Friday, November 30, 2012

My First Blog Interview

If you haven't seen it already, you can head over to Imagine Today to see an interview I gave after winning November's Knights of MicroFiction.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shedding Stories

I finally decided to delete one of the short stories I started a while back.  I was only a few hundred words into it, but I'm sure there are people who would oppose starting a story and not finish it.  I don't really mind doing so.

The story was either going to end up boring, extremely odd, or incredibly difficult to write.  My concept: the leader of a country watches the last of his people, save a handful of retainers and family, then leaves in a boat.  Originally I was going to have him found a new country, but after some thought I realized that I didn't know how to write that.  So, that's Outcome #3.  Outcome #1 was simply going along in the boat for a while before docking in a neutral country and going to diplomacy.  The extremely odd outcome was a pirate attack, which, while it may sound cool, would entirely defeat the mood of everything else in the story.

There's my dilemma and my choice.  Would you do the same?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Reading Habits

  • I read a lot of adventure and fantasy, but recently began reading a bit of sci-fi.
  • I don't read books more than once (I've done partial rereads a couple of times, but never the whole way through).
  • I read very slowly, averaging between 2 and 3 minutes to read each page depending upon how many words are on each page.
  • I reread a good bit as I'm reading, especially when I begin losing focus.
  • Due to losing focus, I've recently begun taking a lot of mid-reading naps that sometimes go on for a couple of hours...
  • I tend to read in bursts were I get a lot or reading done, followed by periods of time when I read practically nothing.
  • From the time I was in 5th grade through 8th grade I competed in Reading Competitions, which unfortunately meant that I read a lot of little-known literary and mainstream fiction that didn't help me out quite as much in writing as the speculative fiction that I'm reading now.
  • I only remember one book that I started and didn't finish.  (Not counting books that I'm currently reading, of course.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Grace, Please Lead Me Home (1/5)

Rather than posting a true piece of flash fiction, I'm going to post the first part of the first chapter of last year's failed NaNo run.  This year's was neglected, but I hope to work on it further in the future.


     One thousand heartbeats thumped simultaneously as a sea of blue and a staggered field of green came upon each other.  Hoots and hollers, swords on maces, bones splintering, the battlefield filled with noise.  A new sound erupted into the chaos, the sound of crossbow and longbow volleys.  Two thick clouds of brown flashed for a moment in the sky before dropping down and meeting turf or more often flesh.
     The soldiers of green, Ueklanders, wore only dyed shirts and loose britches.  They growled while cutting their prey to ribbons, grunting away the pain when wounded.  Some of their victims would argue that they were of canine kindred due to their savage zeal.  They wielded the axe, shortbow, and cudgel with mastery, their instruments of death made crudely with as little metal as possible.
     The fighters opposite them, the Urians, were of a different sort completely.  Most wore chain shirts and some had plate armor, gauntlets, and shields.   They fought with dignity, valor, and for some even chivalry.  Tempered longswords, longbows, and halberds were the most commonly used weapons by them.
     Among the waves of blue and white surcoated warriors was one soldier of particular character.  He was a giant.  Not a giant of southern myth that could look over mighty oak trees, but of a more humble type.  He stood two heads higher than a man of tall build, was heavily muscled, and wielded a broadsword in one armored fist.
     The giant’s name was Nom.  Born the runt of twins that miraculously both survived through infancy, Nom overcame numerous struggles in his life.  At the age of ten his ailing parents both died of a mysterious fever that left him and his brother unscathed, leaving the two to fend for themselves.  Nom’s brother died soon after the event, killed by a wild boar that Nom killed with his bare hands.  Nom grew rapidly and caught the attention of a nobleman who watched him kill a grey bear while passing by in his carriage.   The man, Baron Olwren, took him to the castle to be a man-at-arms, which he took to quickly and well.
     Nom waved his sword in a massive horizontal arc.  The blade cut deeply into the upper torsos of three Ueklandian axeman, spraying blood onto the uniforms of himself and all around him.  His victims stood still for a moment, rage still in their eyes, then each in turn were pushed down to make room for the eager men behind them.  He fought long and hard, slashing and thrusting through line upon line.  Looking from the air you could see a slight depression forming in the back of the green mass across from where Nom stood. 
     The Ueklanders, fearless in nature, began to avoid the destroying man and his massive sword.  One of them, however, ran up to face him, a crude iron mace in his hand.  He dodged the backhanded swing meant to sever his head and came inside of Nom’s sword range.  With a powerful two-handed swing of his cudgel, the Ueklander mutilated Nom’s sword hand, forcing him to drop his sword.  Nom’s eyes swelled with tears and he had to bite his lip to repress the pain.  Nom pulled back his fist and slammed it into the face of his oppressor, dropping him to the ground.
     Nom fought on all day.  He moved his sword to his weaker hand, keeping back tears at the pain of its badly fractured twin.  Men fell around Nom but he continued long after until the call for mutual rest set for darkness by the Urian King and Ueklandian Warlord came.
     Nom strode to the Urian encampment.  He stripped off his bloody surcoat and armor.  With a pained expression on his face, Nom pulled off his right gauntlet and saw the grotesque sight which lay beneath.  His hand had multiple compound fractures, severe swelling, and had begun turning green with infection.  Fear struck Nom hard.  His hand was a necessary tool for his profession and he didn’t know how he could go on if it had to be removed. He moved toward a nearby surgeon briskly.
     “Sir, can you please look at my hand?” Nom asked him, eyebrows knit.
     “That’s what I’m here for,” he replied.  The surgeon put on a face of amazement and scanned all six and a half feet of Nom’s bulky form when he looked upon him.  He adjusted his gaze to examine Nom’s crippled hand stifled a cough at the gore. 
     “This hand is quite mangled, my good man,” the surgeon said.  His expression morphed into sadness.  “I’m afraid it is going to have to come off.”  Nom went numb inside.  He would have to leave the life of a crippled man.  A tear cut through the blood and grime of his cheek.
     The surgeon plucked up a bottle of hard liquor and a saw from the instrument table beside him.  “Drink this,” he said soothingly.  Nom took the bottle from him and tore off the cork, then tilted the liquor to his lips and sipped.  Nom’s face twisted at the taste and accompanying burn.  Nom’s thoughts turned hazy.  He stumbled and nearly fell.  The world faded away.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving + Writing Holidays

