Blog Hop 2.0!

Once again, I’ve been tagged in a writing related blog hop — this time by the lovely author, editor, and publisher of Niteblade, Rhonda Parrish.  Rhonda recently participated in this blog herself and you should definitely go check out her post should you get the time.  You can find it here.

Rhonda Parrish is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the forthcoming World Weaver Press anthology Fae.

In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Mythic Delirium.

Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com.  You can also find her on Twitter, Goodreads and Flickr.

Now!  On to the question/answer part of this blog hop.  Are you ready?

 

1.) What am I working on?

I have just finished the first draft of a science fantasy YA (Young Adult) novel.  As a short story writer, I find novel writing and editing distinctly intimidating.  However, last year a story plot sprang to mind and it was just too large to fit into a short story.  I plotted the novel out last fall and finished drafting the story over the course of 44 days.  It finished up at about 93,000 words.  I haven’t really spoken ‘publicly’ in detail about the novel, but just for fun I’ll share my “logline” as it currently stands:

A bitter, dying sister must seek a cure in the very religion she despises or risk leaving her young siblings alone and defenseless after her death.

Of course that logline speaks nothing of the sci-fi and fantasy aspects of the story, but I don’t want to give too much away yet!

 

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For the first time, I can actually answer this.  Again, as a short story writer, I’m normally not focusing long enough on one work for this question to be relevant.  I feel my novel differs from others in its genre, firstly because it is a sort of unique subgenre.  It’s a science fantasy novel.  So it’s a science fiction setting (far-future) and a fantasy plot.  That in and of itself is a sort of genre mashup which is a lot of fun to me personally.  Second, it may be different in some ways because it explores both the harm and the healing which religion can offer.  I hesitate to tout this as a difference though as I don’t read enough YA or novels in general to say that one hundred percent.  And third — while it is a YA novel, there is absolutely no romance and no love triangle.  I was determined about that aspect of it!

 

3.) Why do I write what I do?

In relation to the novel, I wrote this

, in a way, to explore my own issues with faith and religion, my own doubts and troubles.  What actually started the whole inspiration for this novel was the sterling silver wing-ring I wear constantly.  Again, I’m not going to give too much away, but suffice it to say, wings and feathers have a lot to do with this novel.

wing ring

In terms of short stories, I tend to write really dark, bleak stories.  Fantastical stories exploring the farthest reaches of my imagination — pregnant cellos and women that burst into dozens of birds and AI that fall in love with humans.  I love seeing how far I can take a story, what unique things I can dredge up from my mind.  As for my love of dark fiction and bleak story endings?  I’m not really sure why I love them so much, but I do.  To illustrate that point, I thought Cormac McCarthy’s The Road had too hopeful of an ending and that’s about the bleakest book I’ve ever read.

 

4.) How does my writing process work?

I often draw inspiration for my work from photo prompts.  For example, my story “A Fairfolk Promise” — forthcoming in World Weaver Press‘s Fae anthology — was inspired by one of many photographs on my writing prompt Pinterest board.  I love looking at a photo, especially really fantastic, speculative related photos, and filling in the details, seeing what stories spring to mind.

After I’ve got a story idea in mind, I usually don’t outline.  I just jump straight in, draft the story in one sitting and move on to edits.  I usually have headphones and a writing playlist pulled up as well.  As for longer stories or the novel I’m working on, those tend to be heavily outlined.  I wrote out every scene of my novel on index cards and adopted a scene-a-day method, which I talked about recently (here).

So, that’s it, folks.  That’s the end of my blog hop — almost!  As a part of the process, I was supposed to tag three authors to follow me next week.  I only managed to wrangle in two, but I know you’ll enjoy hearing from them, so please check them out next Monday!  Here’s a little mini intro, in case you’re not familiar with these very talented authors.

Jeff

Jeff Suwak

Jeff Suwak lives and writes in the magnificence of the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the dark fantasy novella Beyond the Tempest Gate. He is also a regular contributor to The Prague Revue and songplaces.com. Some of his recent short fiction publication credits include The Colored Lens, Plasma Frequency Magazine, and The Writers Tribe Revue. He enjoys being berated on Twitter.

You can read his blog-hop participating post here!

Facebook    Twitter    Website

B Lee Draper

B. L. Draper

B L Draper lives in northern Australia where she is a sustainability teacher by day, and a writer by night. She has had stories published in Youth Imagination Magazine and Spellbound, amongst others, and hopes to one day publish her novel before she’s too old and senile to enjoy it. Her blog can be found at http://bldraper.com

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The Scene-a-Day Novel Writing Approach

Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because your calling is to birth new worlds and characters, not to transcribe existing ones!

