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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Week In Review: Character Development, Authors, and Short Stories

A Little on Character Development
This week I’ve been trying to work character development into my latest short story that I used as an example for last week’s post onworld-building. For me, character is much easier to develop in a profile than working traits of that profile into the story itself. It makes a person ask the question what is more important, the character influencing the story or the story (the events within) influencing the character? (Much like what came first, the vulture or the egg?) What do you think, fellow writers out there? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box at the end.


On Joe Hill
I’ve been reading Joe Hill’s collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts. I checked it out at the library a couple weeks ago, intending to only read one or two stories; so far I’m on a third. His stories are great, although if you want to read him for his horror fiction you may be a little disappointed with some of the stories, since, as the writer of the book’s introduction says, not all of them are horror.

I found out about Joe Hill’s work while reading a special issue of his comic book series, Locke & Key, a few years ago. I enjoyed the story, and when I heard he writes prose fiction as well, I wanted to read more of his stuff but didn’t get around to it until just recently. Because his stories are so great, regardless of the genre, I may return 20th Century Ghosts to the library before its due date (which is next week) and go to my local indie-owned bookstore and purchase my own copy to put up in my home library of must-read authors of all time.

Book cover to Joe Hill's "20th Century Ghosts"
Photo Credit: Amazon


Vintage Sci Fi Art
Speaking about bookstores, last weekend I came across a bundle of six copies of 1969 issues of Science Fiction-Science Fact Analog magazine. While only a couple of well-known authors are in some of the issues, one of them being Anne McCaffrey, many of the stories still look really interesting. Also I like the magazine’s exterior and interior sci fi art of the era, art which infuses much more emotion and aesthetic energy in hand-painted and hand-drawn illustrations than much of today’s computer produced book cover art seems to. See it for yourself in the photo below. 

Covers from five 1969 issues of "Science Fiction-Science Fact Analog"
Photo Credit: The Conde Nast Publications, Inc


Tweeting Authors
Warning: Next paragraph and link(s) may be objectionable to some readers.
Yesterday I ran into and got in on an interesting Twitter conversation with authors Saladin Ahmed (who initiated the conversation) and John Scalzi, about “Disturbing Super Hero Names of the 1950s”.  The name in question was “Dick”. Many of us can see how that can be disturbing today at least to certain people, although it’s not disturbing to me because I always believed “Dick” to be the name of a person and not the name of a guy’s part inside his pants. The person’s name came first, not the body part’s. So I brought that up in the conversation and if any of you don’t believe so yourselves, check out the link to the Oxford Dictionary (my emphasis to indicate where the pun wasn’t intended) in my Tweet to find out the origin or earliest known use of the name.

Horror Addicts' Guide Update
I mentioned a while back that HorrorAddicts.net is coming out with an anthology about horror culture, which I contributed two articles to (actually they were chosen by the good editors of who I contributed the articles to their online con a few years back). The book’s release is due, I believe, sometime next month but you don’t have to wait until then to find out more about what’s going to be in it. There’s good news! Editors Emerian Rich and David Watson talk about it and have several of its contributors read excerpts on their 111thpodcast episode of Horror Addicts

But there’s bad news too: I’m not one of the contributors reading. I’m not very tech savvy when it comes to putting audio on MP3’s which is what we needed to do to send in our readings. Plus, I wasn’t able to find an external mic for my computer to make the recording before the deadline. Sorry about that, Emerian and Dave. But I listened to your episode and it sounded really neat! Great job! And if you readers want to find out even more about the book, check out David’s interview at HorrorAddicts.net!


That’s it for this week. I’ll have more for you next time.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

World-building: Not Just For Fantasy Writers

A bug-like alien with outer space and planets in the background.
Image Credit: Openclipart.org


I was choking on dust all week, especially in bed late at night. So I made sure I spent this Saturday afternoon dusting the flat. And it’s not even half done when you think about it. Being a rat pack, more dust is in the clutter of my house than sand in the Sino-Indian border’s desert. I think I have to scan and put some of those old manuscript copies and notes for past work on flash drive and trash the paper copies. Though there are certain paper copies of my work that I forbid myself to exclude to digital form, since I’m a lover of the printed word and like to read and present words on a tangible medium such as paper. But enough of that.


