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Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year Post: What This Writer Did for the Holidays

I was going to write a New Year’s resolutions post but I got too far behind in my other writing projects during the holidays. It would take a while to explain the resolutions I have planned for this New Year of 2015. I fell behind on several things including my most current short story I’ve been working on which was supposed to be completed, including revisions, by the last day of 2014. After that I would still have to distribute it to my critique group as my beta audience.

But I wanted to start the year with a new post so even though I’ll make this post short I’ll tell you what I did for the holidays. Christmas Eve day I worked on the above short story. I admit that I’m a slow writer. Not everybody writes at the same pace like not everyone walks or talks at the same pace. But that evening I went to a couple relatives’ houses to celebrate. Christmas Day, I went to church (Mass as us Catholics call it). In the evening I went to my aunt’s for dinner where we opened gifts. One of my gifts was a really nice key chain decorated with a transparent glass “egg” of a sort which contained an ocean floor scenery including a sea horse, really beautiful.

New Year’s Eve: generally, I don’t go to New Year’s Eve events. Too many people use the holiday for an excuse to get drunk and act stupid rather than stay in that holiday spirit of wishing people good and love for the new year. So I stayed home and watched SyFy Channel’s Twilight Zone marathon like I do every New Year’s.

A Roman numeral clock dial with fireworks in a black background.
Photo Credit:

The next day I was getting bored as hell even though I had said to myself that I was just going to kick it and continue watching the Twilight Zone marathon and do some reading. So around 3:30 I took off in my Chevy Classic (Malibu) and drove to Target to put some of my Christmas gift money to use. I bought a frame I had been meaning to get for some Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars concept art that I bought at a Star Wars convention back in May of last year. (The convention was May the Fourth Be With You, held in West Sacramento, California.) The scanner wouldn’t read my cheque so I ended up having to go back another day to pay in cash. I don’t use my card there due to that security breach they had a year ago. Then in the evening I went to my aunt’s house for dinner.

Oh, yeah! I think I said in the last post I would let you know which charity I decided to donate to as my holiday donation. I donated to the Toys for Tots Literacy program. I felt it was better to give to them directly than through an organization for reasons I won’t go into here. 

Other than the above, I just got plenty of reading and writing done, trying to catch up on both. I’ll have a post of my New Year’s resolutions next week.

Have a Happy New Year! And

Until next time . . . 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Greetings and Charities

A skull wearing a Santa Claus Hat.
Happy Hallow-Days, Every Body!

We’re only days away from Christmas and I haven’t even got all my cards out or shopping done. (Sound familiar?) Although I do have all my decorating done, including my Haunted Holiday Mansion scene. No doubt this is the busiest time of the year and you don’t have to be Santa Claus to feel it; I’ve been feeling the stress of it all week. Some of that stress is coming from trying to choose a charity to donate to for this holiday season.

I wrote to one nonprofit organisation based here in Sacramento about donating some comic books to its literacy program for kids. It’s called 916 Ink.  They have a big comic book writing workshop program there for the youth they serves. 916 Ink provides creative writing classes for these kids to help improve youth literacy. They even compile the kids’ writing into anthologies they publish and sell in which the proceeds go to the program.

Well I wrote to the program and offered to donate kid-friendly comics keeping in mind that kids learn best to write by reading (as well as writing itself, of course) and this includes comics. I believe I even told them this in the email. This was over a week ago. They never got back to me. I know they take monetary donations so I would be willing to give them that, I was just trying to give away some extra comics that I have.

Another nonprofit comic book organisation that’s taking donations is Reading With Pictures. However, I believe they’re only taking monetary donations. This organisation encourages schools to put comic books in their curriculum to make literacy fun for kids. Now I’m not saying that kids should be limited to reading picture based materials such as comic books. But comic books are still a part of literature and art even if they have been traditionally known to be simple in storytelling and illustration. They are a part of pop culture from which most of us first learned how to read and were introduced to art right up there with our parents reading bedtime stories to us.

