Tag Archives: short stories

A Look Into the Future

Fandom 150I’ve been a little more quiet on the writing front than I feel comfortable with, but there’s a reason for that. When I get deep into various projects, I tend to talk about them less because I guess I don’t want to reveal how the sausage is made before it’s presented. When I push a story out into the world, I want the story to stand on its own — I don’t think the audience should have any thoughts on the author and the trouble or decisions he made to have the story turn out the way it did.

Right now, I’m working on “A Stable Love” and having a lot of fun with it. The characters are surprising me, and that presents new challenges for me to think about, and the writing has been relatively smooth as I march towards its conclusion. I was having a lot of trouble with the first part, which I thought I needed for set-up, to establish the characters and the central issue, but when I got rid of it and moved the beginning of the story ahead, the world just opened up and things became a lot easier. I’ve shown the customer what I have so far and received an enthusiastic response, so that’s incredibly encouraging.

I’m working on another story for MegaMorphics, an old-style APA, and its fall issue. I want my work appearing there to be a bit more polished and considered, which means working on it before the deadline! I have an idea for a Halloween story that I’m pretty excited about; I hammered down the idea with another contributor in hopes of a collaboration contribution — I work the story, he works the art. I’ve never written a story like this before (it’s horror), and I’m trying to do a few things that I’m not sure about. It’s exciting but difficult work, and I’m looking forward to how it will turn out.

After that, working on a story for People of Color Destroy Science Fiction that I’m really excited to tuck into, and the prize story for a very generous fellow who donated the most towards my Clarion Write-A-Thon during week 6. I’ve given both of those some thought, and I think when I actually sit down to write them, the work will come relatively easy.

This is a completely new experience for me. As much as I love writing, it’s always been extraordinarily difficult. I have perfectionist tendencies that have caused storms of anxiety, and that makes it hard to see anything but the mistakes. I’ve never been able to write shitty first drafts; I know writers who create such polished work right off the top of their head, and it’s impossible not to compare yourself against that. My character work is never where I want it to be, and when the characters actually begin to live and breathe and deviate from the plot it legitimately freaks me out. I have no idea how to handle that.

But that’s the state that I’ve always given lip service to wanting to go. Writing, for me, feels like being a conduit for something. When the ego drops away and I’m connected directly to the story, it feels like I’m possessed by something, transcribing an event as being dictated by someone “not me”. When a story is really flowing, it’s an out of body experience. And I know how crazy that sounds, but it’s true.

For the longest time, I’ve never trusted myself to tap into that. Knowing the history of mental illness within my family, and dealing with my personal experience there, I’ve been very afraid of indulging any tendencies that could exacerbate those issues. Does writing make me crazier? Is it likely that one day, when working on a particularly intense story, I could have some kind of schizophrenic break? My life unfolded the way it did because my mother did not have any semblance of reality, was paranoid, unable to take care of me. I couldn’t live with myself if I forced my husband and my friends to go through that.

I didn’t even realize I was having that thought before doing the work I’ve been doing in my Anxiety group class. And realizing that writing, mental illness and anxiety had coalesced into this huge mental knot is ultimately freeing. I’m more willing to take risks with it, just because the feeling I have when writing is worth it. And that means I’m more willing to make mistakes and learn from them. I no longer catastrophize the consequences; if I fail, I can come back from that. With my mental illness, I trust my medication, I trust my self-care process, I trust my behavioral therapy, and I trust my support network.

For the first time, being a writer isn’t some distant dream for me. It’s who I am, and it’s what I do. And I’m so very excited that I have an opportunity to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, that I get to be the person I’ve always wanted to be.

I have an idea for a serial story originally released on-line. It’ll be furry stories, sci-fi and modern fantasy, adult. Right now, I would love to write about 1500 words a week, release that part in certain places, then collect three or four parts into a chapter that’s released in a more polished form elsewhere. Once the story is finished (I’m thinking anywhere from 8 – 13 chapters per serial), hopefully I can polish it further, and release it as an ebook or self-published novel.

