In the last few weeks I have had a series of disasters. I managed to break to cars in the same week I got a $46 paycheck! I also came unbelievable close to losing something very important, my novel.
I let my husband borrow my lap top for a few days to work from home during a snow storm. The lap top was also doing a major hardware update. In the middle of this update he called to me from the other room. The screen had frozen. The machine wouldn’t do anything, not even turn off. I began to panic.
Not only do I use this computer for work, but all of novels and stories are saved on it. In the first second of panic I realized that my latest work, one new novel, one edited novel, and my updated encyclopedia, were not backed up! I was terrified that al of this work was gone.
Thankfully I was able to get the computer working again. The first thing I did was e-mail my work to myself. I will never again forget to back up my stories, they are too important to lose.
Let my story serve as a reminder to you. No matter what way you choose to do it. Whether you use e-mail, a flash drive, google drive, a hard copy, anything. DO NOT FORGET TO BACK UP YOUR WORK. I was lucky, but not everyone is, and I know no one wants to lose their stories.
From The Koh-i-Noor Diamond website
While doing research for my new WIP, I met a King, a Shah, who crossed desert and mountains from Afghanistan into India and across India to Delhi where he sacked and raided Moghul treasure valued at over $500 billion. That's in today's dollars, but it was no less valuable then, in the 1730's. One of the most impressive pieces in this hoard was the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond the world has ever seen. In spite of it's beauty, it is coated in curses and war. There are tens of thousands of hits on the internet for the diamond, which is over 105 karats, and is housed in the Tower of London, where it sits atop the crown of the Queen of England.
There are many stories about how the Koh-i-Noor (alone or with other treasure) made its way from the stolen Moghul treasure to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eventually to England. There is some agreement among scholars and writers that in about 1740, Nadir Shah brought an intimidating army of Abdali Clan soldiers into India, sacking Delhi and taking every gem and rupee he could carry in a vast caravan back across the Hindu Kush to his kingdom. One of his guards and family members, Ahmed Shah Durrani, is reported to have murdured Nadir Shah in his sleep, and grabbed the Koh-i-Noor for himself. Meanwhile, armies from Persia were approaching, so Ahmed Shah supposedly had his men bury the treasure somewhere between Bimyan Valley and Kandahar, maybe in caves, maybe underground. It is said that every man who assisted was murdured, and others say that they were paid to remain behind, to guard the treasure. There are not many actual details; the clues that have been found are scattered, vague, and coded. Durrani himself eventually became King in Afghanistan, united the provinces into the country we recognize today. Unfortunately, the curse of the Koh-i-Noor hit Ahmed Shah hard, and he died an excruciating death from cancer of the face.
Since that time, many people, including members of Al Queda and the British government, Russian archeologists, and many Afghans, have searched for the buried treasure. The Koh-i-Noor eventually made it's way, through treaty, gift, and war, back to India where the British Army confiscated it when they conquered the Punjab in 1849. The British had it recut several years later to a more brilliant design, shaving off several karats. In spite of it's incredible size and beauty, though, it has brought death and suffering to every man who has ever possessed it since Ahmed Shah Durrani. It is therefore worn only in the crown of the Queen or King's consort.
Fascinating history - the potential for an enormous treasure hunt - and a very rewarding adjunct to my WIP, this type of research is invigorating and brings history to life. My characters and their life stories feel more real for bringing history into my writing, and maybe I add to the intrigue and fame of this incredible piece of history. Research like this takes writers on a very personal voyage through time. As Bill and Ted once (or twice) showed us, history is fascinating when it's personal.
A Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry. It has 17 beats, 3 lines with 5 beats in the 1st and 3rd lines and 7 beats in the middle. It's the only type of poetry I have any success writing. They are quick and easy for anyone to dabble in, even me.
Here are a few examples on the Japanese Haiku.
Recently I reintroduced myself to two of my favorite genres of books, Memoir and historical fiction. Interestingly, though I love to read both of these genres, I haven’t been able to write in them.
I fell in love with historical fiction at an early age. I loved that the stories that I was reading could be real. Though the characters were fictional the times and places were not. At the time I loved the “Dear America” series. This allowed me to explore time periods that I didn’t know much about through characters who were my own age. I have always wanted to write in this genre, yet I never have. I think that the research aspect scares me. I wouldn’t want to get important historical details wrong, but I would also want to stay true to my characters. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, having read a lot of this type of book both through my work as a teacher and on my own. Maybe I will explore it again soon.
