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Flash Fiction Resources Needed

This weekend was a productive weekend for me.  I finished the book I was reading, which I’ll leave a review on shortly, and am really looking forward to starting Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams.

More importantly I took my first swing at writing Flash Fiction.  After completing a first draft on Friday, and four combined revisions over Saturday and today, I think it’s in its final state.  It’s of the fantasy genre and comes in just above one thousand words at 1065, which I know may need to be trimmed down depending on where I decide to submit it.

That’s where I need help.  If anyone has any good resources or online mags that they’d suggest I take a look at, I’d really appreciate the advice.  I’d like to compile everything onto a single page here.

I found one of interest to begin – Flash Fiction Online.  It’s an online quarterly recognized as a professional publication by the Science Fictions Writers of America.

Thanks everyone

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Short Stories on Kindle

I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas and as a result ended up with her old Kindle.  While the majority of my reading will still be of physical books, I’ve been impressed with the Kindle’s convenience.  As such, I’ve been looking into uses for it beyond reading a normal novel, specifically the availability of short stories on it.

Unfortunately, it is a good news and bad news scenario.  The good news is that there seems to be a growing amount of short fiction on the Kindle, a ton of it actually.  For those serious writers out there, the bad news is that there also seems to be a large amount of free fiction as well, both short fiction and novel length.

With the increasingly prevalent impact that technology is having on the publishing industry, I’ve often wondered what impact it would eventually have on those writers who earn their living through their craft.  I have to believe that the increasing amount of material made available by hobby writers, many times for free or as good as free, is hurting that side of the industry.  If nothing else, the pure saturation of material will likely become overwhelming.

From what I’ve seen on various blogs and magazines, it’s a very hotly debated question – should someone offer their material for free so that they get exposure and readership?  I’m a strong supporter of the writing community, from the closet writer without a finished story to his name to those admired few who have the talent and fortitude to make a living at it, be it modest or extraordinary.  However, it scares me to see the results when I do a search for ‘short stories’ in the Kindle Store and then narrow it down to Fantasy Kindle ebooks.  Eleven of the twelve items displayed on the first screen are all free.

That question may never have a final answer just because each person’s scenario is different.  Some people do need to use the opportunity and impact of a free short story as a lead-in for their additional work.

However, the question I haven’t seen posed anywhere though is – How much is the hobby writer adversely impacting those writers who use the Amazon fees to pay their bills?

I’d love to hear thoughts and comments on this.

Introspection in America – Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man

In today’s world where we are bombarded by mind-numbing reality shows, more online interactions than real-world, and an overall increase in social awkwardness, it is becoming more and more obvious that we’re too concerned with the lives of others instead of our own.  I’m going to assume that anyone reading this may at least be a little more introspective than the general population, so it will be interesting to hear your thoughts.

I grew up in a somewhat sheltered world – class of 151, same group of friends throughout high school, captain of this, involved in that… yada yada yada.  I never really paid attention to current events. I definitely didn’t know what was going on outside of my town and most times not what was going on within. Thank goodness it was before the Facebook phenomenon or who knows how I would have turned out.

Several life events, marked by some emotional scarring, were monumental in changing my view of the world. However, outside of that, I fully think there’s one element that helped me the most and tends to separate people; I took more than just an entry-level English Lit class.

What other classes involve such in-depth character analysis and require a person to ask the ultimate question – Why?  You don’t see many business classes reviewing the lifestyle of or reasons why Rod Blagojevich thought he could get away with selling a Senate seat.  Analysis into a character’s motivations can become habitual is easily transferred into real life situations.

During my two years of various Literature classes, all elective and not even enough to qualify as a minor, I learned to ask myself ‘why’ which in turn allowed me to have a better understanding, not only why others may do what they do, but eventually to turn it internal and ask why I do some of the things I do.  Getting to know myself has been more enlightening than you can imagine.

To be fair, it hasn’t been easy.  I found myself making excuses, both for myself and for those who influenced me early in life.  And many of the truths were hard to absorb.  But I’m very happy to have started down that path of discovery, a path that will likely take me on a lifelong journey.

