All posts by Michael

The Coffee Shop Betwixt Life and Death

The following is a monologue I wrote for a fun event earlier this month.

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Hello, kind traveler, and welcome to the last coffee shop you will visit. Here, at the Coffee Shop Betwixt Life and Death, we invite you to sit back, take a moment, and decide if you wish to return through the front door, or take the elevator to your final destination.

Now, do not be hasty. This is an important decision. Chose your drink wisely, for the flavors are not just for the tongue, but the soul as well.

Wish to remember young loves and lost romance? A rose tea latte will bring back the stirrings of the heart.

Have a desire to speak with your long-departed mother? A café au lait will bring her back to you.

Perhaps you wish to feel a pang of excitement? Then, I might suggest a hip matcha latte. Just trust me, it’s exciting.

If you have a philosophical mind, some smoky herbal teas will bring back your memories of wisdom, assuming you have any.

Take as long as you’d like, but be warned. Here, at the Coffee Shop Betwixt Life and Death, you are a patron because you have a choice. Time is fleeting. Stay too long, and that door behind you might just lock itself.

So, my dear, what memory do you wish to pursue? Love or Anger? Happy or Sad? What emotion, what vision do you wish?

I’m sorry, you had a question?

Oh, you misunderstand. You drink to decide if you will go back or forth, not if the elevator will take you up or down.

If that is your worry, then I suggest a cup of black coffee. It will not give you wondrous visions, but it will sober you up, so to speak. It may tell you that you have chances yet to save your destination, or reveal that you are too far gone to one extreme or another.

No, black coffee is not fancy nor flavorful, but it is sometimes what you need to make the important choices.

What’s that, you ask?

Well, if you add cream and sugar, it wouldn’t be black coffee, now would it?

Here at the Coffee Shop Betwixt Life and Death, these things matter!

Manticon 2018

My time at Manticon 2018 was a great success. So much so, that I have a hard time coming up with the best part about it. I keep remembering this conversation or that exchange. And I don’t want to bore you with a minute by minute account of the weekend, so instead, a quick list.

10 Great Things from Manticon 2018 (in no particular order)

Timothy Zahn

I got to sit next to Timothy Zahn, an award winning novelist whose tableau of books on his table was impressive. I spoke with him a couple of times, took a picture with him, even got him to sign some books for me. Then, as icing on the cake, he bought a copy of my book. I was flying pretty high after that.

Czech Writer Jan Kotouc

Another writer I sat next to, Jan is a Czech science fiction writer. It was interesting to hear about his stories. And he’s running an Indiegogo campaign to translate his stories into English. I’m looking forward to seeing it in print, and reading science fiction from a new point of view.

The Other Writers

There were other writers there I got to interact with. One group writes a post-Civil War steam punk graphic novel. Another author writes a lot of stories and goes to conventions all over the state. He gave me some good advice on some things I could do in the future. Always nice to interact with other authors.

T-Shirts

One of my favorite T-shits is a writing themed shirt. I’ve gotten more compliments on it than any other I’ve ever had. So, for the convention, I bought a few others. I figured it makes sense to have a theme. They were a big hit. People who came by the table Friday came back Saturday and Sunday to see my shirts. So, that’s a win.

Digital Picture Frame

I’ve been looking for something to grab attention, but big static displays always worried me. As soon as Book 2 comes out, they lose some of their value. So I got a digital picture frame and loaded it with some wallpapers, things to try to grab attention. It did get some attention, though I might want to work on some of the wallpapers. At least, changing them out isn’t a problem.

The Source

A local comic and game store had some tables there. I talked with the general manager, who gave me some info on how to get my book into his store. I’ll have to give that a shot sometime.

Fans of the Story from Last Year

People who bought my book last year came up and asked about Book 2. It was nice to get that sort of feedback.

Fans of the Story from Two Days Ago

Two people bought my book on Friday. By Sunday, both came to tell me they were almost done and that they looked forward to Book 2. I was smiling after that.