I also considered donating to Galaxy Press’s holiday cause which is a book drive they are doing through Toys for Tots. Galaxy Press is the publisher that puts out The Writers and Artists of The Future annual anthology that collects the winning stories and illustrations from each year’s contest of the same name. They are taking monetary donations to give free copies of pulp science fiction writer Ron L. Hubbard’s books to disadvantaged youth to encourage them to read more. That’s a really great way to donate to a cause while educating youth on classic pulp fiction from an older era making it fun to read. The problem with their charity project is that they are only taking donations by credit card and so offer no options that I could see on their website for other forms of payment. And I may need to pay by cheque.

Also here in my home Sacramento, the Children’s ReceivingHome of Sacramento is taking both toy donations as well as monetary ones to purchase Christmas gifts for the kids they serve, who many of are from abusive parents and broken homes. The cause is called the Angel Fund. Another one here in town, called the Sacramento Children’s Home who serve the same kinds of kids, is also doing a similar drive.

I also thought I should announce the charitable cause of a fellow science fiction writer, Beth Revis, who writes the Across the Universe series of YA books. She’s doing a drive where if you purchase her book, The Body Electric, she will donate a percentage of the sales to World Vision which is an organisation that helps impoverished families of third world nations.

So as you can see, I have a list of charities to choose from to donate to so I’ll be busy doing that for the next day or two. I’ll let you know the one I choose in the next post. I just wanted to make it known that this holiday season isn’t about getting what we want; it’s not about impressing our loved ones with expensive gifts that we get at big discount prices; it’s not about us authors making sales on our books through holiday promotions, even though we do take advantage of the season for that. These things aren’t the core meaning of the holiday season. The core meaning of the holiday season is love which is demonstrated in giving to the ones we care about, and that includes our fellow human beings who are in need. If there’s no other time of year to show our care for the world’s societies then let the holiday season be that time to care and do what we can to help make the world a happier place.

Happy Hallow-Days!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Writing and the Interdependence of Character Building and World Building

I apologise for skipping last week’s blog post. I’ve been trying to post a minimum of once a week. But because last week was Thanksgiving it got really busy with the usual holiday stuff (including that stuff called stuffing): Family gatherings, festive meals, and long visits.

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I did, with the exception that my aunt’s black cat got into the pumpkin pie and ate a hole near the middle and down to the bottom of the pan making it into a pumpkin donut pie! And no, I don’t take that as proof that black cats are bad luck, nor is my aunt a witch (though she dressed as one at Halloween). But so what if she were? In fact, I think black cats are one of the nicest looking breeds on the planet and may adopt one myself one day.

A cartoon black cat stands on top of the number thirteen.

I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted to, as much as I love my parents staying over during holidays. It’s a little tougher to work on my projects when relatives are here since my flat isn’t very big and so most of my writing space is between the kitchen and the living room (the two bordering each other). And so I don’t have a separate room I write my stories in. So I had to rearrange my writing time. Each day, I would get up extra early by an hour or two before my parents normally get up which is between 8:30 and 9. Unlike most mornings when I would first meditate and then eat breakfast, I skipped those two (delaying them to a later part of the day) and got to work immediately.

During these early morning writing sessions I either worked on my novella (of which I’m still at the rough draft level) and a YA short horror story that I plan on including in my next fiction collection. I chose these two projects for that time slot because I work on my fiction best when I’m alone. My non-fiction and articles I can do easily enough with other people around, but when I’m writing a draft of a fiction work I need to be alone in order to create that otherworld-feeling around me and take that writing journey that allows anything to happen. Kind of like mysticism, isn’t it?

The above horror story I’ve been working on is at the planning stage. I wrote the first draft almost a year ago and pulled it from my filing cabinet for revision only about two or three weeks ago. I outlined the story last week and am now on character building (or character development) which only yesterday I discovered may take a little research because of, let’s say, mythic connections some of the characters have. No doubt, the story will change even if in the slightest because the characters’ traits are going to have to determine their actions which in turn will determine the story. I also discovered yesterday that because of the characters’ mythic connections I would have to work on world building simultaneously. So I’ve been realising much more how interdependent these story elements are.