On World-building

I told you last time that I would have a post on world-building. Most people probably think of world-building as something only done by fantasy writers who make up imaginary universes. That’s not true. World-building is simply the manner an author describes the environment the story takes place in, regardless of whether that environment exists in the real world or not. Unless you’re a historical fiction writer, there is going to be some made-up details of that setting you’re depicting. And so because of those details, you would have to do what has become popularly referred to by us authors as “world-building”. I’ll use an example of a horror short story I’m currently working on. Keep in mind, I’m still in the process of writing this story, so some of these details may change by the time it’s published. But I’m still hoping you’ll find this as a good example to world-building. I don’t have a title for the story yet, in case you’re wondering, but you’ll know what it is when I announce its publication.

Developing an imaginary setting out of a real region

The short story I’m working on is set in the Sino-Indian border region, which is the region that borders China and India. So it’s a real area of the world. However, the province within that region I’m setting my story in is one that I created based both on Chinese and Indian cultures, especially Tamil culture on the Indian side. I came up with this “mixed” race of people because I am involving religious beliefs dating back before Hinduism and part of the myth system is made up by yours truly for purposes of the story.

Yet I wanted to give the story an effect of taking place in our own reality. After all, it involves an archeology expedition. So I used Google Earth to look at photos of the Sino-Indian region and to look at the names of places in that part of the world. I also used Wikipedia to check facts about Indian and Chinese cultures and the mythological systems of the two. However, because Wikipedia is an open source tool that anybody can post and edit articles on, I advise people to always verify the articles’ references and, if possible, to use those referencees for further research especially if they seem reliable. Such reliable references are ones published by credible universities or well-known publications by expert journalists such as National Geographic.

Because I wanted the society in my story to be more or less directly descended from one predating Hinduism, I researched the various ethnic groups of India and China and came across the Tamil people who are, according to a Wikipedia article, one of the largest and oldest existing ethno-linguistic cultural groups who have not had a state of their own. This means they have spread out all over Asia and so it could be believable if I based my Sino-Indian border province on that group’s culture.

Naming the Setting

I wanted to find a name that reflected the ancientness and obscurity of the province. Because Sanskrit is one of Asia’s oldest languages, I used Google’s translation tool  to create a meaningful name for the province. Without creating a spoiler, I’ll let you know that because the story involves a character who goes through a kind of blindness as well as a dangerously enlightening experience, I decided to give the province a name that means blinding light. So I typed in the words “land of blinding light” into the translator’s text box and came up with “Kurutakkum oli nilam”.  The name suggests not only the experience one of the characters goes through, but also the geography of the region, in which the story’s setting itself, which is somewhere near Aksai (on the Chinese side), is all desert. However, even though the province is on the Chinese side, I made it tremendously Indian influenced in the culture including its religious beliefs. And so the people themselves are mixed both biologically and culturally.

For More on World-building . . .

I probably don’t explain world-building as well as I actually do it, but one author who is really good at explaining it is Auden Johnson. She’s really big on it. So if you’re interested, I strongly suggest you visit her blog, Dark Treasury



Do any of you fellow fiction writers out there research facts for your world-building? If so what sources come in handy for you? And for you out there who aren’t authors but are avid readers of fiction, what do you feel makes a convincing imaginary setting whether based on a real region of the world or completely imagined by the author? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box below.


Until next time . . . 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Liebster Blog Awards

Liebster award button logo.
Image Credit: curveballsandmedschool.files.wordpress.com



I know I said in my last post that I would have a full blog article here. However, I was just nominated this afternoon for the Liebster  Blog Awards by a Cassidy Leslie. Thanks again, Cassidy! Part of the nomination process consists of posting and answering questions from my nominator (Cassidy), and posting the nomination rules along with my own questions for those bloggers I nominate in turn. You’ll find the list of bloggers I nominated below.

The purpose of the Liebster Awards is to help fellow bloggers gain greater exposure. I’m glad to help out my fellow blog writers in this way. But if you ever wondered about the guy behind the curtain playing the Wiz, yours truly, you can find out more about him now in my responses to Cassidy’s questions below!

