Tuesday, January 31, 2017


(I linked to this story soon after I wrote it, but I rediscovered it today, and I wanted to post the actual text of the story on this blog.  You can find the details of the contest it was an entry for here.)

            Rivulets of blood streamed down my fist.  “What have I done?” I muttered again, falling to my knees.  The tears slipped off my chin.  The blood ran cold down my palm.
            “You made a mistake.”
            I turned to face an ageless man, his linen robes cinched with a golden belt.  He seemed to be shining, but I figured it had to be from the crying.  “I hurt her.”
            “You did, son, but it’s over now.  You’ve learned.”
            “Who are you?”  My throat burned.  I cleared the dampness from my eyes and saw that he was glowing with fourteen rays of light.
            “Your guardian angel.”  The man smiled.
            I crinkled my forehead.  “Why are you here?”
            “I am always here.”
            “Wherever you are.  Standing in a place beyond belief between your realm and mine.”
            I stood and wrapped my hand with a handkerchief, thankfully clean.  “Between Earth and Heaven?”
            “Sort of.  We understand it about as well as you do.  Only God knows.”
            “Why are you showing yourself to me?”
            “It’s been months, Rickard.  You need to move past it and remember.”
            I shuddered.  “Remember?  I remember.  I remember all of it.”
            “Not that.”  The angel shook his head.  “I’m here to make you remember what you learned when you were young.  Remember that you are not alone and that you are forgiven when you repent.”
            “I guess it’s true then.”  I chuckled, looking down at my shoes.  “Unless I’m just finally going insane.”
            “It is quite unusual, being given the green light to show myself, but I could see you suffer no longer.  You’ve always believed, son.  You had only forgotten what it meant.”
            “And what does it mean?”  I tried to look the angel in the eyes, but they were too bright.
            “It means that you will always be given another chance so long as you continue to believe in Him and that He will be with you always, to conquer all.”
            In that moment the grace of God poured down upon me in rivulets.  And I remembered.  I blinked and the angel was gone.
            No, not gone.  Just there in his little place beyond belief once more.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Simple Memes

Memes are already pretty simple (most of the time), but why not make them even simpler?  And by "even simpler," I really mean "so simple that they're abstract and therefore complex."  Take a simple image and turn it into a meme.  Sounds easy, right?  Not so fast.  The simpler the image, the harder it becomes to find something concrete (and meaningful) in it.

This exercise from the Steal Like An Artist Journal only went one step of the way:

If I were to convert this exercise to a digital form, I would want to add some complexity.  Rather than simply captioning shapes, I would want to turn shapes and other simple images into memes.  How much can you pull out of something as toneless as a square?
I'm not sure how I would pull something like this off.  It would take a lot of coding, I think, to create a meme editor.  There might be some way around it though, like making a Word template that gives a bunch of canvases with images that can be modified with text boxes and then turned into solid images.  It wouldn't be particularly pretty, but it would allow me to pursue this digital project without the need for code.  This idea would stretch the definition of "digital writing," but I think the creation of images, even if those images are just strategic two-dimensional shapes, should constitute a form of digital writing.

When you have a common meme image at your disposal, it isn't terribly difficult to come up with a passable meme.  But when life throws you a flat yellow ellipse, it can take some serious squeezing to get that nectar flowing.  Why not allow the challenge to have its go?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Teaching "Spec Fic For Free"

My next theoretical exercise for Writing for Digital Media involves making a syllabus for a class I would like to attend or teach.  I decided that I want to (theoretically, and only possibly in the near to distant future) teach a course titled "Spec Fic For Free."  You can see the raw details for this class below.

This course could be taught face-to-face, but it could also be done online using digital methods.  A growing number of authors are developing online courses accessible to the masses (often for a fee).  That is probably the way I would go for this.  I would either livestream or record lectures in advance, making them viewable only by those who pay a bit for the class (unless I have a good pool of assets by that time).

"Spec Fic For Free" would contain lots of documents with hyperlinks to different locations where free speculative fiction can be read (such as here).  It likely would also feature links to articles about the various topics discussed.  All assignments and tests would be conducted through the Internet, and conferences would be held through some form of video chat.

Never a problem online

I'm interested in one day actually teaching this course.  First, I need to become the sort of person you'd want to be your teacher.  My experience with the field of speculative fiction publication is still slim, even if I do have a handful of publications.  Maybe some day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Self-Generating Teacher

I used the "10 Things I Want to Learn:" pages of the klepto journal.  But I cheated.  I wrote eleven things.  Because I know not the laws of this world (and none of my eleven are those).