In order to work on this project, I’m launching a Patreon. Folks familiar with my furry work should know what to expect from the Jackalope Serial Company: stories about growth, personal and otherwise. When I’m ready to go live and work on the serials directly, I’ll post a link with more information. But for now, I just wanted it out there. I’m expecting to be ready to go with it by the beginning of November.

I’ve also reached out to a few friends about the Furry Mental Health podcast; the person I know with the best equipment and knowledge for it suggested that I present a proof of concept to him for six shows, with subject matter, segments outlined, all of that. It’s a solid recommendation, and I’m working on that. I would like to start recording THAT at the beginning of the new year, with episodes coming out in February or March.

So that’s my plan for the rest of the year. Full steam ahead on short stories, getting the Jackalope Serial Company off the ground, putting together a first season of the Furry Mental Health podcast. I’m incredibly excited about all of this, and I can’t wait to actually share finished stuff with you very soon.


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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 4

Writing 150We’re halfway through the Clarion Write-A-Thon, and I’ve been fairly remiss with hitting my goals consistently up until now. I’m up to 14,535 words now, 7K short of the 21,500 that I wanted to have by now. I’m still working on my second short story, but Civil Engineering should be done today or tomorrow. Still, what gives? Why am I having such consistently slow weeks?

There were a few personal things that made it difficult to be consistent with my writing practice. There are the social engagements, of course, but I can see those coming for the most part and plan around them. I think it mostly has to do with my preferred writing schedule and the incompatibility of that with my life right now.

I do my best work in the mornings, no question. I’ve always been a morning person; I love getting up early and getting a lot of stuff done before noon. If I were able to set my own schedule, it would probably look something like this — wake up at 5 AM, meditate, coffee, writing, exercise, shower, breakfast, writing, lunch, then light organizational stuff through the afternoon. Work would become more social through the afternoon, until the evening where I’d hang with friends and/or read. That’s the way I would live my life if I won the lottery.

Unfortunately, that just can’t happen. I work for a living; I wake up at 6 AM needing to be out the door by 7. I have to meditate, groom, prepare breakfast and lunch before that happens. If I play my cards just right, I have maybe 20 minutes to get some writing in. Work is…work; I take 30 minute lunches so I can go home earlier and try to beat the traffic, so getting some words in there isn’t really an option. And once I’m in there’s a laundry list of things to be done — cleaning the burrow, cooking dinner, getting some exercise in, and spending time with my beloved husband. I tend to start turning into a pumpkin at 9 PM; it gets more difficult to concentrate and my willpower is mostly spent.

That was before my ADHD diagnosis, though; with the medication and organizational skills I’ll learn in a six-week course, things might be a bit easier. That’ll take six weeks though, and the Write-A-Thon will be over by then. For now, it looks like I’ll be doing my best to wake up early, prepare for the day as efficiently as possible and get in as much writing as I can in the mornings.

My preferred writing time tends to work much better during the weekends, so I’m finding that I do the bulk of my writing then. It might be that once this is over I’ll focus on getting as much work done on the weekends as I can; writing every day just might not be possible for me, and the stress of trying to maintain that schedule would do more harm (as in, causes me stress) than good.

Anyway — for the next three weeks I’ll really need to step it up. The daily goal for the rest of the Write-A-Thon is around 1,700 words, and by gum I’ll get them by hook or by crook! With that kind of output, I should be able to finish “Civil Engineering” fairly quickly and move right into “A Stable Love”. I’ve been really itching to get started on my Beast (of the X-Men) fan-fiction as well, sketching out character profiles for Hank, his allies and rogue’s gallery, determining the themes and stories I’d really like to play with, seeing where the arc is going to go for the first “year” of “issues”.

So that’s my plan, folks — write my ass off through week 4, find a way to prioritize getting my words in over just about everything else in the time I have available. I’ve raised $380 for the Clarion Workshop so far; thanks so much to the ten people who have donated so far. You are amazing, and I really do appreciate your generosity!

My goal for this week is to write 12,000 words; that’ll put me up to 26,500 by this time next week. I would love to have $450 raised for the Clarion Workshop by next Monday as well. “Civil Engineering” will be done with a quick editing pass being done, “A Stable Love” will be much closer to finished, and I’ll be doing the preliminary work on Beast: Wild Genius.