For the Bloggers I Nominate:

Rules of the Liebster Awards 
1) Thank the person who nominated you
2) Answer the questions given by the nominator
3) Nominate 11 bloggers with 100 or less followers and link them to your post
4) Create another 11 questions for them to answer in their blog
5) Notify them

Questions from Cassidy

1) What is your favorite color? (This is a warm up question) Orange.
2) Tell us something that makes you unique? I’m both a lover of punk and disco (and if you know your ‘70s history, the two were arch enemies (so to put) with each other).
3) Pick three people you'd have dinner with, alive or dead, famous or not, tell us who and then you can ask them any three questions what would you ask? Ray Bradbury: How did you pull through being (what we call ourselves today) a nerd/geek in grades Kindergarten through 12th?; Anna H. (a groovy acquaintance who I wanted to ask out but didn’t get the chance): Who’s your dream boy?; My Great, Great Grandfather Alejandro Rose: Why did you really change our Portuguese family surname to English?. 
4) If one day you were singing while filling up your car and some guy told you he could make you famous would you do it? Probably not, because glass breaks when I sing and so I know he would be lying.
5) (Warning this one is tough) Write the first line of lyrics that pop into your head right now, without thinking! “We all live in a Yellow Submarine . . .”
6) What was you biggest challenge in life that you over came? Getting published. 
7)  Do you read my blog? are you going to now? Haha I am now, now that I know about it.
8) What was your first car and if you could have it back would you? An ’85 Pontiac Firebird. Yes, I would have it back if I could get the AC fixed; she almost literally was a firebird in the summers, but I had to give her up among other things, too (e.g. engine and other parts had their days).
9) Have you ever been bullied? What do you think should be done to fix this problem? I was slapped around all the time (it seemed) from grades 2nd through 11th. At least two things should be done about the problem: 1) The bully should be put up for adoption because his/her parents probably aren’t giving them the love they need at home; and/or 2) The bully should be expelled from school and committed to community service and counseling (if not juvie/jail) because it’s not fair for the other kids trying to learn. 
10) Whats your biggest fear and why? The country going total (neo) Nazi or some racist/fascist form of government right up there with it. It’s my greatest fear because it would probably outlaw the kinds of things I write about. 
11) Favorite movie and why? Star Wars the original trilogy because it’s one of the best myths that I’ve lived by next to the Bible (among other sacred texts); or, to put it another way, it’s a film that does for me what sacred texts such as the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita have done. 

Bloggers and Their Blogs I Nominate [link to these]:


Questions for the Bloggers Whose Blogs I Nominate:

1) What is your dream car?
2) What is your favourite/favourite kind of food?
3) What is your favourite genre/subgenre of reading?
4) Do you prefer Star Trek, Star Wars or neither?
5) Of these classic/old school horror films, do you prefer Halloween, Friday the 13th, Universal’s original Frankenstein, Psycho or none of the above?
6) If you won the lottery, you would . . . (do what?)
7) How would you respond to a film agent who offered you a part in a big budget film?
8) Do you have anything (interest, toy, habit, etc.) from childhood that you will not let go of as an adult? If so, what is it?
9) What do you do when a person you’ve met for the first time bores you with their talk?
10) Do you believe the world’s ready for commercial space flight? If so, why? If not, why not?
11) What is more important to you, money or love (of humanity, including significant others/family and friends)?

Next time: I will have an article for you on world-building by this weekend. Until then . . .


Friday, March 13, 2015

7 Lucky Links for You on this Friday the 13th

A pulp magazine cover with an image of a black cat.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



Although I’m not superstitious and, like Ben Kenobi in Star Wars, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as luck, you might consider this your unlucky day because I don’t have time to put a lot in this post on this Friday the 13th. I’ve been very busy with my writing projects and getting ready for upcoming events, one which was yesterday evening at the Crocker Art Museum here in Sacramento. It was called Art Mix: Cirque--a carnivalesque, French style, circus-themed event. Not your average childhood circus. It wasn’t bad. In hopes of being able to promote my book of short stories, The Fool’s Illusion, because it went with the theme of the event, I decided to dig up some of my extra promo bookmarks which I still had to cut out and do so in a hurry because the idea came to me at the last minute. However, I decided not to leave any book marks there because the area where the staff told me I could put them didn’t seem to attract very much traffic. I’m saving them for Professor Mondo’s Danger Works Conclave, a steampunk convention being held in Sacramento this weekend. You can find out more about this con at its website. 

I’m also up to a deadline proofreading a couple of my articles to be included in in an upcoming non-fiction anthology, Horror Addicts’ Guide to Life, which is edited by Horroraddicts.net’s David Watson. I can’t talk much about it here because of an agreement, but I’ll keep you updated as we’re allowed to give out more information.