The other genre, Memoir, came to me more recently, but in somewhat the same way. Once again, I loved exploring real events and real people, only with memoir it is actually real. I find myself fascinated with stories of people’s experiences in events I’ve only heard about in the news. As for writing, this one is a little easier to explain. Thankfully my life is pretty boring! I haven’t lived through any event that would really interest readers. Maybe someday, when we are all famous writer, but for now I am content to read about the lives of others.
Choosing a genre to write in can be difficult. One of the best places to look can be your own bookshelf. Don’t be afraid to explore new things!
It’s a cold Super Bowl weekend, and I’m staying warm with a cup of coffee and chatting with my good friend Shannon Yseult. I met Shannon at a local write-in a few years ago, and we have traveled the road to publication together. Her story, Over-Extraction, is featured in the 518 Publishing Company LLC’s premier anthology, Dark & Bitter. The short story is a fast-paced alternate thriller, and a great read.
“Shannon, the fans of the 518 want to hear about the Dark & Bitter authors, and I’m glad you had time to be interviewed,” I said.
“I’m happy to do it. You know I always enjoy a cup of coffee, and chat about writing,” Shannon said.
“Excellent. How did you get into writing, and when did you realize you wanted to be an author?”
“When I was in third grade one of the librarians was encouraging us to write stories. Even at that age I was into mysteries like 'Nate the Great', so I wrote about 'The Mystery of Witch Island'. I don't remember the story that well, but I do remember being SUPREMELY proud of my final product. I read it, and reread it, to everyone who would sit down with me for five minutes.
Once I got my own computer in eighth grade, I realized that there was this thing called 'fanfiction' and I was all over that. I wrote myself into a number of series, and while the writing was terrible I enjoyed every second of it. By the end of high school I realized that I could write my own characters AND my own stories and started to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The first year I wrote and agonized over the perfect 1,779 words in a story about dragons, and never got any farther. Since then I've written something for NaNoWriMo each year and have successfully completed it a handful of times now.
Despite the trials and tribulations natural to a writer's life I've been interested in some form of writing since I learned to read. That proud moment of showing everyone my third grade book still sings in my heart as I continue my writer’s journey,” Shannon said.
“Wow, third grade. It was much later that I got interested in writing. Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?” I said.
“This has been changing quite a bit recently. At the moment Michael J. Sullivan with his series Riyria Revelations is at the top of my list. Patrick Rothfuss and his book 'The Name of the Wind' is a close second. 'The Mote in God's Eye' is also a huge favorite of mine, and I can't see it leaving my favorites list ever. If you're looking for a less well known then I highly recommend Wen Spencer, particularly her book 'Tinker',” Shannon said.
“I’ve read ‘The Name of the Wind.’ It was excellent. I’ll have to check out the others. I’m always looking for the next best read. What genre/genres do you write?”
“Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and YA. It sounds weird when listing them all in a row, particularly ending with YA. The natural follow up question is why, and the irony of the simple answer isn't lost on me; I'm a complicated person. My ideas don't fit into a single genre mold, and I don't force them into one. I take the idea and test drive it in different genres in my mind before choosing the one that I think will give the best story and go from there,” Shannon said.
“I’m with you about writing different genres. Crossing boundaries and not staying in a small box is paramount to a well-rounded person. How would you describe your daily writing routine?” I said.
“The most consistent part of it is going to writers group on Sunday's at Denny's. Being around so many fellow writer friends is an inspirational pleasure. Right now I'm in the thralls of editing the novel I wrote in November 2017 for NaNoWriMo (another consistent part of my writing life). So I'm taking each week to focus on a different part of the story (plot, character, etc). Next I'll put together a game plan for fixing the story and then I'll go about editing it. Basically, I'm doing a daily editing routine right now, but I'll get back to writing for NaNoWriMo 2018!” Shannon said.
“Yes, staying connecting with the writing community is important to any author. Friendships are formed, and are a support system through the many trials in life. What is your writing Kryptonite?”
“Reading a good story! Also if I'm writing along and know that something is fundamentally wrong with the story. If I have a good outline this doesn't happen as much, but for those times I'm pantsing it's like throwing on the emergency breaks,” Shannon said.
“I hear you. A good story is definitely a distraction. Where do you get your ideas?” I said.
“All over the place!
Sometimes I'm reading about a new scientific discovery and think 'what if'.