I quite like the concept of these analog pages with my jokes (and my two serious topics), but it would be interesting to make a digital product for them.  My digital product would be a self-generator of instructive text.  Essentially, typing one of my eleven topics into the generator would result in a random answer output.  There would probably be a separate, limited pool of answers for each topic, though I could add some scrambling to make the answers even more random.  For a topic like "Who let the dogs out" there could be a pool of individuals with a random draw of one, two, or three of the individuals as an answer.  The pool could resemble this list: Batman, Robin, George Clooney, You, Me, The Real Slim Shady, Kanye, Mrs. Robinson.  For some of the topics, the answers could be more complicated, like full paragraphs for "How much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood."

The main purpose of this digital product, as with the analog, would be humor.  I like writing comedy, though I rarely do (because it's hard).  I think this generator could be pretty funny.  For the two serious topics ("How to play the violin" and "Welsh") the generator would probably spit out links to videos of complex examples of the two.  Beyond humor, this generator, I believe, could give food-for-thought for some of the great, funny questions of life.  And, heck, doesn't everyone wonder where the socks go?  Maybe this generator could one day aid in this Grailic quest.

I'm not quite capable, at this point in time, of making this self-generating teacher, but I hope to be able to make it some day soon.  Python is one candidate for software, and there are probably other programs I don't currently know of that would work well too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


There are a lot of elements I really like in "Spaceman" by Florence Vincent, published in the sixth issue of Shoreline of Infinity, but there are a few that I question.

I really enjoyed the characters in "Spaceman."  There are two of them, and they're both very interesting.  It took me a few scenes to realize that there are two characters, with alternating scenes taken from alternating viewpoints.  The characters' voices have some level of distinction, but I question whether they are separate enough from each other, at the very least in the first few scenes.  The backstory of the second character is engrossing, and the first character is strange enough to draw the reader in.  I could've went without the handful of crude sentences sprinkled throughout, but those sentences definitely helped with the voices of the characters.

Shifting slightly from voice, the general writing style of "Spaceman" is beautiful.  No, it isn't beautiful like poetry; this style is plain glass with great execution.  There are several fantastic sentences (that I won't spoil for you).  The flow was only interrupted, for me, by that whole character confusion, as well as one slightly-crude sentence I wasn't expecting.

The true setting for this story is fairly basic, which is fine by me.  The overarching world, commented on by the first character, may have strayed a bit too far to the weird, but it was certainly interesting.  The setting worked well with the characters and the plot, always a "plus."

I have a few reservations regarding the plot of "Spaceman."  The second character has a compelling storyline up until the end, where it felt a bit like a cop-out.  The first character gets the real ending, and it fell flat for me, unfortunately.  It kind of made sense for the character, but not incredibly-so, and I never really felt like the two characters "belonged" in the same location at all (allowing them to interact with one another and bridge the viewpoints).

There are plenty of reasons to still read Ms. Vincent's sci-fi short story from the Scottish Shoreline of Infinity, even if it had some potential problems.  For one, you may decide that everything works out for you.  The writing style and characterization present are quite good, so "Spaceman" can yet offer some instruction on those fronts (thinking like a writer).  So, why not give this story a read?  You'll need to pay a few pounds for the issue in which it appears, but I think it's worth it, for this story and others.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Brief Piece on Double-Dipping Description

I've written posts before about my philosophy for description in stories, but it's been quite a while, and I can't recall how much ground I have covered.  My use of description is counter to that of many works of modernism.  Rather than taking up long paragraphs detailing the appearance of the setting and characters and giving sensory details to accompany those, I try to make my descriptions as short, tight, and potent as possible.  I frequently "double-dip" with my sentences.

Henry's chestnut hair matched the parlor wallpaper, aluminum tracery included.

This sentence came to me while I was thinking on this subject a few minutes ago.  It's not my favorite sentence, and I don't believe I'll be using it in a story, but I think it should work well to illustrate my concept of "double-dipping."

Without any other context, this sentence tells us several things about the story in which it hypothetically resides.  First, there is a character named Henry.  This character has chestnut hair, though that probably isn't integral to the story (and I often omit such details).  This scene takes place in a parlor, and that parlor has chestnut wallpaper with aluminum tracery.  Perhaps the wallpaper even mimics the wave of Henry's hair or the lack thereof in its pattern.  That's up to a reader's imagination.  What is important here, though some readers may miss it, is that his hair is graying.  Henry could be anywhere from forty to seventy-five with such a description, but he is "aging" in any case.  First sentences will always give a lot of information to a reader, yet this sentence gives more than the typical sentence you will find, I think.  I don't "double-dip" (that is, describe character and setting at the same time) with every sentence of description that I write, but I do use this tool frequently.