It's Thanksgiving, so I'll make this quick.

First, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I'm thankful for backlights.  We'd be quite in the dark without them.  (And all of those other things that everyone says: family, friends, God, etc.)

I've only once written distinctly about a holiday, although my last Knights of MicroFiction entry had Thanksgiving themes.  That was the fifteenth birthday of the main character in the flash fiction serial that I still haven't finished.  You can find that first part here.

Off the top of my head, there really aren't too many things to mention about writing holidays; just make sure that you're being culturally correct if you're writing a holiday you aren't familiar with.  Unless, of course, you are writing a fictional holiday, in which case my suggestions are to make it cool and unique, while still realistic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Me

I've decided to be a bit more open with information about myself.  I already changed my picture to one not taken in the dark and now I'm going to list a few personal facts.

1.   I am 15 years old.
2.   I play soccer, both at the Varsity level and AYSO.
3.   I am a sophomore in high school.
4.   I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
5.   I am an Extemporaneous speaker in Speech/Forensics.
6.   I recently joined my school's newspaper.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Box


     There was a loud knock on the door.  George stood up and looked out the window to see no one standing there.  He strode over to the door and looked outside into the rain-tainted gloom.  Something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye.  A shiny red object lay on his doormat.  It was a small cube. 
     George picked up the box and turned it around in his hands.  Engraved in the cube were several large panels, but as far as he could tell there was no way to separate them.  George walked back into his kitchen and looked toward his wife Annie.  “Look what I found on our stoop,” he said, pushing the box into her hands.
     “A red puzzle box, how queer.  It was just sitting out in the rain?” she asked, head tilted slightly.
     “Yeah, it was lying out on our mat.  Some kid must’ve thrown it at the door and ran or something.  I wonder if anything’s in it.”  George tried to slide one of the panels to no avail.
     “Shake it,” Annie said to him.  George shook the puzzle box, making no sound.
     “There seems to be nothing in it.  What a shame,” he declared.  He set it down on the table and gave a slight sigh.
     “Let me try a moment,” Annie said.  She picked it up and tried to push, lift, and otherwise manipulate the box.  When she pressed down on a smaller square panel a soft noise could be heard.  “Did the box just moan?” she asked to the air. 
     A shadowy mist began to leak from the box.  A figure slowly became visible, the form of a young girl.  The image shone clears for only a moment, and then disappeared as quickly as it had come. Annie fell back in fright, barely caught by her astonished husband.  The box had gone as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing Military/War

I'm no veteran, but I have a love for writing an occasional military/war story.  My only currently finished short story is military/war action and the last flash fiction I posted I consider to be military/war.  I also wrote a military/war (it's also almost historical fiction) story for school two years ago.