To all of my friends coming back from Anthro-Con 2015, welcome back to the real world! I hope the convention was as amazing as it sounded on Twitter and there’s no con crud this year. Fellow writers, what projects are you working on this week? I’m always curious about how others manage to juggle their writing practice with the rest of their lives. Any pointers for me?

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing


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The Clarion Write-A-Thon, Week 3

Writing 150Two weeks of the Clarion Write-A-Thon are in the books — we’re one-third of the way there! So far, I’ve written 10,773 words (an average of 770 per day), raised $295 in donations and finished one short story! Feedback Loop has been completed, though I didn’t submit it in time for consideration in Defying Doomsday — the deadline was listed in Australian time, so I screwed up my calendar. I’m disappointed, of course, but it’s a valuable lesson to learn for future submissions. Check and double-check your deadline, and if at all possible, make sure you’re early.

There’s a good story lurking within the first draft of “Feedback Loop”; it’s an epistolary short story in the form of journal entries, chronicling an inner-city college student’s journey through depression, school, family issues and the end of the world. The writing could stand to be a bit more subtle and a bit more tight, and the chronology of events could use some reconfiguring, but this is the first short story in a long time that I’ve finished and been interested in editing. I’m excited to polish it off (after the Write-A-Thon, I think) and show it to my writing group!

I didn’t make my word count goal (14,000 by today), but I came fairly close. This week’s goal is a flat 1,500 words per day so by next Monday I’ll should have 21,500 total. It’s ambitious, sure, but I think I can make it! My fundraising goal for week 3 is to have $400 in pledges and donations. If you’re interested in helping me reach that, good news! You totally can, and I would be ever so grateful. Just go to my writer’s profile page at the Clarion Write-A-Thon website to make a donation. Just 1/10 of a cent per word (or $.001) from two people will get me there!

This week I’m working on my MegaMorphics story. Unfortunately that means I won’t be able to show it around until later this year, but I have to say I’m excited about this one too. It’s about a coyote who survives a bio-terror attack that leaves him completely unable to re-assert himself into normal society; most people exposed to the agent die immediately or slowly over a matter of weeks, but around 5% end up becoming something else. I’d like to say it’s a study on how tragedy shapes and isolates us from others, and there may be bits of that in there. But mostly it’s an excuse to introduce giants into a society that is in no way prepared to deal with them.

Once “Civil Engineering” is finished, I’ll move on to “A Stable Love” (another giant-oriented story) and start working on a few other projects that shall remain nameless and vague for now. Of course, this blog will be updated on Wednesday and Friday with personal observations and story snippets featuring whatever topic interests me.

My blog entry on “FurAffinity and the Realities of Capitalism” was edited and reposted over on [adjective][species], an incredible website that features personal and critical essays about the fandom. There’s a lively discussion going on there about the nature of advertising on community sites that’s intelligent, respectful and interesting. I highly recommend going there to check it out and reading a few other entries there as well!

One last plug: the Clarion Workshop has raised $4,275 of their $15,000 goal for the Write-A-Thon so far. Donating through my author’s page not only encourages me to push on to make my word count, but it also helps some truly great writers have unique instructions and form lasting connections with colleagues within the SF/F industry who have invested in helping to shape the next generation of greats coming up. If you have any coin to spare and you want to help guide the future of the genre, please donate!

OK, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for your time, interest and donations so far all. You’re the best! What are YOU planning to work on this week?

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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Book Review: The End is Nigh

Reading 150The End is Nigh (The Apocalypse Triptych, Book 1)
Edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey

My love of all things apocalyptic doesn’t know many bounds; chances are, if there’s the whiff of the end of days surrounding a project, I’ll at least have to give it a look. This has lead me astray in a few cases, especially once we got more and more apocalyptic projects off the ground (I’m looking at you, Revolution), but generally there’s always something worthwhile in apocalyptic work. Either we’re looking at the breakdown of society, revealing our relationship with it through that deconstruction; or we’re uncovering something surprising about us as people as traits emerge free from the binding of societal expectation. Really great apocalyptic fiction strips down complications to get to something fundamental, essential; they tell us what lies underneath all of us when you clear away everything that puts us into the positions we’re in.

