Tag Archives: short stories

Hello 2018!

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s that time of year again – time to look at the goals I set for myself last year and set new goals for this year.  Last year, my goals were:

  1. Read 40 novels.  Success!  I read forty novels, a bunch of graphic novels, and a bunch of comics!  2017 was a great year for reading!
  2. Write four polished short stories.  Yeeeah….partial success I guess?  I did write one.  But that was it.  I did start on a second one, but I discovered that Imezza isn’t in as good shape as I thought; I got a bit bogged down in worldbuilding, and the story ended up really blah as a result.
  3. Work on Tears of the King. This was nice and vague.  I worked on it a bit this year (it’s no where near being finished).  So partial success?  I don’t know if I built another third, but I did make some progress.

I apparently also set a fourth goal, which I managed to forget about (it was to spend an hour a week on writing).  😦

2017 saw me start two new RPG Maker Games (oops): Memories and a second one I haven’t actually talked about on here yet (oops, I’ll have to remedy that).  It also saw me working on a freelance project which I’m still unable to talk about, which was very exciting.  It also saw me slowly and unexpectedly move away from my second job.  So for 2018, I’m going to work on freelancing a little more than I have.

So with that in mind, here are the goals I’m going to set for 2018:

  1. Read 25 novels.  Well, novel-length books.  I know that the 40 novels from last year was my only really successful goal, but I need to back that off.  I found that 40 novels was a lot of pressure while I’m trying to accomplish other things.  I also found myself shying away from any books longer than around 300 pages, so making this goal less should help me tackle some of the longer books I’ve had for years and have ignored.
  2. Write two polished short stories.  I wrote one, so this year I will aim for two.
  3. Finish a bloody RPG! Like I said, I currently have THREE RPG Maker games on the go.  So this year, I want to get SOMETHING finished!  lol I also have to not start another RPG Maker game until I get something finished!

A couple of final notes for the upcoming year:

  • next weekend I’m going to be participating in my first ever game jam!  I’m really excited for it!  I’ll have to blog more about it. 🙂
  • I am not going to make a goal for “so much time writing” this year.  Instead, I’ve currently got one guaranteed afternoon off from work, so I’m going to try to use that time for working on things, be they writing or researching (although it’s also a time I use for other things like vet appointments, because I know it’s a time I don’t work).  Depending on how the year goes, this can change, so I’ll have to be flexible with it.

So that’s it.  Hopefully 2018 will be a good and creative year, giving me the flexibility to work on different things (and actually get some stuff finished!)

So what about you? Have you set any goals for the upcoming year? 🙂

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Hello 2017!

Happy New Year everyone!  2016 was in many ways a difficult year.  But in other ways it was a great year.  I started my radio show AND got a permanent part time position at the library.  I also just got back from a wonderful few weeks in sunny Florida (pictures forthcoming on Flickr!)

Here’s all the things I wanted to do in 2016:

  1. Finish Tears of the King – failure.  I didn’t finish it, but I did work on it a bit more earlier in the year (to the point that I would say 1/3 is functioning and built).  I think I made this game much bigger than I should have; it’s going to take me awhile yet to finish it.
  2. Write four polished short stories – failure.  I don’t think I really wrote any short stories.  I brought a few older ones with me to edit and that didn’t even happen.  Oh well.
  3. Take a Lego Picture a month (and actually post it in a timely manner) – failure huh partial success. I took one and posted it relatively on time every month until the fall.  I seriously thought this had fallen apart long before then.
  4. Eat healthier – huh, partial success. I started using my dietary scale to make Greek yogurt parfaits with granola (which I love). I’m also a bit more conscious of my portions.  Not bad!
  5. Be more active – partial success.  I walked a lot over the summer, and a lot over the last few weeks in Florida.  Plus last month I went swimming a lot, too.
  6. Read the anthologies I own – failure.  I read 4 anthologies or short story collections.  One of them was honestly an accident (I didn’t realize The Jungle Book was a short story collection when I started reading it).  I also think I’ve read one of the four before (but didn’t realize it until I recognized the final story in the collection).  I’ve also got two anthologies on the go right now and haven’t read from either of them in awhile.
  7. Build 1 of my worlds that need building.  – this is another partial success.  I did spend some time working on another world, but I don’t think I got it to the point where I feel it is ready to work with (the setting is still unnamed at this point, though I have spent some time trying to name it with no luck thus far).  Hilariously I also spent a bit of time working on magic in Imezza while I was in Florida; sitting on a beach watching dolphins is sort of the best inspiration for an ocean world! 😉
  8. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book – failure.
  9. Take apart my NaNoWriMo 2015 blob – success! I succeeded at this back in February!  🙂
  10. Work with Chat Mapper – failure. I have done nothing with Chat Mapper since January 2015 (which was fun though!)