Sometimes I'm talking about a specific genre/writing style/etc, realize that I haven't written anything in that format, and challenge myself to do so.
Sometimes I use a random word generator, or random plot generator, or random religion generator, until the sparks of ideas colliding take over.”
“Generators are great. Many writers use them to inspire when the ideas dry up. How long did it take you to write the story 'Over-Extraction'?” I said.
“It didn't take me long to write the first draft, once the ideas fly writing can be quick. However, the amount of time I spent editing it was quite a lot,” Shannon said.
“Yeah, editing can be long and sometimes painful. Well Shannon, I like to thank you for your time and I look forward to your next story.”
Please give us a short introduction to who you are and what you’ve published so far?
Hi, my name is Brian Black. I’m mainly a science-fiction/speculative fiction author, but I will write whatever subject, setting, or genre I think makes for a good story. To date, I’ve only published the short story “Alpha Mower”, but more are to come.
What was your inspiration for "Alpha Mower"?
Being woken up by my neighbor's lawn-mower at 7am one day. I covered my head with my pillow to try to drown out the sound, thinking to myself “Why does he have to mow his lawn now?!?” My next thought was that in the future we’re not going to mow our own lawns, we’ll have the lawn-mower equivalent of Roombas (which actually exist I found out later) to do this for us. Then I wondered what would happen if you put two of the Roombas in the same room. Would they fight over the territory? Cooperate? Get confused? I also remembered a study where robots who could learn learned to lie to each other (https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-08/evolving-robots-learn-lie-hide-resources-each-other). So, while all this is flying around in my head while I’m busy not sleeping, I asked myself what’d happen if you put two of those automated lawn-mowers on the same patch of lawn. Who would win? And then the title flashed into my head : The Alpha Mower would.
Do you do research before writing a book? How much, and how?
I probably should, and, for my first novel which is due to be set in Ancient Egypt, I will do some prior additional reading up on the subject. But, typically, I just aim to get the story down in the first draft and correct issues on subsequent drafts. If I find out that there’s a significant issue with some portion that constitutes a major issue in the story, I may end up needing to rework the plot. I’m early into my writing career, so, so far, that hasn’t happened yet.
I usually deal with any research during the process. For instance, in Alpha Mower, I had a vague notion of what weaponry the Protector mower should have. Originally, I wanted a straight laser. But on looking into the logistics of this, lasers with the capability to be used as weapons require HUGE power sources to be viable. So, I had to spend a day trying to find some alternative that could damage or even be a threat to the protagonist. I eventually settled on the Electro-Laser as I could visualize its use in the story and it was real-world viable.
How would you describe your daily writing routine?
I get up, turn up the thermostat, open the curtains, turn on music, and then make coffee. Coffee is my sanity; nothing happens before coffee! I then boot up my computer, open Firefox and Scrivener (my writing software which I highly recommend to any writers).
I had, for years, done Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” from her fantastic book “The Artist’s Way”. I used it for journaling, but, upon deciding to take up fiction writing again, realized it didn’t matter what specifically I wrote, so long as I did write. That then became the “tool” to address my writing.
I write first thing in the day, and the rest of the day follows after. Writing gets priority and I typically write at least 400 words before I’ll call it a day. I write more if I’m in the zone, or I really feel compelled that day, but, as long as I hit my word count, I can go into the rest of my day feeling productive.
Do you have any suggestions for those who are considering trying their hand at short stories?
When you get a funny fleeting idea for a story, write it down on a post-it note or in the notes app on your phone. It doesn’t have to be a big epic idea in order to be a good story. Let the idea run until it’s done. Not everything needs to be a 1000-page Stephen King novel. If the story is told well in 3 pages, so be it! If it takes 50, then it takes 50. Let the story itself dictate its length. You, the author, just have to be the one to carry it to the page. If you do this, the story will feel organic and won’t feel like there’s filler to the reader.
What are your most influential authors?
HP Lovecraft. Michael Moorcock, and Michael Crichton. And, I know this will polarize people, but Ayn Rand for the thoughtful component to her work, especially in "The Fountainhead".
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Definitely the "Elric of Melnibone" series by Michael Moorcock. It’s a very brisk read. Moorcock has a much more compact prose than say an author like Tolkien. It feels like what he’s writing has a “punch” to it, and it definitely dances on the concept of morality of the main character Elric, who’s often working, against his will, for the gods of evil. I love that!