When I heard about the Apocalypse Triptych, I was really excited. Not only do we get a great set of stories about a host of different apocalyptic scenarios, but we get a bunch of authors taking the scenario three each phase of the end: the tipping point where a problem spirals out of control; the point where civilization loses its fight against this threat; and what happens afterward, when the dust has settled and the survivors look out over an unrecognizable world. The triptych collection contains a collection of triptych stories, which I certainly haven’t seen done before.

The End is Nigh is the first collection in the series, focusing on the discovery of the threat to civilization. The threats range from the relatively common, like the impending asteroid in Jake Kerr’s “Wedding Day” or the disease apocalypse of “Removal Order” by Tananarive Due, to the truly weird — like the mass suicide depicted in “BRING HER TO ME” by Ben H. Winters or the slow but steady removal of our atmosphere in “Houses Without Air” by Megan Arkenberg. But whatever the cause of our demise, each of the 22 stories brings something new to the end. None of the stories ever feel like a retread of something we’ve seen before, even when dealing with well-worn tropes in the apocalyptic sub-genre.

Take “Wedding Day” for example. Kerr centers the tale around a couple who want nothing more than to get married before the asteroid hits, even though it might mean one person might have to give up her ticket to have a fighting chance in a shelter. The already-engrossing story edges towards the political, as the couple in question are lesbians who are caught in a sort of legal twilight that never had time to get sorted. It’s heartbreaking to see these two stuck where they are, all forward momentum stopped by society crumbling around them. Had they been married, one ticket would have saved both of them or some other arrangement could have been made. As it stands, the nature of their relationship makes things exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.

In the bio-apocalypse of “Removal Order,” Due’s protagonist is a young black girl who’s trying to take care of her cancer-stricken grandmother as the medical system falters under the strain of an epidemic ravaging the neighborhood. So often we see these apocalypses through the eyes of people in positions of power who are either able to fight the inevitable or connected enough to escape it. Due’s tale reminds us of all the people who are screaming and dying in the background, those who don’t necessarily have a chance. It’s fascinating to see the familiar landscape of medical disintegration through those eyes.

The diversity of the protagonists aren’t all outright political; in “Spores” by Seanan MacGuire, the same-sex relationship is treated as normal, almost incidental, and the focus is instead on our hero’s struggle to deal with her obsessive-compulsive disorder during the first bloom of a killer that will quickly spiral out of control. Ken Liu’s “The Gods Will Not Be Chained” features an Asian family struggling to deal with the death of their father, and “Heaven is a Place on Planet X” by Desirina Boskovich sees the end through the eyes of a woman in a place of power over others, but still helpless in the face of what’s coming.

Even zombies get an intriguing twist. In “Agent Unknown” by David Wellington, a member of the CDC tracks down the spread of an illness that seems to make its victims hyper-violent, mindless killers. The answer to the riddle is effectively chilling, and sets the table for the inevitability of the fall of mankind. Almost every story here is a winner, particularly if you’re read a lot of apocalyptic fiction; either the cause of the end is scene through eyes that make it new again, or the mechanism for the destruction is so strange you have to wonder how they were even thought of.

The result is a collection of stories that are consistently surprising, engaging and tense. Some of them are clearly setting up for a continuation of the story in later volumes, so they don’t so much end as stop — “The Fifth Day of Deer Camp” in particular feels like an incomplete story, while “BRING HER TO ME” ends in a place that makes you impatient to continue the tale. “Break! Break! Break!” by Charlie Jane Anders is strange and full of energy, but by the time the story ends you’re left wondering if it even counts as pre-apocalyptic at all. These are all definitely worth reading, but it’s clear the structure has suffered in the attempt to break up the tale into three distinct parts.

Even still, the creativity on display in The End is Nigh is well worth the price of admission; I’m really looking forward to seeing how these stories continue and discussing the best, most frightening scenarios with people. If you’re looking for a mix of end-of-the-world stories that are challenging, involving and decidedly left-of-center, then this is the collection for you.