While I didn’t accomplish many of my goals for the year, as I said, I ended up starting a radio show, which has been a great experience!  My life has taken me in some unplanned directions, making me a lot busier than I may have previously been.  So with that in mind, I’m going to make less goals for this year, but make them things I really, really want to accomplish.  Hopefully this way I can keep myself a little more focussed on things now that I have more limited time.  So this year I want to:

  1. Read 40 novels.  In 2016 I read a lot of shorter things (both graphic novels and short stories).  So this year I’d like to focus on longer works.  Ideally most of those longer works will come from books I have stockpiled in my house but we’ll see what happens.
  2. Write four polished short stories.  I have three worlds built to a point they can be written in/about, and a fourth one coming along okay.  It’s time to start using these worlds!!!  Plus there’s a short story contest I’d like to enter.
  3. Work on Tears of the King. Ideally I’d like to finish it.  But even getting another third built would be awesome!

Those are realistically my most important creative goals for this year.  Taking Lego pictures is fun, but I don’t want to bog myself down thinking I HAVE to take them.  Chat Mapper hasn’t happened for the last few years, so there’s no point in worrying about it now (but if it does happen this year, that’s still cool).  Likewise, I haven’t gotten around to editing any of the NaNoWriMo books I’ve written and they’re not a priority to me at this time (but again, if I do get around to them, that’s great).  And I don’t need to do any more worldbuilding, but again if it happens, that’s great (and I already know I have to tweak a few things in my Imezza and Faeriia Google docs thanks to my brief work on Imezzan magic over the last few weeks).  I also decided not to bother posting my non-Creative goals here since this blog is entirely devoted to my creative endeavours.

EDIT: I came up with one more goal.  Goal #4 is to spend one hour a week on writing.  This hour can be spent on Tears of the King, worldbuilding, editing, short stories, novels, whatever. I’ll even schedule it into my week if I have to!

So there we have it – my goals for 2017.  Wish me luck as I work to accomplish everything!  I’ll do my best to keep this blog updated with my writing progress.  🙂

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Hello 2016!

Happy New Year everyone!!!  2015 was overall a really good year for me and I’m rather sad to see it go.  But hopefully 2016 will be just as good!

Here’s all the things I said I wanted to do in 2015:

  1. Read 50+ books off of The List -partial success.  I read 51 books this year, but only 25 off The List.
  2. Stay in shape – I’m going to say failure.  I did get back to swimming, but really late in the year.
  3. Get 2+ of my worlds that need building up to the point Imezza is currently at – success!  City of the Dead and Faeriia are not done but I can easily write stories set in them.  That sounds like the point Imezza is at to me!  🙂
  4. Finish the screenplay I started – failure because this was going to be a gift for a boyfriend who I broke up with in March (so I stopped caring about it).
  5. Write the Grief Project  – success!  A first draft was completed in my NaNoWriMo blob!
  6. Write a story a month for Apocalypse Madness  – success!  I actually wrote 13 stories plus wrote something with Chat mapper for Apocalypse Madness last January.
  7. Build a game – partial success. After Storynexus stopped being supported I switched back to RPG Maker (which meant switching to a different game).  Tears of the King is not completed, but I’m still working on it!
  8. Figure out Chat Mapper – I’m going to list this as a partial success because I did write that Apocalypse Madness thing in January.  But that was the last time I even looked at the program, so I don’t want to say it was a full success.
  9. Take a Lego Picture a month  – failure.  I stopped taking as many pictures in general this year and miss it, but I just haven’t had time!  😦
  10. Fix up my Red Bubble profile – I actually did do this early in 2015.  So it’s a success, but I haven’t added anything to it since then.
  11. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book – failure.  Lack of time.

No wonder 2015 was a good year for me – out of 11 goals for 2015, I completely succeeded with 4 of them (and 2 of them were quite sizable – writing a story a month for Apocalypse Madness and getting two worlds to the detail level of Imezza!)  I also made a valiant effort on a few others, with only 4 as outright failures!  What’s more, I actually succeeded on more writing projects than I did last year!  (I think my main accomplishment last year was to build Imezza).  So 2015 really was a good year! 🙂

So let’s look to 2016.  This year I want to:

  1. Finish Tears of the King.  That should obviously go without saying.
  2. Write four polished short stories.  I’m very proud of the work I spent writing for Apocalypse Madness this last year.  But Apocalypse Madness is all about writing first or maybe second drafts.  So this year I want to put the time into writing more quality pieces, not quantity.  I’m planning on perusing Duotrope for markets that I’m interested in and writing a story every quarter for one.
  3. Take a Lego Picture a month (and actually post it in a timely manner). I can do it!
  4. Eat healthier.  I’ve been so busy over the last several months in particular and I feel unhealthy.  So 2016 is the year I’m going to try to be healthier.  I’m just listing this here as part of my goals, but don’t worry, I’m breaking this down for myself in better detail!
  5. Be more active.  Going hand in hand with number 4.  Also breaking it down for myself into better detail.
  6. Read the anthologies I own.  Looking through my list of books, i have over 25 anthologies of short stories on there!  So this year I’m going to focus on getting through most of those (if I make it through 20 I will consider this a success).  As a side note, I’m going to mark my Goodreads Challenge as reading 40 books for the year. So that means I hope that half of my challenge will be made up of short story collections.
  7. Build 1 of my worlds that need building.  I don’t really need to do this this year, but I know there are two main worlds that need building (well, one world, one science fiction setting that in reality will be multiple worlds).  If I can get through one more right now, that’ll only help me more in the future, right?  🙂
  8. Edit my NaNoWriMo 2012 book.  This is the same as last year – I want to make it into a coherent narrative that I can share with people.
  9. Take apart my NaNoWriMo 2015 blob.  This sounds a bit silly, but I’ve already put it off for a month.  The blob is made up of worldbuilding, Grief Project, more worldbuilding, and several other, smaller things (stories, a blog post, etc).  I need to take it apart and organize everything (particularly the worldbuilding and Grief Project.  The smaller things are pretty much self contained inside of it).
  10. Work with Chat Mapper. This poor goal has been on my lists for the last few years (since 2013!)  It’s time to actually do some work with branching dialogue!

So there we have it – my goals for 2016.  The first five goals are really my priorities for the year.  Wish me luck as I work to accomplish everything!

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No December #WriteFridays

First of all: Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays everyone!

I think this is pretty obvious, but there have been no #WriteFridays this month.  While furiously trying to get caught up with NaNoWriMo last month, I hurt my wrist a bit, so I’ve been taking things easy.  On top of that, I’ve been busy getting ready for Christmas and whatnot, so December seemed like a good month for a break.

Of course, that being said, I still had one more Apocalypse Madness story to write to meet my goal of one a month for the year.  And today I officially met that goal!  Here’s my December story, “Lexy,” which was inspired by the April 2015 quote.  For some reason Apocalypse Madness tends to inspire stories with a rather darker tone, so I wanted to write something that was a bit more inspiring and uplifting.  I don’t know if I succeeded, but “Lexy” is a story about a girl suddenly gaining confidence in herself to the point where she is already acting like the movie star she knows she will become.  If you think about it literally, I guess it has some darker undertones with the idea that her original self will die in favour of this new version (or with the idea that the dream of the movie star has become real, whereas the actual person she was will fade into memory).  But for an Apocalypse Madness story, I figure it’s not so bad.

Now that there’s about a week left of December, it’s time for me to start thinking about goals for the next year.  On January 1st I’ll be sitting down once again and seeing how I did with my 2015 goals and what I’d like to accomplish for 2016.  Most likely I will not be blogging on here before that.  So Happy New Year everyone, and see you in 2016!!!

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#WriteFriday – November 27th

I actually did some writing on a Friday!

This week has been so full of writing, it’s kind of ridiculous!  I wrote a stupid amount last weekend.  I think it was almost 5000 words before midnight, then another almost 5000 after midnight.  I started Saturday about 13,000 words behind, and ended Sunday only about 5000 words behind.  And as of Thursday, I ended the day with 43,399 words written; the target for the day was 43,333.  And yesterday I was about 1000 words ahead of target.  Seriously, check out these stats, it’s ridiculous!

So what did I write this last week?  As I already mentioned, I finished the Grief Project draft.  Then I went on to write a rough draft of a story for a friend.  His dog, who was rather old, wasn’t doing so well and my friend thought he’d have to put him down.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to give him this story, but it was written for him.  Well, I definitely won’t be able to give it to him as it is because it’s a very rough draft.  I set it in City of the Dead because that seemed appropriate.