Patch Maker

There was a booth there from the Threadmancer, an embroiderer who makes patches, some to designs, some custom. Why am I including this one? Because she is willing to start making patches for me from the Renaissance Army series. I think it’d be cool to have a collection of nice looking patches, much better than what I can do with Bitmaps.

Costumes

Manticon is an official Honor Harrington fan convention, and as such, brings a lot of fans who are part of their organization. The Royal Manticorian Navy has uniforms, medals, and rank structures that simulate their fictional counterpart, and they take pride in a lot of their uniforms. It’s fun to see all of them together.

Definitely a fun time. Now, on to Books and Beer!

Creative Practice: Inspiration

No idea if this is going to be more than a once in a while thing, but we’ll see.

Creative Cal has shown up in pictures before, usually with his giant quill. He represents the creative aspect of writing, the imagination and the inspiration.

Logical Lou (with the mustache) represents the logical aspects of writing. The planning, the determination, the grind.

The Senator will see you now

 (the image is the property of Seize the Imperium card game)
Senator Uldina

Short I’ve been helping a friend play-test his new card game, Seize the ImperiumIt s a fun, empire building card game set in the far future. I found myself inspired after the last session of testing, and wrote out a few fan-fics, one about an influential senator. The game’s creator liked that one so much, he posted it on his blog!  You can read it here.

I’ve been gaming for most of my life, and I really enjoy these sort of extra-short stories that are often included in rule books. Mechanics of a game are important, sure, but these little things set the flavor and tone of the world.

Anyway, just wanted to get this out there. Book 2 is with some Alpha readers, and the initial feedback is pretty good. I’m also making good strides with a fantasy novel, and writing every day. Manticon is coming up, and that’ll be fun.

Until next time, keep on writing!

-Michael

500 words a day

As a resolution for New Years, I challenged myself to record at least 500 words day in writing. I could have gone for more, but I wanted a nice, comfortable goal, since there are days when I have little time to actually write, and there are days where I don’t feel like writing. So, I set the goal at 500 words.

It turns out its usually a bit easier than I worried. I’m at a coffee shop most morning a little after 6 AM, starting my day off hitting the goal. Some days, I exceed a thousand words, and sometimes even two thousand.

There are off days, of course. There have been days where I’ve just pushed myself to get 500 words total, writing obvious crap, saying ‘a rough draft is just words on the page’ and I’ll fix it when I revise. But I’ve made the 500 words every day.

A benefit during revisions

It’s come in handy. As Book 2 of the Renaissance Army series has gone through revisions and out to some Alpha readers, writing 500 words a day on other projects has kept my creative juices flowing while I’ve been dealing with the mechanical and stylistic issues that revisions include. And it’s advanced a few projects from ‘neat idea’ to ‘words are on the page’. I’ve got a lot of stories to tell, and it’s good that I’m getting to them, even if they are of secondary or tertiary importance.

So, even as I get stuck on some matter in the revision, I at least make some headway on another project. So I feel I’ve gotten something done every day.

Some Math

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the words I’ve recorded in yWriter. Now, there are things I’ve written that aren’t recorded in yWriter, but I didn’t want to spend hours finding every single word I’d typed and adding it, so this is just a rough, quick calculation.

Since New Years, I have written 98,909 words in eight different projects. The vast majority went to Book 2 (58,000+), and with a fantasy book taking second place (29,000+). Book 3 was begun, with just shy of 3,500 words. Which means, over 106 days (as of writing), I’ve averaged 933.1 words a day. Well above my goal.

Try it!

If you’re a writer, try it out! Setting a simple, low goal and sticking to it is the way to accomplish a lot of goals, and with writing it helps to bull rush your way through the writers block and doubts and just get words on the page. Because once they’re on there, they mean something.

Non-sequential writing

This last weekend I finished a rough, rough draft of Book 2, my sequel to Renaissance Calling. It took a lot longer to finish than I expected, in part because I had to learn how to write a book in a  non-sequential fashion. Between the length of time Book 2 covers (a year as opposed to two and a half months) and the need to fit fourteen backer-created characters into the story, writing the story from start to finish wouldn’t work, unless I was willing to write out a 300,000 word monster of a rough draft. So I started jumping around, writing scenes as I had them and working from both ends towards the middle.