Interested in buying The End is Nigh? Go to the homepage for John Joseph Adams to get it in trade paperback or a variety of e-book formats!

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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Novels, Reading, Reviews


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Pinpoint: Clarion Write-a-Thon, Week 3

Writing 150The Clarion Write-a-Thon is a little over halfway done, and I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I’ve hit my $500 fundraising goal! Thank you SO much to everyone who’s donated amounts small and large. I am beyond appreciative for your consideration and generosity. I know that there are any number of causes and fundraisers to donate to — from friends who are trying to do cool things to actual charities working to make the world a better place in variety of ways. It really means a lot to me that you’d look my way and kick in a bit of cash.

I’m currently at the top of the leaderboard, which means that there’s an excellent shot one of my short stories will receive a critique from a Clarion alum or associate! I’m thinking that “The End of Belle Avenue” will be the story I submit — it’s nowhere near ready, but once I’m done with my 50,000 words I’ll go back and edit the stories that I’ve completed. I think I have a fairly good handle on what I want it to be, so shaping it in the second draft should be possible.

The bad news is that my current word count is about 15,000 at this halfway point, which means I’m 10,000 words behind where I should be. This means I’ll really need to step it up for the next three weeks, writing roughly 2,060 words a day until August 2nd to make sure I hit my mark. It’ll be a challenge, but I’m really keen on making this work. I have 17 writing days until the end of the Write-a-Thon (I’d like to think that I’ll get some work done when I visit Ryan at the end of July, but who am I kidding?), and each one of them will need to be quite productive. There’s no more room for error.

This means, of course, that I will need to reconfigure my life for the next month or so to be significantly more writing-oriented than ever before. The past few weeks have seen me making really good progress on this front, but now I’m going to have to knuckle down and really put the old nose to the grindstone.

Currently I’m writing a couple of short stories that I hope to have done in the next day or two: a rather fluffy little story that’ll go up on SoFurry and Weasyl when it’s done called “Too Much Universe” (it features a fair bit of growth) and another one that will be published in the APA for its Summer 2014 issue called “SEA Change”. After that, I’ll try to work on two more short stories at once — the commissioned story that a friend has asked for several months ago and a werewolf story that’s been percolating in the back of my head for some time. There’s no shortage of ideas; just the lack of patience with my current level of writing ability in bringing those ideas to life properly.

I’ll try to be better about scattering excerpts from my projects here and elsewhere through the next few weeks so you’ll have a better idea of what I’m working on. Of course, it’s not too late to donate for the Clarion Write-a-Thon if you’re so inclined! Please visit my author’s page here and feel free to pledge .001 of a cent per word ($50 if I hit 50K) or simply donate what you can. Every little bit helps, and I really appreciate anything you can spare! Even though I’ve hit my personal goal, the Write-a-Thon’s goal of $20,000 is a long way off. I’d like to help them get closer in any way I can!

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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Writing


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Hey Furries, Meet Sci-Fi/Fantasy!

Fandom 150Further Confusion 2014 is in the record books now, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you it was a hell of a convention. There were nearly 3,600 attendees this year, and it felt like there was an unending parade of things to do, people to see and places to be. I had a tremendously fun time hanging out with new friends and old, getting to know quite a few people better, catching up with folks that I had fallen out of touch with, and learning more about the creative process. I really couldn’t have asked for a better con.

I was on a few panels over the course of the convention, and pimped out this blog at the end of most of them. So, if you’re new to the Writing Desk — welcome! I really appreciate you taking the time to check out my cozy little corner of the Internet. I’ll be talking about writing, storytelling, spirituality and personal development, movies and fiction here. Feel free to drop a comment if you see something you like and/or disagree with!

One of the panels I was on over the weekend was “Furry vs. the Mainstream,” which talked about what the fandom has to offer the broader sci-fi/fantasy community, how we got to be a bit estranged from it in the first place, and why the time is right to make a push for our place at the table. The fandom at its best is a wonderfully inclusive community with a broad range of voices, experiences and viewpoints. We’re just the type of fresh blood the SF/F community needs if it’s going to adapt to the times and thrive.