After that, I really had to move away from stories about grief and pets.  Another friend told me Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void was out.  He started talking to me awkwardly about it, but didn’t want to spoil anything so I decided I had to go play it.  With my head firmly in science fiction mode, I turned away from Faeriia and another untitled world (I’m calling it the Centaur World right now.  It’s the world the screenplay I started for Script Frenzy takes place in) and started working on a science fiction setting instead.  This was helped by me rewatching Firefly as well.  I wrote down a random scene I’ve had in my head, which I have to admit, writing story makes the words go faster than working on world building stuff.  From there I decided to write another story for Apocalypse Madness (it’s set on Faeriia and called “Scourge of the Seas“).  And then I decided to write this blog post as part of the word count because I was just rambling otherwise.

I have to admit, writing 50,000 words of mostly world building is really, really hard to do.  Around the point where I started writing more stories (so I’m talking “Scourge of the Seas” and the other scene), I felt like there was no more world building I could do.  I know there are lots of holes in the settings that I’ll need to think through.  But right now I’m sitting at the end of an 80+ page document that’s basically just a big blob of text.  I tried to make notes and comments on the side of things that need doing.  But I know the way that I work, and right now I need to print out this document and go through it, organizing all the world building bits into their own documents to actually see exactly what I have and what I’m missing.  So here I am now, sitting with less than 3500 words to go to win, and I don’t honestly have anything in particular to write about (which is why I decided to write this blog post there, even though it sort of feels like cheating).  The sheer amount of world building stuff I’ve done this NaNoWriMo is awesome – I’ve got one world up to the point where I can easily start writing stories in it, even if it’s missing things, and two more (well, one world and one “setting”) in the works.  I’m super glad to be fixing some of the issues I had with my story ideas (namely the problem that almost all of them were stuck in world building).  But it’s super hard to remember everything that I’ve done these last few weeks (especially when I’m typing like a maniac to get caught up and jumping from setting to setting as it strikes my fancy).  I definitely think, if I ever decide to do NaNoWriMo again, I’m going to write a novel rather than another writing blob.

So apologies to everyone.  I keep saying I’m going to get caught up with your blogs, but realistically that’s not going to happen until after NaNoWriMo is over in a few days.  So wish me luck as I finish off the remaining 3000 or so words I have to write, and I’ll talk to you after the 1st!

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Short Story-based World Building – Guest Post by Deborah Teramis Christian

Deborah Teramis Christian is a sf/f novelist published by Tor Books, professional game designer, and founder of the World Building Academy. She is on Facebook, Twitter (@Teramis), G+, and offers free world building tips here. At IndieGoGo, she is crowdfunding a story collection, many with roots in rpg settings, and is offering video tips on the connection between rpg and fiction writing during the campaign (Sept 18 through Oct 18, 2015, at this link).

Short Story-based World Building: Unpacking Fiction into a Complete World

There are many ways to approach world building. A lot of writers start with the story itself: we let creativity carry us along, and simply put whatever makes sense in the moment on the page.

This approach can work really well for short stories in particular, where the implications of tiny details often do not impact the main story itself. But if we move on to book-length works, or create game worlds based on fiction, suddenly our world building needs to change.

In those larger creative works, there are a lot more unknowns, and because we are playing on a larger field, now we have time to see the consequences and impact of details that may only have been mentioned in passing in a work of short fiction.

It is at this point that we need to pause, take a step back, and begin to unpack the nuances and implications of the world building we have put on the page of our narrative.

Note: Many writers also take a different approach: first creating the world, and developing cultures and context, and then filtering that so only what is needed appears   in the story. If that is your approach, the principle of unpacking here can still be of use in analyzing and elaborating on your own work, but the techniques mentioned in this post will be most useful to writers who start small, and then want to amplify their details to fill a larger stage.

What Does it Mean to “Unpack Details”?

I will assume our beginning case here is the short story, which we may want to see expanded into a larger fictional world, or even a role-playing game setting.

Unpacking is part art, and part left-brain logic. To do this, review your story and look for all those things that may be the “tip of the iceberg”.

  • What have you established that is merely the visible glimpse of something much more deeply seated in the culture or setting?
  • What conflicts to you refer to as backdrop, that really have a world-changing life of their own?
  • What customs are referenced that might represent something much more complex or even different in meaning, than the original short allusion infers?

These are just a few starter questions, but this is the vein you want to think along to do unpacking of fiction.

Here is an example of this in practice from a short story of my own. I used “Small Benefits” as the basis of my first role-playing game world. The setting it inspired (and the world building that grew out of it) also became integral to my novel The Truthsayer’s Apprentice.

What’s in a Name?

When I created my first rpg campaign setting, I wanted to revisit the world I had so briefly created in “Small Benefits.” That featured the stone-built city of Nimm-on-Witholl, capital of the Duchy of Nimm in a cold northern clime with a nordic culture. It was also home to an important school of magic, with an avaricious trickster gnome preying on students from that college.
That set-up was at the heart of my story (which you may read more about here).