Along with my new short story collection, I am preparing to sketch some ideas for the cover illustration. You’ll see them soon enough in upcoming posts. As far as the final sketch goes, I plan to have a revealing of it here at the Fantastic Site sometime by the end of February (2015).

I forgot to tell you in the last post, if you liked the Far Out Fantastic Finds bonus that I provided,  please let me know in the box (either in the last post or in this one) and maybe I’ll make it a monthly thing, a kind of newsletter of the weird and wonderful.

Until next time . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Themes and Fantastic Finds

A vulture in a perched position.
How would you like this bird for Thanksgiving dinner? It will probably have you first.
Photo Credit:

This post is going to be mostly a list of highlights of what’s been happening with me during the week, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find a unifying theme. Speaking of which . . .

I just started planning my new short story collection. Unlike with a novel, which consists of one main story arc, it’s hard to plan a book of short stories if you’re basing it on several different stories that you hadn’t necessarily intend to include in a collection. I rarely write my short fiction with a theme in mind for a larger work. So, when I plan a book to include my stories in, I have to look for a common theme that runs through several of them. Besides that, I need to make sure the theme runs through enough of my stories to total a sufficient number of pages to make self-publishing the book worthwhile.  When I finally have a theme and if only a small number of stories fit it then I have to write more stories based on that theme.

In the case of the present collection I’m planning, a couple days ago--after what seemed hours of reviewing the stories I had already written--I finally came up with a theme. This lead to a tentative title for the book. The theme is hidden things--things such as buried corpses, lost ancient tombs and corporate conspiracies to take over the world. The potential title of the book: The Hidden. I’m aiming to have the book out (of hiding) by summer of 2015.

Speaking about hidden things, they’re no longer hidden when people find them. So I’d like to list some interesting things I found recently. Found out about, that is. (These things had been hidden from me by nobody or nothing but my own unawareness of them, by the way.) So I’ve decided to call this list. . .

Far Out Fantastic Finds

Afrofuturism: I found out about this African science fiction movement when I was looking at the website for a British convention called Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder which is going on now across seas from where I’m at, so unfortunately I can’t make it to it this year since I’m not in a position to travel that far. But the con is featuring an event there called “Inside Afrofuturism” which is a conference of African science fiction writers, directors and other artists. Afrofuturism is a movement by black people exploring and expressing their race and heritage through science fiction and fantasy in all mediums. Even though this term is unheard of by most people, the movement has really been going on since the 1960s with Samuel Delany’s work and Jazz/funk musician Sun Ra’s who actually did a movie in the early ‘70s that I saw a clip of and seems really neat; it’s called Space is the Place. What I feel is so great about finding out about this literary and art movement is that it shows that science fiction and fantasy is not really the all-white genre that it’s been made to seem. I can somewhat relate to this because, even though I don’t look it to most people, I’m a minority of colour myself (I’m half Mexican).

John Scalzi was born in Fairfield, California. What’s so fantastic about this find? It’s fantastic to me because I was born only a few miles away in the Sacramento Valley (where I reside today) and so it’s great to know that there’s another big name sci fi author who once lived here in my home area (the other one being Kim Stanley Robinson, who still lives here). I found this out when I was searching the ‘Net for a Thanksgiving theme to add to the post since the holiday is already next week. And I came across Scalzi’s Thanksgiving prayer, a sci fi style one. You can read it here. If you’re not religious (I consider myself more spiritual than religious, really) then just consider it a sci fi/fantasy themed prayer, fantasy because of a magical god named Jehovah. So just consider it a fun, entertaining piece but please still be thankful even if not to any deity. We have a lot more good things in this country than most of us give credit for.