Also, I should give a nod to the book "Villains by Necessity" by Eve Forward for a similar reason. The heroes have won and the whole world’s gone good. So, it’s up to a team of the last remaining rogues on the planet to revert the balance. It was a good turning-on-its-ear of the standard fantasy tropes.
What are your plans for future projects?
I’m nearly finished with dark fantasy tragic short story titled "The Lich King". I have another sci-fi piece titled "I Am President" on the first artificial intelligence president elected which had gained a lot of praise from the people who read and critiqued it. I had back-burnered it about 90 pages in, so I’ll probably get back to that once "The Lich King" is critiqued and edited. After that, I plan to begin a novel that I mentioned prior set in Ancient Egypt. And, beyond that? I have about 10 more short story ideas written down, so probably one or more of those. We’ll see!
Any last words, comments, suggestions?
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from any of my readers. I can be reached at BrianBlack@Trioptimum.com. Have a great one!
Image from Pixabay.com
Epics (also called Sagas) are (traditionally poetic) works of (oral or written) literature that recount the lives, adventures, history, and events of cultural heroes. Some examples of traditional Epics include John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Homer's tales of Achilles and Agamemnon (The Iliad and The Odyssey). They are traditionally built from oral tales, but there are also modern works that are considered Epics, such as Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Epics are found from Viking to Vedic cultures, in West Africa, Far East Asia, and the Near and Middle East, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the New World, there are tales such as La Araucana, that retells the conquering of Chile by the Conquistadors.
In a recent visit to the inspiring island of Iceland (spelled Island in Iceland), I went on an Epic tour. I was introduced to some of the Island's oldest manuscripts (9th century, written in the 11th century) and given a briefed about the conditions during which they were written. The heritage of the authors of Icelandic Epics are Nordic, culturally associated with the Vikings, and Celtic, associated with Great Britain. To this day, Icelanders carry a predominance of Nordic and Celtic genetic sequences.
In Iceland, Epic works of literature fall into categories, such Legendary and Chivalric Sagas. All of them, in the end, are histories of the early settlers and relate directly to the chieftains who came from Norway or sponsored their finest sailors, warriors, and traders to settle in their name. In the world of Sagas, Icelandic Sagas are a jewel; sparse but poetic, focusing on the families and conflicts of the early settlements. The content rushes the reader directly into the era, and brings us to the time and place succinctly but enthusiastically.
In Egil's Saga, from an 1893 translation into English by W. C. Green, we learn about the origin of the settling of Iceland and the battle between King Harold and Kveldulf, the Grandfather of one of the founding settlers of Iceland.
"Next spring king Harold went southwards along the coast with a fleet, and subdued firths and fells, and arranged for men of his own to rule them. Earl Hroald he set over the Firthfolk. King Harold was very careful, when he had gotten new peoples under his power, about barons and rich landowners, and all those whom he suspected of being at all likely to raise rebellion. Every such man he treated in one of two ways: he either made him become his liege-man, or go abroad; or (as a third choice) suffer yet harder conditions, some even losing life or limb. Harold claimed as his own through every district all patrimonies, and all land tilled or untilled, likewise all seas and freshwater lakes. All landowners were to be his tenants, as also all that worked in the forest, salt-burners, hunters and fishers by land and sea, all these owed him duty. But many fled abroad from this tyranny, and much waste land was then colonized far and wide, both eastwards in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and also the West lands, the Southern isles, Dublin in Ireland, Caithness in Scotland, and Shetland. And in that time Iceland was found."
In a few sentences, we can feel the tension between these powerful men and their families, and the awful misfortunes of war. We sympathize with their flight from that land, and their colonization of these new lands as refugees. In so doing, we are steered (as all good histories do) toward the winners of battles yet to come - these are the good guys. If there were people in the lands newly settled, they were in turn subdued, slaughtered, or forced to flee, but we hear nothing of their tale.
These Sagas, like the epic tales of Tolkien (based in part on the ancient Finnish rune singers) and Tolstoy, direct our sympathies to the side of the hero, and we, like those before us, are captivated by their struggle and their victory.
Iceland charmed me, and the Epics that I saw and heard there were fascinating, descriptive, and historic. They instructed me on the struggle to survive in a land where winds whip at Category 3 and the landscape is mere inches from being a 40,000 sq. mi. lava field. Survival, in this place, is, indeed, epic, but writing works that last centuries (even millennia), is beyond epic.
by Andy Lee
Reading books in a series has always been one of my favorite things. I enjoy returning to familiar characters and locations. Therefore, when it came time to write my own books, writing a series came naturally. However, once I began writing the second book I came across a dilemma. How to keep those characters and locations consistent across multiple books?