_____________________________

As most of you know, I’m a short story writer.  It’s my passion.  I love sitting down and writing a complete story all in one go.  I love the high that follows the finishing of a rough draft.  I love experimenting with all the different genres, narrative forms and ideas out there without being tied down for weeks on end to one particular thing.

But, as some of you also know, I’m in the process of writing a novel.  For anybody, novel writing can be a daunting task.  But for me, as a short story writer, I find it particularly daunting.  I can’t just sit down and write 80,000 words in one go.  There’s no glorious rush of joy from finishing a first draft.  There’s the fear of not matching the particular tone and style of the novel chapter/scene you wrote the day before.

For writers out there like myself, I wanted to talk a little bit today about the particular approach I’m taking to writing this novel.  It really works for me and it may work for other people as well.

So without further ado…

Step 1: Outline, Outline, Outline

As a short story writer, the idea of editing or revising an entire novel is mind-blowing.  One avenue I took to try to make that step easier later on was to outline every last scene in my entire novel.  It took a lot of time, I won’t lie.  I wrote different outlines for external/action arcs and two internal/emotional/spiritual arcs.  I then spent time blending both arcs together for a finished outline.  Finally, I wrote every scene down on an index card.  I listed three scenes per chapter and tacked all 45 scene cards onto poster boards.  Which leads to…

Step 2: Drafting — The Scene-Per-Day Method

Every day, I take down an index card from my board.  I read it carefully and then I sit down and write the scene as it’s outlined on the card.  Sometimes, this is a very strict process.  Write the exact scene, no deviation.  Sometimes there are little openings in the form of such phrases as “over the next few days” — I took those little openings and inserted sub-scenes or events that I began to realize as I was drafting the novel were going to be necessary.  Specifically, in one instance I realized it would be a good idea to have my character try to sell a particular item (she’s desperate for money, trying to support her family).  Upon seeing an opening on one of the scene cards, I wove that attempt-to-sell-item sub-scene in right before what was outlined on the card.

What I really, really love about the scene-per-day method is it gives me a clear beginning and end for every day. In it’s own way, it is like writing a short story.  These are bite-sized portions I can easily fit into each day without stressing or tiring myself.  In most cases, the scenes fell between 1500-2500 words per scene/day.  That’s a great number for me personally.

Having an established start and stop point helps me most as a short story writer because when I finish drafting that particular scene, I get a little mini-version of the “first draft high” I normally feel.  It’s a joy, a warmth in my chest as I realize I’ve reached my goal (for the day).  I then update a spreadsheet detailing the wordcount of every scene, chapter and total wordcount for the novel so far.  This is handy because I’ve always been motivated by numbers like that.

spreadsheet novel -edit

Step 3: Preservation of Previous Style/Tone

As I said, this is a big concern for me.  I found a way to solve this issue for me and it starts with having a playlist.  I have a playlist on Youtube that I use every single time I write on this particular novel.  It’s the same set of songs and when they finish, I start the playlist over again and continue writing.  Having the same songs playing as I write helps me get back into the same headspace as the day before and the day before that and so on.  Currently my playlist consists of instrumental songs like Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings and more contemporary music like Houses’ A Quiet Darkness.

Before I draft a given day’s scene, I start my playlist — both to tune out the chatter of the outside world as well as to get me back in the same mood so I’ll better replicate the existing style/tone of my novel — and reread the last scene I wrote.  Again, this helps get me back in the story.  That way I feel less like I’m just starting at random within the novel and more like I just finished writing the last scene and am immediately moving on to the next.

Done Novel- edit

Step 4: Check-Off!

After I write a day’s scene, I take the index card it was outlined on and I flip it over.  I write a smilie face and DONE in all capital letters.  I then pin it back onto my poster board so I can see my progress.  It’s a great visual measure of how far I am and how far I have yet to go.

And that’s it.  That’s how I’m writing my science fantasy YA novel (yes, I’ve given up and decided it is YA and there’s nothing I can do about that right now).  I hope these tips and ideas will prove useful for somebody.  Comment and let me know what methods, tips or tricks work for you — whether you’re a short story writer tackling novels or you’ve been writing novels since you were three (or so!).

Thanks for reading!

Alexis

“No Longer a Fragment” Published in Kasma SF

I’m back again to tell you about a new story of mine published just this evening.  The delightful folks over at Kasma SF have published my science fiction short story, “No Longer a Fragment“.  And it’s free to read (click story title)!  And it has amazing, amazing art by the super talented José Baetas!

In this post, I’ll talk briefly about the story behind “No Longer a Fragment” as well as rave a bit about the artwork for this piece.  If you get the time, it’s a very short read and I’d appreciate hearing if people like it or not.