George Lucas’s new film, Strange Magic, was inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is an animated fantasy feature coming to theatres this January. However, it doesn’t look that fantastic to me as far as appeal goes. The movie blends modern pop music with the fairy world, taking too much of the otherworldliness effect away. Since some of the numbers are from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, it makes me wonder if the soundtrack is a knock-off of last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. So is that the best Lucas can do since he left Star Wars? And he’s always said that he planned to go back to doing what he always wanted to: making art house films!

That’s it for now. If I don’t see you here again before next weekend, then have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t eat too much bird. Plenty but not too much. Also watch out for zombies. They will be looking for people for their Thanksgiving dinners and I doubt turkey is the main course.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Your Best Writing: Always Intend It

A purple skinned alien writing in a chair-sitting position.

This past Saturday I watched one of Harlan Ellison’s videos on his YouTube channel. It’s really inspiring, so I suggest you take a look at it. As always, he has a lot of interesting things to say, including about how his birthday falls on the same day as actor Christopher Lee’s, his Warholian Daffy Duck tee shirt (I have a Batman Warholian one), and authors intending their best work when they write. This last one really inspired me because he talks about how writers will take on jobs they don’t like but will perform their best work anyway.

During my entire writing career, I’ve never hated any of my writing jobs (so far at least) even if I didn’t prefer them to other projects. I like to write in general, and so even if I’m not writing fiction, my favourite form, I still love the very act of composing words no matter what the project is. Because of that, I’ll intend to do my best work. I’ll do this at all levels of the writing process, even the rough (or first) draft level. That doesn’t mean I revise as I write. In no way! And this is especially so with fiction. To revise as I’m writing the rough draft would cut off the stream of creativity and, ironically, instead of doing my best work I would be doing my worst in a certain sense. Articles about NaNoWriMo warn against revising while writing the rough draft. One of these articles in particularly is from Writers’ Digest’s website. which can be very useful for those who are participating in NaNoWriMo as well as ones who aren’t but like to write.

So then, how do you intend your best work at the rough draft level without revising? Well, intending your best work is exactly that. As you write the rough draft you intend and so mean to do your best work; you don’t write the final product at that stage. During that stage, you don’t go back to correct a mis-spelled word, or to see if you put a period at the end of that last sentence while you’re in the middle of writing the current one. You write to the best of your ability in the present moment of the act of writing itself. Doing so may cause less need for revising later, even though you will still have to revise, perhaps through several rounds. Also, intending your best while you write non-stop will probably bring out your true voice in your work rather than too generic a voice.

Stephen King in his book “On Writing” does say there can be a few exceptions to non-stop writing, at least when writing fiction. Some of these may be if you forget your main character’s name or if you know moving on to the next scene is going to cause a major contradiction in the story and throw it too far off course. But overall, during the first draft you should write non-stop, getting out the story that comes to mind yet intending to write your best story. Because if it turns out to be your best story for being a rough draft then just think how much better it will be when you go on to revise it!

Oh, how did Quantum Con go? It went by great, especially for being its first time! And with the great feedback the con committee received from attendees, I’m sure they intended their best! You can find out more about how it went in the review that I wrote for it at 

Until next time . . . 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Science Fiction Con and NaNoWriMo Alternative

An alien head with a moon in the background.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been getting ready to attend a new science fiction convention that debuts here in Sacramento Sunday 9 November, as well as looking to some alternatives to National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. The new con is Quantum Con and will specialise in Doctor Who but will feature other science fiction too. It’s headed by a CSU Sacramento student who is putting it on as part of her project for her Recreation degree. This just shows you how much more sci fi and pop culture in general are becoming subjects of academia!

I meant to print up some more book marks for Fool’s Illusion to take to Quantum Con but the last couple of days have been very busy with writing projects including one for a client that was kind of last minute. I was also busy with my recent article on hard science fiction movies in light of Interstellar which just released Friday. Plus the Office Depot store where I normally get them printed is in the process of changing locations so I’m not sure what services are available there at the time. However, I’m going to be concentrating more on new fiction projects which brings me the topic of NaNoWriMo.