I challenge you to do the same

 

An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope (a snippet)

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

Paula Deen & Anthony Bourdain

I’ll start this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain‘s, but in this instance I’m fully on board with him.  For those of you who somehow haven’t heard – Paula Deen announced that she has had Type 2 diabetes for three years.  During this time her celebrity status across the U.S. has grown tremendously, almost entirely due to her butter and sugar laden “southern style” cooking.

In an amazing coincidence this announcement came out at the same time that Paula announced she would be taking a new role as spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetes medications.  How fortuitous for her.

Anthony Bourdain later tweeted, “Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”  I couldn’t have said it better.

Paula Deen should also announce that she’s decided to run as the face, or parts less friendly, of Capitalism and greed.

I am not one to cry victim for the public, especially not when it comes to a situation like this where anyone who followed Deen’s lead was making extremely obvious poor decisions.  Moderation in a country of extremes is obviously a whole other battle.  However, nothing boils my blood more than someone who sees extreme profits at the expense, and possibly the health, of those who may not know any better.

Now, on to happier things…

Thoughts on Friendship

This past weekend I hosted a guy’s night where four friends and I got together, played cards, shared unfortunate humor, and had an altogether great night.  I had time to reflect today, during my 4+ hours in the car, and really feel fortunate for the friends I do have.

The four I had over consisted of three I’ve known since middle school and one that I just met a couple of years ago.  This was basically his first introduction to the other three.

Visiting Moe's Tavern

Image by THEfunkyman via Flickr

Luckily I’m not Barney in this picture

It still amazes me how we can all get together, after having not seen each other for months, and pick up right where we left off.  The jokes are still there.  Faces have grown a little older, and yes hair lines may have thinned a bit, but the spirit and personalities still persist.  And the great thing is that I think the newest addition is going to fit right in as well.

Isn’t it amazing how the bonds formed in youth can many times be so much stronger than those we form as adults?  When we’re young, we share experiences so easily – the types of experiences that tie one to another even if you’re apart for years.  And as adults, many times we find ourselves in the flowing river of monotony to the point that we don’t really even know the people around us.

When was the last time you just randomly stopped by someone’s house to say hello?  Did you feel like you were intruding?  When exactly did I become too old to do that?  It must have been somewhere in my early 20’s.  Is technology to blame or is it just simply that we don’t get to know people as well as we used to?

This all goes toward one of my 2012 resolutions, to make two good friends this year.  I hope everyone out there can do the same.

Cheers

Untitled Poem 1

I did a little free-write last night and here’s the result.  I won’t tell you my motivation but would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.  It’s been years since I’ve attempted something like this.

Dark is the beast of man elect,

Common in all but chance.

The pale of heart bend weakened knee,

Heads the floor of the dance.

With vigor and prowess in youthful despair

Draped in comforting trink

A gift borrowed from heredity

Swift to razor’s brink.

A man, no man, inside a man,

Found himself a fool

Used by those on bended knee

The brute no less a mule.

~ Nick Andrews

Book Review – The Color of Magic

I finally finished reading The Color of Magic this week, which is actually the third time I’ve read it.  It’s been at least 10 years since the last time and it was almost like reading again for the first time.

The Color of Magic is the first of Terry Pratchett‘s novels set in a fantasy realm called Discworld.  The story follows two main characters – Rincewind, a wizard of sorts, and Twoflower, a visitor to the city, Ahnk-Morpork.  They have several adventures and meet many fantastic characters and creatures throughout the book, including thieves, warriors, dragons, and even Death.  The book is separated into four short but linked stories that could stand alone, but do flow one into the next.

When I first set foot in Discworld, I was probably around 12 years old.  At that time, Terry Pratchett spun a tale of whimsy and happiness.  I took note of those things a normal 12-year-old would, the escape into an alternate reality that was clearly more exciting than our own.

The second time in was just a few years later and not much had changed, although I do remember finding it much more comical than before. The interactions between Death and Rincewind are great.

This time is took me much longer to read it than ever before.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it as much as previously, because I did.  It was because I spent about half the time reading and the other half thinking about a passage in the book.  Pratchett touches on politics, religion, and common misconceptions. There is so much depth in his writing, so much philosophy and satire, that I completely missed previously.  Pratchett obviously has a great sense of humor but within that humor lies deep contemplation and intelligence.