Artwork by José Baetas

Artwork by José Baetas

Behind the Story

I wrote “No Longer a Fragment” during Story-a-Day May 2013.  At its core, the inspiration for this story came from a paper I wrote in college.  In the paper, I talked about how I felt like a sentence fragment, incomplete and looking for someone or something to make me whole.  The professor circled that particular line and said he liked it.  It always sort of stuck with me as it’s a feeling I’m very familiar with, especially when it comes to faith.  Moving off that basic thought or idea, I really enjoyed playing with this character’s somewhat creepy and drastic moves to eliminate that feeling.  It was super fun to write.

The Artwork

There were two reasons that I decided to send another story to Kasma SF.  One, they’re a really cool online magazine and their editor, Alex Korovessis, is a really great person and a pleasure to work with.  Two, I really, really love José Baetas artwork.  Every story that Kasma SF publishes (one story per month) gets artwork created specifically for the story.  Last year, one of my first sci-fi attempts — “Memory File #006“– was published with Kasma and I really fell in love with the artwork for it (click story title to see).  I was very excited to see what Baetas would do with this particular story and he once again blew me away with the result.  The amount of detail, the added stuff that really fleshed out the image — it’s all so great!

 

Anyway, I hope you guys will stop by Kasma SF to read “No Longer a Fragment”.  Comment here if you wish to let me know what you think, or share the story via the Facebook/Twitter share buttons on the page itself.  If you enjoy the story, or any other stories on Kasma, perhaps consider making a donation as they’re a really great publication to support.

Regards,

Alexis

 

http://baetones.deviantart.com/

http://www.kasmamagazine.com/no-longer-a-fragment.html

2014 Campbellian Anthology

2014CampbellianAnthology_Cover

I’m excited to (rather belatedly) post today about the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, recently published by M. David Blake and Stupefying Stories.  What exactly is the 2014 Campbellian Anthology?  It’s a monster ebook collecting the works of 111 authors, amounting to 860,000 words of fiction!  Why?  Every author in the collection is eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I’m eligible for this award and I have two stories in this collection. “Midnight Hour” and “A Reason to Linger” can both be found in the pages of this delicious monstrosity.  You can download the ebook (for a limited time) here for free!

It’s a great project that allows people to get more familiar with the eligible writers.  There is so much great fiction in here and I’m honored to have my stories published alongside these very talented authors.  So what are you waiting for? Go get a boatload of free fiction!

“Just One More Sin” Published in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume IV

It’s here! Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume IV is officially available in both print and digital formats.

Volume IV Spark

I was lucky enough to be able to help proofread this special speculative-only volume.  So I got a sneak peek at many of the stories in this collection and I can tell you that, frankly, many of them blew me away.  There are some incredible, incredible stories in here, including another weird western story that I absolutely adored!

Volume IV also includes the finale to my weird western series — entitled “Just One More Sin”.  I’m really happy with how the series ends and I hope readers will enjoy it too.  It feels rather bittersweet to end my adventures with Colton and Della.  I came to know them as I have never known my characters before.  Developing and changing them both over the course of four stories was both a challenge and a thrill.  I learned so much and I’m so grateful to Brian Lewis and Spark: A Creative Anthology for bringing the “By the Gun” series to the world to read.

So what are you waiting for?  Go pick up your e-book or print copy from either Amazon or the Spark store.  If you purchase through Spark, you can use the following code to receive 35% off your order!  Code = HUNTER-FRIENDS.

Thanks!

Alexis

Giveaway Winners!

Spark banner

And the giveaway has come to a fantastic end.  I’ve selected and emailed the four winners:

  • Belinda
  • Cheryl
  • Rachel
  • Stuart

A mighty hurray for them and my heartfelt thanks to all who participated, shared, tweeted, retweeted, and what have you!

Now go ye forth and enjoy some excellent fiction in the new year.

…Might I recommend one of the illustrious volumes of Spark: A Creative Anthology:D

“Necessary” Published in Mad Scientist Journal

Mad Scientist Journal’s Autumn 2013 issue went live today, and it includes my short story — “Necessary”.

MSJ-Cover-Fall-2013-1

Isn’t that cover art just delightful?  I love it!  Also, I’m excited to see my name on the cover.  Always a plus.  I love Mad Scientist Journal’s cover art, it’s always amazing.  I only wish they did print copies, because how awesome would that look in print?

Anyway, “Necessary” is a short supernatural tale.  It’s about life and death.  It’s about the tools used to reap humanity and the lengths to which some beings must go to keep those tools intact.  I’ll say no more! Pick up this ebook for only $2.99 either on Amazon or Smashwords.  It’s a lot of fun. :)