I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo. I’m not the kind of person who likes to speed write a novel under an event as big as NaNoWriMo since it gives me the feeling of doing it for experimentation more than for writing a work that I would intend to publish. But for novice writers, especially of the fiction genre, or even just fiction writers who feel they need to improve their speed and/or motivation for writing longer works, I recommend it. That’s not to say I don’t need to improve my writing speed. Because of this I’m doing an alternative in light of the event. I got the idea from Writers’ Digest associate editor TiffanyLuckey’s article. It’s a great article so I suggest you take a look at it.

My alternative to NaNoWriMo is to write a novella during the month of November since I have never written a full length novel not even at rough draft level. I had always said that I would at least write a novella someday and so when I read the above mentioned article yesterday I thought, what better time to start than during NaNoWriMo? Since compared to a novel a novella is pretty small, I’m also going to both revise a short story in full and plan my next fiction collection during this month.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so why and what do you do to keep yourself motivated while writing? If you’re not participating, do you have an alternative for yourself? If so, what? Please feel free to leave your comments in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Flash Fiction Fright Day

As I said, here's a Halloween treat of terror just for you! It's the short horror story I was talking about in yesterday's post. As I also said, it was especially written for tweens and young adults but I think grown adults may enjoy it too. Let me know what you think of it in the box below.

Take scare and Happy Halloween!

The Boos Brothers

By Steven Rose, Jr.

A creepy silhouetted mansion sits on top of a hill.

Photo credit:

Jerry thought it would be neat to steal one of the silky cloth ghosts or cardboard decorations that hung in the old Victorian mansion’s porch each Halloween. All of them were more real looking than ones he and Roy had seen in any store. This included size. Some of the figures were taller than Jerry who was five-foot-seven-inches. That was pretty tall for an 11 year old boy. 

Jerry wanted to scare Melissa Collins and her friends with one of the figures from the porch when the girls would trick-or-treat later that night. Both he and Roy hated Melissa and her friends for cheating them at tether ball in P.E. and then getting away with it all because their 5th grade teacher, Mr. Martinez, let them. He only did so because he didn’t want to seem sexist to them. All because of that, Jerry and Roy were accused of being cheaters by Melissa and her circle whenever they came across them at recess. But Jerry would make sure justice would win.

Jerry wanted to scare Melissa Collins and her friends with one of the figures from the porch when the girls would trick-or-treat later that night. Both he and Roy hated Melissa and her friends for cheating them at tether ball in P.E. and then getting away with it all because their 5th grade teacher, Mr. Martinez, let them. He only did so because he didn’t want to seem sexist to them. All because of that, Jerry and Roy were accused of being cheaters by Melissa and her circle whenever they came across them at recess. But Jerry would make sure justice would win.

“We can go to jail,” said Roy.

“No we won’t,” said Jerry. “It’s hardly stealing a dime. These people are rich; they won’t care. Besides, they’re never home.”

“Yeah, and we don’t know when they’ll suddenly come home,” said Roy.

“Have you ever seen anybody around this place?” asked Jerry.

Roy squinted in recollection as he looked at the hanging ghosts and rubber bats dancing in the moaning wind. He said, “No, but somebody must live here. The lights go on every night.”

“That’s a timer.”

Roy gestured toward the house. “Yeah, but look: the lawn is always cut. The flowers always watered. No weeds. The house is always kept so clean.”

“I told you these people are rich; they have a gardener. Home gardeners don’t work after 3 PM. Look, all we need to do is take one figure. One that’s not too big and that’s easy to carry. We’re going to put it back.”

Roy hesitated several seconds. He looked at his watch. It was way after 3 PM, two minutes to 4. He said, “Well, okay. But we have to put it back, like you said. It doesn’t belong to us.”

“We’ll put it back right after we scare the girls.”

The two boys walked up to the porch. Testing the weight, Roy lifted the smooth, flat hand of a skeleton that seemed to stare down and grin at him. He flinched at Jerry’s call.

“Hey, Roy! Let’s take a ghost. They’re lighter plus more real looking since they’re more 3D.” Jerry tugged at the string that a silky ghost hung by. But before he could even pull the string from its hook the ghost snapped off and flew away with the wind. Jerry cursed.