That being said, I do think it’s important we gain a better understanding of the people who make up the SF/F community and what they think. One way we can do that is by taking a look at the things that are popular in the genre right now. Who are winning the awards? Who regularly pops up as a guest of honor at conventions large and small? What sort of themes and settings are people talking about? What are the similarities and differences between the ideas that are being played with by the SF/F community and the furry community?

We should think about this so that we understand the situation we’re stepping into. That way, we can put our best foot forward as a group and work to repair years of bad publicity, stereotypes and assumptions. We should be prepared to answer pointed questions and talk about uncomfortable subjects. We should think of ourselves as diplomats from a misunderstood and exciting country. We should be proud to be who we are, and come from where we do. But we must also understand the objections other people might have, and be patient while we work them out. It may not be easy all the time, but it IS worth doing.

I promised some of the attendees of the panel that I would recommend a few short stories and websites so they could take a look at the broader community. Feel free to recommend your own resources in the comments!

io9 — This is the sci-fi/fantasy geek arm of the Gawker sites, and while your mileage may vary with the coverage and community there I’ve found it to be surprisingly smart and engaging. People can be snarky, but overall the editors of the site do a great job of signal-boosting both corporate and fan-made creations. Best of all, they regularly pay attention to the written word, sharing and broadcasting exciting novels and short stories from the genre.

Apex Magazine — A periodical featuring short stories and essays covering science-fiction, fantasy and horror. Great, wonderfully lyrical stories and essays that broach interesting topics I’ve never thought about abound here. Two authors with roots in the fandom have even been featured here — Tim Susman’s “Erzulie Dantor” was featured in the November 2012 issue and “Jackalope Wives” from Ursula Vernon was published in the January 2014 issue.

Tor Blog — A long-standing genre imprint that has published all manner of major names, Tor has a fantastic online community and blog that features posts from thoughtful writers and publishes short stories and novel excerpts that have been curated by the editors. It’s so easy to get lost here, and the variety is astonishing. You’re bound to find something you like, even if you have to do a little digging.

“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby — Most people remember The Twilight Zone episode that came afterward, but the original short story from Jerome Bixby is a perfect little gem of strangeness and horror. Straightforward prose is peppered with evocative, descriptive language that heightens the mood wonderfully. One of my absolute favorites.

“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu — This is the first work of any length to sweep the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. It’s a wonderful modern-fantasy story that comes from the distinct experience of a Chinese-American person. “Mono no Aware” is also a great short story, marking Ken Liu as a powerful voice in the genre.

“Life in the Anthropocene” by Paul Di Filippo — A broader sci-fi short story that features a furry supporting character, this was the story I had talked about during the panel. It tells of a vastly different Earth than the one we’re used to, where humanity has moved to mega-cities at the poles of the planet post-ecocide. I wasn’t able to find it free online, I’m afraid, but the Kindle copy is only a dollar.

WorldCon — These guys put together the biggest science-fiction convention in the world, moving it from site to site (the upcoming one in August 2014 will be based in London) and its membership votes for the Hugo Awards. Even if you can’t show up to the convention, membership will help you keep your finger on the pulse of the science-fiction community.

DragonCon — These are the big dogs on the fantasy side of the coin, they cover everything from literature to costuming and every type of game you can imagine. The convention will be held in Atlanta this year, at the end of August. Even if you can’t go, browsing the site will give you a number of ideas about who the moves and shakers of the fantasy/geek scene might be.

I’ll reiterate what I said at the convention — these are all just jumping on points, and it’s quite easy to follow trails to get yourself more invested in the sci-fi/fantasy community. Just grab on to what interests you and follow where it leads. Be patient with stories, discover things that you really get excited by and see what’s related. Talk about these with your friends, and apply those things to your own creative, furry-specific endeavors. Cross-pollination not only benefits the bigger community, but ourselves as well!

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Furries, Pop Culture, Reading, Writing


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January 2013 Goals: How Did I Do?