Overall Grade:  4/5 stars (only because one of his other books is the bar I’m using for a 5/5)

If anyone else has read it, I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts and reactions to it too.

Cover of "The Color of Magic"

Cover of The Color of Magic

One Word – An Extremely Fun Writing Exercise

If anyone is looking for an interesting way to start the creative juices you should take a look at the website oneword.com.  It’s a simple idea.  You have 60 seconds to write about a single word that you’re presented with.  Then, once time is up, your entry is posted right along everyone else’s.

The 60 seconds spent helped break the ice and it was really interesting to read everyone else’s interpretation of the same word.

Character Creation – Thoughts on Character Sheets and Generators

Before I broke ground on what will hopefully be my first completed short story (should finish the first draft this weekend), I fell into what many seem to find – the spinning black hole that is research, research, and continual research.  Looking back, I wish I had kept track of the enormous amount of time I wasted.  I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number, however, I did find a few diamonds sites that will continue to prove worthwhile.

Part of my research focused on character creation, more specifically how a writer’s characters take shape and come alive.  I’ve never had a problem with putting the basics on paper but was and still am very interested in hearing how others do it.  There is a ton of material out there for this, especially if you count the character sheets and generators normally used for role-playing games.  Since my initial writing will be in the fantasy genre I ran into a ton of that type of thing.  I actually stayed away from them and kept my search pointed toward those websites and resources focused on helping writers.

There are two main websites the proved extremely helpful.

1.  The resource page of National Novel Finishing Month

2.  The Seventh Sanctum

Each of them have more materials than I’ve even used at this point, but I really like the generators on The Seventh Sanctum and the character sheets on NaNoFiMo.  The generators are amazing.  While I haven’t used anything exactly as it was ‘generated,’ I have used it several times when I hit a block on how my new character, Yuri, might act or some of the experiences he might have.

The character sheets, on the other hand, I honestly haven’t used much but can see how they’d prove helpful.  My thought is to establish the basics of who Yuri is and then let him evolve before working on things like his background story, motivation, etc.  I did start out with a basic outline of his character but found that as soon as I started writing him into his current situation, he changed tremendously.  He went from an elf, to a dwarf, to a gnome, which of course meant that most everything else had to change too.  We’re now to the point that I can mentally see him and feel like I’ve gotten to know him, so maybe I’ll fill that sheet out again in the not-to-distance future.

If anyone out there has had experience using anything similar, please feel free to comment.  I’d still love to hear how others develop their characters, and whether or not you’ve had success with things like the generators or character sheets.

Cheers!

Terry Pratchett – A Great Author and Inspiration

Terry Pratchett kindly posed with his hat for ...

Image via Wikipedia

I read a handful of Terry Pratchett books several years ago, all from his Discworld series, but eventually left the Disc to go other directions.  I never really knew much about the author until last year but have since become an even bigger fan.

His books fall in the fantasy genre but they’re not your normal sword and sorcery books.  Pratchett is a tongue-in-cheek writer who adds comedy and satire throughout each book.  The books read quickly but are ones that can be reread several times.  You may catch something in a second reading that you hadn’t noticed the first time through.  Pratchett loves to tie in characters from previous books, so familiar names will continue to pop up throughout the series.

However, the best Terry Pratchett reading I’ve done has been of the interviews he’s given over the past few years.  Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007 and has been open and honest about his reactions and life since.  In no way could I do justice to the interviews he’s given, so instead I’ll include links to a couple of the better ones I’ve read.

The last time I checked, the Discworld series stands at 39 books.  You can pick up any book in the series and read it individually, but like any world, Discworld has grown and evolved throughout the years so I recommend starting with the first and what I still consider one of the best – The Color of Magic – which I’m reading for the third time.  Pratchett has touched many lives with his writing over the past 40 years and I’m sure he will continue to do so, in one way or another, for several years to come.

Thank you Mr. Pratchett

Cover of "The Color of Magic"

Cover of The Color of Magic

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/oct/14/terry-pratchett-life-writing

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1070673/Terry-Pratchett-Im-slipping-away-bit-time–I-watch-happen.html

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