Military/war takes a lot of research to write.  I've had to look into the operation of both smooth-bore and rifled flintlocks for different pieces.  I've also fired firearms before, which helps.

As far as I can tell, military/war is really tough to sell, especially as short stories.  Consequently, I'm going to submit the short story that I have to a local contest.  Hopefully I'll have more luck there than I did submitting it to literary magazines.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

100th Post + Knights of MicroFiction #8

This is my 100th post!  I haven't received a lot of attention over the course of my previous 99, so I decided that I would do a blog-hop for #100.


The prompt for the hop is:  In 300 words or less write a scene where the main character realizes he/she is thankful for something.  Include the words "turkey" and "Mayflower" (this could be May flowers too or other creative variations).

If anyone would like to participate, you have until 11:59 pm on November 15th to post your entry.
  Make sure that you sign up on the Linky List on either Imagine Today or Write. Skate. Dream. first.  


Here is my entry:

Not Manna But Meat

            Mayflowers dot the path I tread.  Low to the ground, I inch forward on hands and knees, paying ever close attention to the underbrush.  Small scrapings reveal more to me than perhaps anyone else.
            The path seems to go cold at a large oak tree.  Its swindling branches hold hundreds of broad green leaves.  In a lower, thicker branch, a creature sleeps.  I am ready for the kill.
            Leaning back, I shift into a sitting position and reach behind me.  My musket pulls off smoothly from the back of my shoulder as I place the butt against its front.  I pull my bag of powder out and fill the flash pan, then load.  A spark ignites the powder, throwing me back with the force while also expelling a ball of merciless lead.
            The beast releases a squawk that pierces the night.  It flaps, sputters, and falls to the ground.  I pull out my knife.  There’s no point in letting it die slower than it has to.  My knife oozes red in my right hand as the turkey’s eyes stare blankly at me from its head in my left.
            I smile with equal emotion.  The creature wasn’t a nuisance, nor a threat, but it had to pass.  There is hardly any food left in the settlement.
            I look up to the sky at the translucent face of the Creator.  “You’ve always provided for me,” I mutter.  “Thank you.”

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Piercer of Hearts

     I wheeled to the side, dropping one wing into a sharp gust.  Propelled forward, I shot into a dive.  My beak met linen before flesh.  My victim dropped his sword and clutched his bleeding shoulder.
     On my ascent, I peered to the other side of the battlefield.  My friends, the humans of Daikarth, were advancing steadily.  Their pile of dead was thinner than their opponents'.  We were hitting their right flank hard.  The pool of green shrunk further.
     I shifted position toward our opposite flank.  My wings had to beat double-time to conquer the wind.  After reaching the leftmost extreme, where the fighting was a virtual stalemate, I relaxed and dropped, pulling myself rightward.
     A red helmet gleamed on the ground.  I descended almost to his shoulder and opened my beak.  "Sir Godfrey, what news have you?"
     The knight looked up and flinched.  Once he had recovered from the sight with an exclamation of, "those darn speaking owls," he sighed.  "The Carathan infantry be strong here.  We can only hold them up.  How be it at the other side?"
     "The right flank be thick with our enemies' blood.  We charge forward," I replied at a raised volume.  "Need you cavalry support?"
     Sir Godfrey nodded.  "Sir Malley's men would reap here.  How be them?"
     I regained altitude to scan out our cavalry.  The largest group, Sir Malley's, held back just left of center.  "In reserve, Sir Godfrey.  Call for them?"
     "By all the saints, yes, fair owl.  What be you called, to tell our you aid?"
     "They call me Piercer...the Piercer of Hearts."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Five Things That Make Me Cringe When I Read

1.   Implausibilities

2.   Telling

3.   Overuse of "-ly" adverbs


4.    Word Repetition

5.    Poorly Worded Sentences Amid Brilliance



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

Edit: It's Election Day.  I hope that you voted.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Demise

