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Category: Writing

System Shutdown

System Shutdown

January 1st

Dear Diary,

In an attempt to embrace change and personal growth, I’ve decided to challenge myself, and so my next project will be an edgy cyberpunk novel. This will allow me to plumb the darkest depths of cynicism, as well as the steep cliffs of optimism by which one must escape. Accordingly, I have delved into the technology of tomorrow, studying it while it is just a looming threat, and have also fixed on a number of social ills that I plan on putting front and center in my worldbuilding. I am virtually quivering with excitement! Virtually? Ha ha!

A book about a game about a genre.

In order to leaven the darkness with a touch of whimsy, I have decided to code-name this project Mirrorball. Though, now that I write it, this may be a bit retro-techno, with sinister undertones, and far too close to serve as a working title. I shall just have to learn to enjoy the subtle frisson this name evokes within me. Can you say “Hello, world!” Mirrorball? I knew you could!

And more good news! The realtor’s sign is gone from the house next door. I eagerly await the arrival of my new neighbors!

Techno-Inspiration: Google Time Crystals, of course!

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Treading Carefully

Treading Carefully

As soon as the bag was swept off of my head, I knew that I hadn’t been taken to Black Gate‘s legal department for a refresher in corporate espionage. Rather, I was in a clean, well-lit room, circular in shape and towering in height. Wide windows let in shafts of morning light, filtered through the vines and flowers that hung in streamers from planters at intervals, and trellises rising up the walls. I hadn’t suspected a place like this existed outside of the Editorial Spa, and found it to be a pleasant surprise.

The man who had removed my hood, however, shoved me backward as I got my bearings, and I fell unceremoniously into a massive beanbag just behind me. As I struggled to sit upright once more, a woman took a position across from me before a plush divan, and while her dusky Mediterranean skin contrasted with the sharp white of her suit, her cool gaze contrasted with literally every other emotional cue in the room. She sat.

“You’re not with Black Gate, are you?” I ventured.

“No, Mr. Starr. I’m with the Office of Regionally Generated Attitudes.”

The crew of the Starship Diversity is ready for adventure!

“Am I in some sort of trouble?” I was suddenly a lot less comfortable sprawled out in the beanbag, but all efforts to sit straight and match her bearing failed. I slumped back.

“Oh, no. Not yet. We are simply here to review the situation, before it gets out of hand.”

“The… situation?”

“Your current project. It’s a diversity issue, you see.”

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The Hidden Path

The Hidden Path

Once there was a young girl who lived in a large village surrounded by forests. Though these woods came right up to the village, and were of a pleasant nature, the villagers mostly ignored them. As the girl’s childhood progressed, she would venture further and further among these trees, until she had worn tracks through the nearby underbrush.

…she had established quite a maze…

It seemed to the girl that she knew the closest trees of the woods almost as well as she knew the homes and shops of the village. And so, as her childhood continued, she ventured farther and farther afield, continuing along the tracks she had worn in the forest floor until they faded from view, so new were they, and extending them into the unknown, or turning aside early, exploring some side way she had previously not thought to explore. And so, by the time she had become a young woman, she had established quite a maze of ways through those trees.

Of all the people in her village, only she bothered to follow those pathways, for the villagers, though kind, were uninterested in exploring the deeper regions of the woods, and quickly turned back as the shadows grew deep. Even if the young woman tried to guide them, she could never lead them very far before they turned back, all apologies. And so she walked the forest alone, always seeking new ways, always and extending her travels within the forest, trying to go beyond what was now known to her, as the lengthening pathways proved.

And thus it came as quite a surprise to the young woman to discover herself, after a period of meandering, having come upon a fairy circle. Though she had never seen such a thing before, the girl stepped forward at once, eager to enter the world of the fey.

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Writing Advice: Perfecting Your Plot (Red Sneaker Writers)

Writing Advice: Perfecting Your Plot (Red Sneaker Writers)

I started reading William Bernhardt’s Ben Kincaid books back in the mid-nineties. I seem to recall I went on a ‘lawyer’ kick and read him, Steve Martini, and Robert K. Tannenbaum. But years later, Bernhardt made a bigger impact on me with his Red Sneaker Writers series. These slim volumes with the brightly attractive covers, are jam-packed with great writing advice. The first book I read was on Story Structure, and I think it’s still my favorite. Though every one has been both interesting to read and thought-provoking. If I ever get my act together, I’ll add “taught me a lot.”

I’ve read through a couple of them more than once, making notes ( I CANNOT highlight a physical book. I’m incapable of it). Last year, I decided to be a little more systematic and I went through EVERY title, be it Theme, Dialogue, Character – all of them: and I outlined the key points in each chapter. I printed them all out and have a very cool binder. Which, if I ever actually sit down and write a novel, will be of great use.

I’ve read a lot of books on writing – fiction and screenplays. And I’ve come across a lot of useful ideas, suggestions, thoughts, and advice, from folks such as Lawrence Block, Tony Hillerman, William Martell, Syd Field, Robert Randisi, Chris Vogler (though I’m more apt to go to the original source material from Joseph Campbell), and James Scott Bell – to name a few without actually looking at my bookshelves. There are quite a few more, but my education would be incomplete without the Red Sneaker Writers books from Bernhardt. He writes in a clear, amusing, understandable, useful, manner. I can’t imagine not picking up at least something from each book. And I think you’re going to learn more than that.