At the beginning of this month, I set a pretty ambitious set of goals for myself. I had planned to write or rewrite five short stories — two stories for friends to try out a commission scheme I had dreamed up, and a rewrite of three ‘fluff’ short stories that I felt I could do better with. That roughly equated to about 22,000 words or so, give or take a few.

There were a number of obstacles staring me down that I had acknowledged but thought would be easy to overcome. Further Confusion 2013 would be taking up a considerable chunk of time, but I vowed that I could find time somewhere during the convention to write. We would also have company staying in the Burrow before and after the con, but I didn’t think it would impact my ability to bang out a thousand words every day. We were also returning to work from the holidays, and who knows what would lie in store for us there?

Well, it turns out that confidence is great, but following through with action is much more difficult. Further Confusion took more than a week out of my writing time — even though I took my laptop with me to the convention every day, there really wasn’t much writing to be done. Not when there were so many people to see and so many things to do! I also thoroughly enjoyed the company we had the honor of hosting, and retreating to a quiet part of the Burrow to do something as anti-social as writing was much harder than I thought.

I returned to a very busy work environment that took a lot of my attention, and dear Ryan took ill for about a week after the con. It took us another week to settle down into our routine, and by then — well, January was almost over.

Out of the five short stories I had planned to have finished by the end of the month, I’ve only completed one. The rewrite of “The Big Game — Chapter 1” is put to bed, and I’m still working on Rask’s short story, “The Tough Fit”. It’s nowhere near completed, though. I hope to have it sewn up in a week’s time.

So I can only count this month as an unqualified failure, writing-wise. And what did I learn from that failure? Well, I learned that being ambitious is good, but being realistic is better. I definitely should have given myself an easier workload leading into Further Confusion, and abandoned all plans to get anything significant done. If I found a spot to work on a story? Great, but it would have been optional instead of ‘mandatory’. I’ll try to be more aware of such things in the future, and plan more accordingly.

Also, it might be nice to find alternatives to the laptop for writing — something a bit more portable and convenient. I do have an iPad, but without a keyboard or 3G connection, so I’m not sure how workable that is. A notebook is probably my best bet, but I’d need to get into the habit of writing longhand. My hand cramps just thinking about it at this point!

In a couple of days, I’ll submit my plan for February. But in the meantime, I have to apologize to the folks who were expecting stories out of me a lot sooner! I’m still learning as I go, and I have to ask for the indulgence of your patience a bit longer.

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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Self-Reflection, Writing


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Literary Television Episodes

When I first discovered the Internet, one of the things that I immediately took to was the many different ways you could use it to disseminate information. Stuff like Wikipedia is great, and the fact that I could theoretically find out how to make just about anything by looking it up is stupendously awesome. If you’re interested about the basics of woodworking, or the finer points of baking, or studying mythology in different ways, there’s a place on the internet for you. If you learn by reading, or watching, or discussing, then you can find an article, video or community that suits your needs. It’s truly awesome.

It didn’t take me long to find that you could play around with how stories are told as well. Back when LOST was first airing, there was an alternate-reality game centered around the passenger manifest of Oceanic Flight 815. It was absolutely engrossing, a way to bring you deeper into the world in a way a TV show never could. LOST was one of the very first television shows to bring in the interactive element, and I can tell you now it was one of the reasons I became so terribly addicted to that show. To this day, I’ll go to the mat to defend it — mainly because the story it told took advantage of new technologies to push my buttons so, so well.

The internet has changed how we take in information and stories quite a bit — at least, for those of us who spend a good chunk of our lives here. Alternate-reality games are all over the place, and it’s almost expected for a TV show or movie with any sort of geek interest to have an interactive element. Even for those of us who are primarily writers, the Internet offers us a great opportunity to stretch the form of storytelling in ways we never would have thought about before.

One of my favorite things about this isn’t anything quite as out-there as ARGs or blogs and websites that blur the line between fiction and reality. (Though those are almost always really interesting.) The thing that really gets me excited about online publishing is the rise of serialized fiction, and how feasible, even easy, it is to get stuff like that out there.