Like a pyramid being built without finishing the foundation.

It was interesting and frustrating, with a lot of false starts and dead ends, but ultimately it got me to the end of the rough draft and into revisions. As I move on with both this book and other projects, I want to take a moment and share with you some lessons about non-sequential writing I’ve taken from the experience.

Start at both ends and work to the middle

Starting at both ends and working towards the middle was the first thing I started doing. It made sense, since I knew how the story began and ended. Working from both directions, I can approach any problem I came across from either the front or the back. Sometimes I had to solve problems by writing the solution first, and building up to it.

Keep an eye out for lessons the protagonist needs to learn

By writing the end I gained a huge advantage; I figured out what the character needs to experience to have the impact I need her to have at the climax of the story. That helped me figure out what I needed to show the reader, versus what I could tell the reader. It’s a huge benefit to non-sequential writing to know what you don’t have to write.

Write scenes independently; don’t worry about flow

By flow, I mean the attention of the reader as they go from one chapter to another. I quickly stopped paying attention to flow for my rough draft. Scenes begin and end rather abruptly. Annoying, yes, but finishing the overall story was the main goal. Working on the flow is for the revision phase.

Don’t describe a secondary character when you first write him/her:

Jumping back and forth, I had no idea when this character or that character was going to be introduced. The first few times I wrote a character I included a description, but several times I later wrote them in an earlier scene. So I stopped writing descriptions. Instead, I’m saving the description until afterwards, then I’ll add them when I know where their first appearance is.

Keep a list of ‘Bits to Add’

Instead of jumping around to fix things every time they come up, I’ve been keeping a separate document where I write down the ideas I want to return to. The point is to get the side-thoughts out of the way without interrupting the work on whichever scene I’m focusing on at the time. There will be enough time to fix everything later.

 

I’ve already started applying these lessons to other projects. It’s really helpful to get things moving when something is getting stuck, or simply to just get words down and counted. One project in particular covers almost a decade of time, and already I’m making huge strides in it because of these lessons.

Have any thoughts or tips of you own? Feel free to let me know.

And as always, keep on writing.

Goals for 2018

I didn’t mean to wait until halfway through January to post about my 2018 goals, but somehow that happened. In some way, the lateness flows into my main goal for 2018: to be more of a writer.

I don’t just mean write more, though I do want to do that. What I mean is I want to be involved in the writing community more. I know people who get short stories published and set up literary events. I want to go to more conventions and blog more.

A friend has said several times that self-publishing is like a business, you have to work on it every day. While I am proud of my accomplishments as a writer in 2017, I can’t say I have stepped up to that challenge. So my goals for 2018 have to do with improving that.

Specific Goals for 2018

Attend four conventions: I am already signed up for Manticon 2018. I want to find three others to sell my books at.

Blog regularly: There are a lot of things I want to blog about, so I’m going to have to make this a priority. I’m already using a habit website to help me track a lot of improvements for 2018, including blogging.

Publish Book 2: I want to get Book 2 out and get started on Book 3.

Finish my fantasy Trilogy: I have finished Book 1 of a fantasy trilogy, and I want to finish the whole thing before I start revising and editing. I want to work on that some.

Find and take advantage of other opportunities: Going to require some research, but there’s no reason I can’t get into more writing relating groups, organizations, etc.

Simple, right? At least on paper. There’s still a lot of work to do on all of them in execution, but I’m ready for the task. To the writing-mobile!

-Michael

Birthday Check In

Yes, it’s my birthday. And since it’s been a while since I posted, I wanted to take this opportunity to check in and let you all know I’m still here, working hard on Book 2.

Book 2 is largely outlined, with only a few gaps to connect. I’ve got about 70,000 words written and plugged into yWriter. And I’ve got all the Kickstarter-created characters figured out. All in all, it’s just some hard work to get the draft finished.

I’ll try to post more on here in the future, but it might be spotty until Book 2’s rough draft is done.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday to me! Last year I had just finished my Kickstarter campaign and was happily on my way to publishing Renaissance Calling. What a good year it’s been.

Cheers!