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 . . .