When it came time to create an entire game world, this kernel was sadly lacking in detail. Yet like all good kernels, it held the seeds of a much larger creation, did I only have the eyes to see it.

I did this ‘unpacking’ thing on the story, and here are some things that leapt out at me.

School Name and Cultural Incongruity

The name of the magic school was the Collegium Magisterium. I choose a high-falutin’ name with Latinate roots because of what it invokes to an English-speaker’s imagination: a lofty hall of learning, professors in robes, stone hallways, a valued library, and, no doubt, a sophisticated form of magic taught and learned.

But stepping back, I also knew (from my original vision of the area) that this was a setting with a nordic culture. The kind of magic common here would be rune magic, totem animals and witchcraft, not rigidly prescribed fancy ritual magic, such as the Collegium taught.  If I had wizards being produced by this school, and hedge-witches and were-bears being produced by the local culture, how could I account for this discontinuity of magic practices? Why would the Collegium ever have come to exist in this place?

Then I realized my solution lay in the name itself. “Latinate roots” in our world stems from the language of elites: the Roman Empire in our timeline. Translating this to the world I was developing, I figured the magic school took its name from the language of elites in that time and place. I created the Korribee Empire (named for the major waterway that runs through it), and decided that at one time, the Empire had considerable influence in Nimm. No longer, though, for the Korribi sphere of influence has shrunk as the empire has undergone changes. Still, vestiges of imperial culture and learning are scattered across the lands they once controlled.

Nimm, I decided, was at the very farthermost reaches of their geographical influence. When the Empire’s real control faded away, they left behind a school of magic teaching spellcraft in the Korribi (not local) style. It is a practice that is stylized and formal, powerful but complex.  For most of the Nimmian natives, however, magic is homegrown and much simpler, and practiced in many small, commonplace ways. It is not, however, (usually) as powerful as what a Collegium graduate can do.

So: name mystery solved. And more importantly, I have uncovered the existence of a continent-spanning empire, now somewhat in decline, that nevertheless has left a cultural imprint quite far afield. The court of the ruler of Nimm will wear some of the Korribi formal wear (robes), a sign of their “worldliness” and sophistication. They have adopted many Korribi terms and concepts in the practice of administration and law, and some imperial concepts have shaped inheritance and governance. (See Video #1 at this link for a discussion of this example with Small Benefits and the Collegium Magisterium.)

Analyzing This Thread Further

Here I have to look at my world building solution critically.  “Some imperial concepts have shaped inheritance and governance.” What does this imply?

To me, it suggests that this must be an uneasy fit, because the imperial style is not in harmony with the local, clans-based affiliations that existed before the advent of the Empire, and which continue to dominate after its passing.

Which brings us to this obvious question: What does this suggest about the state of political affairs in Nimm?

Well, that is another excellent unpacking question, and one I will leave to your own imagination to answer.  The important thing to note, though, is that this is exactly the train of thought and kinds of questions that fall out of the unpacking process.

 * * *

For each thread of implications I tease out of the short story, many more consequences and interactions suggest themselves. I’d say I end up with a big ball of yarn, but at first it can look like a big can of worms, instead.   Some things will seem pressing to explore and develop; others inconsequential (until you need them for your setting, anyway).  But however you prioritize sorting the threads you are teasing out, this process can take you relatively smoothly from short story with hints of larger world, to full-fledged larger world.

If you like to start small and don’t want to build a whole world before you start writing, try the unpacking approach. You might be happily surprised what kind of world you reveal as you go.

 

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A Change of Plans

Last time, I wrote about my plan to write every day using writing prompts.  As you may have guessed from my title, my plans changed on that front.  The good news is that I wrote almost every day from December 5th until today, the 20th.  There were maybe 2 or 3 days where I didn’t write, and most of those happened this last week (yesterday and the day before).  But prior to that, I was finishing a rather large writing commitment and didn’t have time for writing prompts.

Now that my writing time is freed up somewhat, I’m back to deciding what to do next.  I read in an article from Script Magazine that you should write a single line a day to keep yourself in the writing habit (it’s number 7 in the list), and I’m liking that idea a bit more than the writing prompts right now; it’s an easy way to keep writing even when I feel like I don’t have the energy for it (like during those few days off I took this last week).  And who knows?  Maybe once I write the one line I’ll want to keep going.  So for now I’m going to give that a try, then reevaluate in a week or so.  I’ve also just dug up an older writing project that I wanted to start about a year ago, so I might be working on that over Christmas, too.

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