I confess that serialized, episodic storytelling is one of my favorite forms. It’s something that’s been played around with in the sci-fi/fantasy genre for a little while now, but I don’t think it really hit the big time until LOST came around. Tying character journeys around a big, over-arching mystery that takes years to complete is a fascinating process, and it’s something that people have taken and run with to create some truly great fiction. There’s The Sopranos (heck, just about anything on HBO), Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield. Each season is treated like a novel, with episodes comprising chapters in that novel. There’s an arc and a theme for each one, and the premise of the show turns a little bit (or a lot, depending) at the end of every season. You get invested in the journey of these characters over the long-term, and there’s enough growth from year to year that it doesn’t feel like anyone’s treading water. That is, if you do it right. It’s complicated and difficult, holding that many moving parts all at once, but when you pull it off there’s nothing better.

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time now is take that format and apply it to short stories or small novels. You come up with a setting or a group of characters, you plot out a ‘season’ of stories to tell with them, and you release them one a week at the same time and place. I even have two or three scenarios where that would work fairly well, and I’ve arced out some character arcs that might actually do. The only trouble is, of course, that I have a devil of a time finishing anything I start.

But that’s an entry for a different time. For now, I’d like to ask you guys if you’ve found anything like what I’m talking about — a great story that’s been broken up into different episodes, like a television show. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them around, but I’m curious what other people have found out there. Share, share!

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Television, Writing


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Writing Projects, All in a Line

It’s been just over a week since Clarion’s ended, and since then I’ve taken a small break from writing quite so intently. What’s surprising is that my writing hasn’t slowed down much at all — I’m still averaging about a thousand words a day — but that productivity is suffusing through a number of different projects.

I run a Pathfinder game once or twice a month, and we’re currently going through a small dry spell where there won’t be a game for a while. I’m taking the opportunity to get my ducks in order. We’re coming up to the end of the first big arc, and I want to make sure that major questions are answered in a satisfactory way, a new status quo is settling in so that my players know what they’re working with, and when the first arc is over everyone’s demonstrably grown while there are any number of obvious ways they can progress further. It’s all the structure and plotting concerns of, say, episodic television, but with characters you don’t control.

I’ve played under several good Game Masters, enough to know the benchmark I’m trying to hit. And I have to say, it’s really hard. In a really excellent role-playing game you want a little bit of wish fulfillment for your players, an engaging and entertaining plot, and a surprising, twisty mystery that keeps your players guessing. It’s really hard to nail all three, and when it’s done well it feels like your GM has performed an excellent magic trick that extends for weeks and months.

Some folks are naturally gifted at telling that kind of story. I’m not sure if it’s my inexperience or my inclination, but I’m finding myself struggling with the juggling act. I tend towards being heavy on the plot, which I’m sure is enjoyable, but I constantly worry about making sure the players have enough room to explore what’s interesting about their characters. What happens if people are interested in something entirely different that leads them away from the plot? I’ve never been good at that, but I’m learning.

With that taking up most of my organizational and creative energy, I’ve sunk most of my fiction-writing time into simple stories that will (hopefully) provide a thrill to a few friends. They’re going slowly because I want to make sure I’m using a consistent mood through the story (which is only five to eight thousand words) and that every part of the scene is interesting in its own way. It’s hard to write with confidence, and that timidity shows. Hopefully my friends don’t mind being guinea pigs for a while as I search for a voice that I’m comfortable and confident with.

This year I’ve been trying to focus on getting stuff done and out there, regardless of whether or not it’s good. I’m hyper-sensitive to feedback because I want to be great already, past this whole stage of fumbling for it without any idea of how to achieve it. I like to think that I have such trouble writing because I have such excellent taste in stories; I know when something is done exceedingly well and I want to do that. Never mind that I don’t have the tools or experience yet to get it done. Let me be great now!

But for now I’ll have to settle for being productive now, great later. I have a lot of mistakes to make and learn from, and many of them will come from my role-playing game and my stories.

What about you guys? What are you working on? What writing mistakes have you made lately? This is a judgement-free zone, so feel free to be honest! I won’t tell.

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Posted by on August 15, 2012 in Writing


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