mwha-ha-ha with a dozen writers from all across the global, scheming to take over the world! Next up on the tour is Sith Lord Gilroy Cullens at Swords vs. Pens (No Light Sabers).

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