At first I simply looked back at the first book. Sometimes I did this right away, other times I left holes in the story with things like “Hair description here”. Then I went back later and input the description. This worked well for the sequel, after all there was only one book to look back at. But when I began the third book in the series I ran into a problem. With two files to look through and no idea where in those files the information was searching for something as simple as eye color could take hours. That just seemed silly. I needed a better way.
What I came up with was simple. I created a new file titled “Character and Place descriptions”. In it I copied all of the information from the first two books. This was time consuming but worth is. I now have a master file containing physical and personality descriptions of every character in my world. I also have maps and verbal descriptions of places. Now that the file exists it is easy to look back. And I add new things as I write them as well. I only wish I had thought of this sooner!
Recently a friend suggested to me that I use a wiki instead of this crazy file. This is something I hadn’t considered but I like the idea. While I haven’t explored the option fully I think it would be beneficial in that it is backed up online and easily accessible from anywhere. It is something that I will continue researching for the future.
My life is so much easier now that all of my character and setting information is in one place. I can rest easy knowing that I won’t confuse my readers, at least not with my descriptions!
Two years ago this month the idea of the 518 Publishing Company ignited a spark in the eyes of four women. During the process of creating the small press, we encountered a few struggles. First, getting everyone on the same page took a bit, though that wasn’t a big issue. All of us wanted the same thing, to help local writers realize a goal of seeing their words in print.
Secondly, and probably the biggest hurdle was setting up the LLC. Paperwork, filing, and taxes were just short of a nightmare. The formal LLC letter from the state didn’t come promptly. But after many calls and a good chase, we were finally legal.
Setting up financials was difficult and we had to be creative. With only a few dollars in the bank, the funds wouldn’t cover the cost to publish a book. We needed a professional editor and a book cover. The 518 is not a vanity press. We don’t expect an author to pay for editing and book covers. So what do we do? Kickstarter of course.
Many people use the crowdfunding tool to help fund an idea. Friends, family, and a few unknowns backed us. Dark & Bitter was published, and a few writers became first-time published authors.
And this is why we are here. Every Sunday local writers in the 518 meet at Denny’s to write. Some weeks there may be only a few, and other times as many as thirty. Last Sunday was the deadline to submit for 518’s next publication. A fellow writer felt our push, and they will be published in the upcoming anthology, Exploits of the Adirondacks. It feels good to know that one more person will see their name in print and become a published author.
Check out our ‘Submit to Us’ page. You could be next featured author in our third anthology.
I'm not one for resolutions. I personally find them to be to nebulous. "Lose weight. Write more. Spend less." They're fine aspirations, but what's the plan? How is this going to be achieved?
Good goals should have a defined end point. For example during National Novel Writing Month the goal is to write 50,000 words. An experienced goal setter will give themselves milestones before the end goal, and that's exactly what NaNo does, splitting up the goal into daily milestones which can be celebrated each and every day.
Good goals should have a time frame. In NaNo a writer is attempting to write those 50,000 words in one month. I find that choosing a time frame is the hardest, and most important, part of setting goals.
Successful goals include some social accountability. On the NaNo website your total word count so far is posted under your username on every post. Everyone on the site knows if you're ahead or behind and it can encourage writers to finish their words for the day before posting.
There is one more thing one can do to make goals more likely to be successful, but I don't even do this one.
Successful goals stake money on the outcome.
Our company goals for the year? (By posting them here we'll get some social accountability!)
1) Publish a new anthology before November 2018.
2) Attend one new marketing event a quarter.
What are your goals for the year?
As a writer, I spin tales to take the reader away from everyday life, if only for a few hours. However, becoming a published author and reaching readers is a struggle. Writers sit in front of laptops and tap away in hopes of creating the next great American novel. But what happens after the manuscript is written and edited?
It was a dilemma for a few of my fellow writers and me. One Sunday night at Denny’s we pondered the question. Sending query letters to publishers is nerve wrecking. It takes the stars to be aligned just right to connect and get a contract.
We knew there had to be another solution. Yes, self-publishing on Amazon is an option, but the writers at the Sunday Night Write In knew there had to be other alternatives. So in January, the idea of starting a publishing company for authors in the 518 was spawned.
The 518 Publishing Company, LLC has been created to help writers in the 518 to publication. We will make it happen.