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?