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Feathers or Stones

Feathers or Stones

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content.

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Picking A Lane

Picking A Lane

The Human Resources Bunker for Black Gate is on sub-level 12, which is normally dank, dim, and mostly empty. But as it was Quarterly Reviews, the cargo elevators continued to disgorge people, making those of us already waiting on long benches between decorative columns pack in even tighter. As I waited, number in hand, I peered up past the moss-covered chandeliers and the ductwork of the air circulation system, to the massive murals painted onto the arching ceiling far overhead, framed in gold, showing scenes of the early days of Black Gate. But the lichen that had accumulated in the years since made the details hard to pick out.

Originally, the plans for the Human Resources Bunker were more modest.

The vents overhead dripped continuously, and I had begun to worry about possible rust stains on my already threadbare suit. So my trepidation was mixed with relief as I heard my number finally called over the loudspeakers, and I strode forward, to sit on the stool before the desk of my Human Resources representative, Salinger. He looked up from his case file with a professional smile.

“So, Mr. Starr! Hope you weren’t waiting more then a few hours!”

“Actually, I-”

“Great, great!” he continued, and I settled further onto a hard stool as he continued to scan reports on my quarterly output. At last he set it aside, and gave me an appraising look. “So, why don’t you tell me how you think your writing has been going?”

“Well, progress on my current novel has been steady-”

“Ah yes,” he said, as if I’d reminded him of a small annoyance that needed to be cleared up. “Let’s begin with that. I hear there’s a marketing issue…” He consulted reports, but I didn’t wait.

“Marketing issue?” I asked, and he gave a wordless grunt in the affirmative. “It’s not even finished yet!”

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Long and Winding

Long and Winding

January 1st

Dear Diary,
I have decided that my new writing project will be a classic swords and sorcery epic! To that end, I have reams of research on the particulars of many ancient and medieval weapons, and a few pages of notes outlining the magic of this new world. This is the extent of my preparation for this, as I want it to be spontaneous and fresh as I write it. No pesky outline for me this time! I’m going free solo. Au natural! With that in mind, I have decided on the working title of Beatbox, as I assume that performative style requires a certain degree of self confidence.

“Now that is one big book,” thinks an ancient ancestor.

As I write this, Dear Diary, a remarkable amount of work appears to be happening inside the house next door. Craftsmen of all sorts are moving about, finishing projects large and small, and a number of bureaucratic-types have been seen with a woman that I now assume to be the new owner. It is all a mystery, to be honest, and mysteries require methodical work habits to solve. That is not at all my current MO, Dear Diary, and so I will think no more on it!

Still, I have taken note of all the large cups and tiny plates being unpacked by inordinately handsome delivery men.

Theme Music: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss. The epic begins!

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New Writers Under Pressure

New Writers Under Pressure

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Good morning, Readers!

Floating around the Twitterverse yesterday was a long thread of new authors bemoaning all the extra stuff they’re expected to do — all of that extra work extraneous to their craft — that writers are expected to engage in if they have any hope of being successful with their publication.

It’s true. When I first started on this publishing quest oh, some [indistinct] years ago, my research revealed that I had a lot of things to do if I wanted to be successful. I had to be on several social media site. I had to belong to several writing groups. I had to blog. I had to do a book blog tour. I had to secure book reviews and interviews (but good luck getting either if you’re self-published or published by a small/micro press, and entirely unknown). I had to create a launch party. I had to create and maintain a newsletter. The list seemed endless and entirely overwhelming. I understand the dismay and frustration expressed on Twitter yesterday.

It’s valid. There is a lot of hidden work behind being a successful writer (unless you’re very, very lucky).

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Feedback Loop

Feedback Loop

January 1st

This diagram of a diamond molecule also shows the relationship of your characters to one another. Coincidence?

Dear Diary,

My newest writing project is ready to begin! I have chosen to try my hand at a classic mystery novel, which I will give the working title Alabaster. Welcome to existence, Alabaster! As a mystery requires, I have outlined the novel in its entirety, so I know which clues must go where, and so on. However, in order to temper the heavy-handed planning of my previous project, I have decided to seek out a critique group.

This was made far more simple by the fact that the local library has signed a long-term leased to the large and empty house next door, and has spent many weeks now stocking the spacious rooms with a representative sample of the world of literature, as well as a number of programs aimed at enriching the intellectual lives of the surrounding citizens. Lucky me! What more can a writer ask for than a critique group practically on their own doorstep? I watch their preparations from my writing room window each day.

Power Crystal: Diamond, for clarity and strength.

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The Grindstone

The Grindstone

January 1st

The view out one’s own window is often inspiring!

Dear Diary,
All of the prep work I did at the end of last year has paid off handsomely! My plan for today is to jump right into my new project, to which I have given the working title of Hedgerow. This will put me in the mindset of a gardener, tending to delicate sprouts, always mindful of the bounty to come. Hello, Hedgerow!

Also, the house next door has finally been occupied. After all the investigators and forensics teams, I feared that blackout curtains would become a permanent decorative feature in my writing room to hide me from the endless rounds of reporters. Thankfully, things quieted down soon enough, which was good, since I had no idea what any of them was talking about!

Spirit Animal: A featherless baby bird!

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