You wake up with your mind in a blur.  “I think I’ll go out for a walk,” you say to yourself.  You put on some fresh clothes and eat a light breakfast.  As you pass into the next room you take a moment to light a small range in the corner.  With a sigh you open your door and exit onto a little side-street.  
You stride along leisurely and look at how plain your surroundings are.  You frown ever so slightly.  Buildings stretch endlessly along the sloped lane.  Minutes pass by calmly.  You manage to clear your mind of the stress that constantly batters you from your failing bakery.  All is well.
The sound of boots on cobblestone becomes evident.  You peer over your shoulder.  “Just an old drifter,” you think.  You look ahead and quicken your pace a bit.  A large cumulus shifts, covering the sun.  A shadow blankets your view.  The noise loudens.  You begin to jog.  You come to the bottom of the hill and turn left onto an adjoining street.   
A peddler shouts about his wares, but no one buys from him.  You pause to purchase a knife.  “My bread cutting knife is getting dull,” you tell him, and with a fair exchange of a doubloon you strap it to your belt.  You thank him and continue on your way.  The sound behind you has died off. 
After another moderate spell of pacing you turn back toward home.  “The dough needs to be made,” you think, increasing your speed a tad.  You turn the corner that leads to your little crooked lane.  You look up.  You frown.  The man is standing in front of you a toothless grin stretched across his shabby face.  He lunges forward with a broken awl and plunges it into your left eye, then your right.  You scream, but the shouts of the peddler must drown it out.
“My knife,” you think and pull it out of its scabbard.  The man must knock it out of your palm, for it clatters out of your hand with a force.  He takes his make-shift weapon and jabs it into between two upper ribs, making you feel faint.   You crumple to the ground and…light.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Revamp

As you can see, I have heavily revamped my blog.  I hope that the aesthetics have improved and the "About Me" section is warmer for those yet to dwell in the ravenous maw.   

Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Makes For Good Reading?

What makes for good reading?  It's a question that has both one million answers and zero.  If you ask one hundred people you would probably get several hundred different answers.  Imagine that in Family Feud...  I shall attempt to construct a formidable answer.

For a tale to read well, it must excel in the three main attributes of writing: setting, plot, and character.  If there are holes in any of the three the writing will either seem to be missing something, read awkwardly or read boringly.

Settings must be tailored to genre.  If you are writing fantasy, a good setting will include vast swathes of land with several kingdoms, each of which are broken down into cities and the villages and open land between them.  Any given novel does not need to explore a large portion of that setting for it to make for good reading, but the places should be there nonetheless.  If you are writing horror, the setting should either convey an ominous feel throughout or begin feeling natural so that you can snap into the horror, adding a sort of "shock value".

The plot of a novel can be further broken into pacing, arcs, and variety.  Each one is as important to plot as plot is to the whole.

Books should have a method to their pacing.  It doesn't have to be consistent, but there should be a reason why it isn't consistent if it isn't.  Thrillers have lightning-fast pacing throughout, while YA novels generally have fast pacing, and suspense and epic fantasy novels have very fast pacing.  It's normal for the pacing to quicken at the end of the novel, especially if it's at the climax or the convergence of several arcs.  If your hearts has begun to pound in your chest, it's probably a combination of increased pressure and faster pacing.

Arcs are progressions of plot elements.  Events progress in several arcs, one for each plot-line.  Each individual chapter or set of chapters may have their own arc, along with the standard arc for the main plot-line and each sub-plot.  Characters also have arcs.  They should change steadily over the course of their arc, either physically, mentally, or (preferably) both.

Variety refers here to a good mix of scene types.  A good book will have a sampling of action scenes, linking scenes, character development scenes (although characters should be constantly developing), and deep, intellectual scenes.  There are many other types of scenes, and good books are not actually required to have all of the prior examples.  Intellectual scenes may not be best in young adult thrillers, for example.

Beware of straw-men.  That is, your characters should not be flat.  They need depth, life, emotion, personality, etc.  As aforementioned, characters need arcs.  One of the strongest, most dynamic characters that I've had the pleasure of reading about was Ender of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Saga.  There is no specific number of characters that a book should have, but keep in mind that the shorter the work, the fewer characters the reader can handle.  If you try to cram three hundred characters into a forty thousand word novel you'll drive your readers crazy, yet Robert Jordan managed to make it work throughout the few million total words in the Wheel of Time series.

Everyone has their own tastes in what they like to read (if at all), but to make the best overall impression a writer must master setting, plot, and character.  If they do, they are guaranteed to present "good reading" to their hardiest fans.