So because I haven’t had time to write up a full post for this week, I wanted to leave you on this “unlucky” Friday with seven lucky links to some fantastic stuff that I found while surfing the ‘net the other day. A couple of the links are to interesting articles on two really neat authors whose work I recently read. One article interviews Damien Angelica Walters whose short story, “Sing Me Your  Scars”, excerpted from her book of the same name at Apex.com, I had the pleasure to read only a few days ago. It utilizes the Frankenstein myth really good. The other article features author Mary Robinette Kowal, whose short story I read from The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination several weeks ago, a kind of atom punk story that I really enjoyed. So I suggest you check out those two articles among the other links.

I’ll have a full post here next week (if not earlier).


7 Fantastic, Lucky Links

An Interview with Damien Angelica Walters”, A.C. Wise, ACWise.net 

“Damien Angelica Walters was kind enough to drop by today to talk about her new collection, Sing Me Your Scars.”

. . . Live from Capricorn 35 with Mary Robinette Kowal”, Patrick Hester Functionalnerds.com 

“Hugo-award winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal is a novelist and professional puppeteer. Her debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010) was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award for Best Novel.”

 “The Great Internet Debate Over Not Reading White Men”, Saladin Ahmed, Gizmodo.com

“The internet has been abuzz recently with debates over reading lists and reading habits. Writer K. Tempest Bradford caused a bit of a stir when she challenged readers to stop reading straight white cisgendered male authors for a year.”


 Casefile: Arkham, a Kickstarter graphic novel project by Team Kaiju, Kickstarter.com

“Set in the mid-1940s, Case File: Arkham follows Hank Flynn, a down on his luck private eye who is back from the war and now working the mean streets of the most cursed city on Earth—Arkham, Massachusetts.”


“Paul Genesse, being the kind man he is, listened to my rant, and then suggested that we put together a panel at Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) . . . a local literary convention that happens once a year in Utah county. I told him I’d be incredibly interested in a panel focused on the importance of disabilities in the genre. Paul said he’d make it happen.”



Feel free to let me know in the box below which of the above links’ stories you thought was most fantastic.

Until next time . . .


Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Tribute to Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek and Beyond

Black and white photo of Mr. Spock pointing a phaser.
Photo Credit: NBC



It’s only been a little over a week since we lost Leonard Nimoy. His Spock was one of my two favourite Star Trek characters (the other being Capt. Kirk) whose calm and wise personality always inspired me in getting through the problems that everyday life can bring. This was especially the case when I was a teenager going through a big Trekker phase. But as I grew older, I began admiring Nimoy not only for his role in Star Trek, but for his work in film in general: his work as actor, writer and director. For me he was a figure of intellect which is probably what got me through high school and perhaps college as well.

Besides Star Trek, he played numerous other roles both in and behind the scenes in movies and television, both in and out of the science fiction genre. He was in the “I, Robot” episode of the original ‘60s Outer Limits series. This episode was, interestingly, based on not Isaac Asimov’s novel/short story collection of the same name but on a short story by Eando Binder from Amazing Stories magazine. Asimov’s novel was, however, inspired by Binder’s story. Nimoy also played in the same episode in the ‘90s remake of The Outer Limits.
  
Other works he’s acted in range from Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Night Gallery series in television to the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He was also in TV-movie adaptations of two classic science fiction novels: 1988’s The Lost World and 1998’s Brave New World. Besides playing Spock, Nimoy also wrote the stories for several of the Star Trek movies and a story for an episode of the 1970s’ Night Gallery.

For me, whenever a science fiction/fantasy super star dies the world of those genres seem to never be the same. That’s why, as a science fiction fan and writer, I’m always hoping that my favourites will never die. Of course, that would be unrealistic. But their work inspires me so much that I find it hard to imagine life without them. It was that way for me with Ray Bradbury who I was fortunate enough to meet in person at a talk he gave back in the ‘90s in Fresno, California.  I’m sure it was that way for many Disney fans with Walt Disney in the 1960s and for the many cartoonists and animators he inspired. 

But even though our favourite writers and artists won’t live forever (at least not on this Earth) their inspiration will never die. When they influence and inspire us artists they are not just another celebrity in the media; they are like family to us, even if they don’t know who most of us are.

May Leonard Nimoy “Live long and prosper” in the next life. 

Until Next time . . .