Roy said, “Oh, no! Now we’re busted! Why’ju pull so hard?”

“Shut up,” hissed Jerry. “I hardly touched it. It just broke off. It’s this stupid wind. I’ll grab another one.” He glanced around for another about the same size, his own size.

“Jerry, run,” shouted Roy. As borderline obese he was, he was already running past the neighbouring house. Yet he was not fast enough to outrun lean Jerry who grabbed him in a wrestling hold.

“Where do you think you’re going?” grunted Jerry.

Roy said, struggling to free himself, “Didn’t you see it? We have to get out’a here! Somebody was at the door!”

“That was a decoration, fool!”

“Not the skeleton hanging there! Inside the door!”

“That’s frosted glass on that window, how could you see anybody on the other side?”

“I didn’t, but somebody was there! Didn’t you see that light go on inside?”

Jerry released Roy from his grip but only to face him toward himself. “The timer, fool! I told you the lights were set by timer!”

Roy stammered, “But, but, the lights only go on at night, and that one never turns on. I see them from my house every evening. Only the porch light goes on and that’s not until it gets dark. This light was inside that door and was white, a really bright white!”

Jerry said, “They can program timers to make different lights come on at different times.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Roy said hanging his head. “Okay, then let’s go back.”

“We can’t now. One of the neighbours probably saw us running and heard you screaming your head off. We’ll have to do it tonight when it’s harder for anyone to recognize us. Do you have a Halloween costume?”

Roy thought for a moment. He was almost 11 himself, 10-and-a-half to be exact. Like Jerry, he felt he was too big for trick-or-treating. He answered, “Yeah. From last year. But I don’t know if it fits me anymore.”

Jerry said, “Probably not. You’re fatter than even last year. Well then just wear the mask, but let’s change our clothes so nobody recognises us. We’ll fake trick-or-treating.”

Roy agreed to this.

They returned around 7 that evening. Jerry made Roy stand guard at the front of the walkway. Roy wore his turtle warrior mask from last year and Jerry wore a cheap skull’s mask he picked up at the dollar store only an hour before. The wind had died down to a breese but it was icy cold. Jerry reached for a silky ghost only about half a foot taller than the previous one. It hung about a foot from the door yet he didn’t remember seeing it there that afternoon. This time he gripped the ghost hard against his torso while he pulled backward on the string to slide it off its hook. But just before it could come off he felt it tug from above and himself shoot up into wood rotted darkness.

But not total darkness. He was staring into the eyes of a bright yet pale white glowing face that glared at him. The brilliant white figure spoke: “You tried kidnapping my kid brother! Now you’re gonn’a pay!”

Jerry held his mouth open. He wanted to scream but couldn’t even manage a squeak.

Roy saw Jerry rise out of view just as Roy grabbed the ghost and tugged the string. He heard the inhuman, echoing voice and saw the white light radiating from somewhere above the door. It was just like the light he saw in the door window that afternoon. He screamed, “Jerry! Jerry!”

But Jerry wasn’t there. The bright light was no longer there. Even the porch light was out. Roy inched toward the looming house. Just as he reached the porch, he felt a dozens of eyes stare at him. They seemed to stare at him from the hanging skeletons, witches, ghosts and bats all of which swung or swayed in the icy breese. He screamed, “Jerry, where are you?”

“Over here, fool!”

Roy pivoted, glancing around. “Where?” He lifted his turtle mask to see better. He still couldn’t find his friend.

“Over here, at the door! What’s the matter with you are ya’ blind?”

Roy looked toward the skeleton hanging on the door. The skeleton grinned and stared back at him.

Then it lifted one of its feet forward.

Then the other foot.

The skeleton said in Jerry’s voice, “Let’s go scare the girls!”

Roy heard the laughter and talking of several girls from far off. It was Melissa and her friends. He recognised her nasal voice. He turned to run and warn them. But then he felt the bony hand grip his shoulder.

The End