Tuesday, October 2, 2012

[Process Porn] Superhero Spankings in under Six Thousand Words

"Catwoman" by Kevin Wada
During the past few days I have been thinking about “Pages & Playthings” in more ways than celebrate its publication. Excitement and the thrill of writing naughty words aside, I have been thinking about the set of restrictions involved in writing the piece. Though nowhere near a BDSM dungeon, Geek Love runs on a strict set of parameters to screen through its submissions. 

The stories need a strong speculative element, a strong carnal element and feature at least one character with geeky predisposition. Although spicy, this is a very specific recipe, which needs to happen within the confines of 6,000 words, which further adds to the challenge. The writing community in general has a mixed response to prompts and themes in general, especially if they are specific ones. 

From my experience, the popular personal argument against writing with prompts deals with creativity. I've heard writers feel oppressed (for a lack of a better word and restricted already abused beyond good taste) and stories about the completed work missing that internal part of the writer's individual voice or style. To each his own, but a recent opinion I have heard voiced over Facebook is the profitability from all the hard work. I tend to agree that stories written with a single, specific intention tend to sell harder, if they were rejected, but I digress. 

What “Pages & Playthings” taught me is that prompt stories need to feel in sync and consistent. I think this ought to be a general rule in fiction, but it goes without saying that you should pay more attention to how well the prompt, the theme and your voice for this category of writing you will do. Since this is writing I'm discussing and not something exact like an algorithm, every story will be a new exploration for the Indiana Jones inside every you. 

Since I'm on the subject, I'll give you an example with “Pages & Playthings”, because I can't just seize and desist with my selfish horn-tooting (though I guess what I should have said is that I'm a Samaritan at heart). Here is how I synced and layered all three Geek Love requisites.

1. The Erotica & The Geek 

Contrary to popular belief (my references are 80's US sex comedies, so spare me), geeks aren't a race of asexual beings and they like to get into each other's pants, especially after a hard day of devoting themselves to their hobbies and interests, which is pretty much what I focused on. The bridge between the geek hobby (in case of my character, extreme aversion to reading) and the sex is the foreplay and inclusion of the physical book as a prop leading towards intercourse. The thing with erotica is that people who don't read it assume it's all about the mechanics of sex, but in fact it's all about the tease and promise of a really, really good time. Reading a hardcover for a serious bibliophile already has taken an almost sensual nature, so it's very easy for the feeling escalate after an indecent proposal.

2. The Geek & The Speculative

This has been the easiest thing to do, since culture has so many myths about the supernatural properties of books. Throwing a magic book at a book worm is hardly the toughest thing to do in any context. Since this is science fiction with horror elements, all I had to make sure is follow through a rather creepy introduction of the artifact and establish its possessive qualities. 

3. The Speculative & The Erotica 

Sex between people who happen to be superheroes is tricky business. If you write about normal sex, then you can't really use the speculative element (in this case the superheroes to any effect, other than deconstruct the idea, which has been overdone). At the same time not tying the book in with the sex creates a chasm between the erotica genre and the speculative genre. Since I had a limited wordcount, I designed super powers, which could add some spice into the sexual act to actively involve the speculative element and trigger the characterization process. Then the book itself had to be reason why these people were having sex in the first place. 

Now that these elements flow naturally into each other, the story finds its own balance and the ideas gel with each other to create one organic effect. Or at least create it after extensive editing. 

What's your experience with writing with prompts?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Nature of Change

I believe I have completely lost the ability to communicate my inner thoughts on the blog. At best I can share my opinions, at worst it's all about news, but right now I will go for a more personal approach as I'm entering in a completely new era so to say. Life Offline has been good to me as of late with the last few months really helping me crystallizing my goals, amending my plans for the next three years (roughly; I'm a planner) and then adding some more goals I want to accomplish. 

Here's a slight breakdown of what I pooling my resources into doing: 

1) Lead an insanely geeky project for work, which has been heading towards its official start and might even bleed out into something else completely. 

2) A marketing campaign for the new Tales to Terrify, Volume 1, which will soon hit the shelves. 

3) Complete two short stories for invites I have received; complete a novellette proposal and then work on a novella before the end of the year. 

4) Outline on "Air Boy", which will oficially be renamed into "Breath Eater". I'm very happy I passed through the barrier that held me back on this story. 

5) Work towards moving this blog to a new domain and launch with a brand new identity. As my interests have widened, I want to reflect the change and I intend on doing this through a brand new platform. 

I intend to accomplish a lot in the coming months, both professionally and creatively, so there is only room to grow. These big, good things that have been happening over the course of August and September made me think about change. And what's a more literal change than changing physically? I have been a sucker for the magical transformation since Sailor Moon right to the 90's X-Men cartoon, which saw very flashy costume changes, which I still consider metamorphoses. I intend to change physically and this brings me to the one thing I have failed at year after year. 

The biggest challenge I think in terms of building the correct habits (a long list that has proven to be) concerns my weight and dietary habits. I have grown up with nothing denied, which is decidedly bad for a person with a passion for chewing and a sweet tooth to boot. Now, I'm nowhere near health risks, but I can feel my body out of sync and that is not something I want to continue to experience. July was the month I pushed myself to a healthier eating patterns and it's been a gradual change. What I did wrong in the past with my previous diet changes was to force my body into a sudden transition and the resulting shock to my organism brought me back again to the very cause of my problem.

Change, the good change, the worthwhile change, takes time and mistakes will be made. I'm undertaking a new step towards tightening the control over my body and this time around I will not be paranoi about what I do every second and obsess over what I should not eat. I'm coming to terms with the fact that this is not the type of thing that you can force and expect no backlash. Change will come one step at a time and one should always look towards the future rather than focus on the immediate effects. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

[Publication] Short Story Sale to Geek Love

Geek Love has been one of those projects I loved seeing grow on Kickstarter and draw a following, which wanted for the anthology to happen so badly Geek Love became one of the most funded projects ever. Not only do I love Shanna Germain's big, bold approach to producing an anthology, but I myself find the sexual element in my stories more often than not, so I felt really well to build a story around the sexual rather than the sexual and sensual creep in from the edges.

This is why it gives me immense pleasure to have "Pages & Playthings" accepted into the anthology. Not only because I like writing about sex, but because this is the project that got me writing after my pause due to the rigorous studying in the beginning of 2012. Needless to say, I ran around the office in a state between rabies and gushing. It's a great credit to have. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

[Video Review] Natalia Kills "Controversy"

I draw my inspirations from music and visuals, which is why I get excited whenever a darker, artistically autonomous figure emerges onto the pop scene with intent on experimentation and shock value. Pop music annoys the heck out of numerous genre folks I have talked music with and given the generic song writing and indistinguishable feel to songs, intent and music video clips to grace the Wonderland that is YouTube, I can see how unappealing the genre is to the people invested in originality, creativity and meaning.

Nevertheless, the field does give birth to musical and visual pioneers such as Lady Gaga, who has stated herself that she preoccupies herself with the image and the show more than with the music; a goddess of song she is not, but a goddess of show and shock value she is. Enter the European shark of darker, more mature pop, Natalia Kills and you have an artist who values both the musical and the visual in her work.

The song that has held my playlist hostage is Controversy, Kills’ latest offering and deserves a bit more attention than I think it has gained through the proper channels and YouTube. The song itself doesn’t spell lyrical genius as it follows a disconnected list of items, which have in one capacity or another served as a centre of controversy, with a repetitive chorus revolving whether the listener should or shouldn’t drink the Koolaid. Combined with reverberations and distorted vocals, layers upon layers of clapping, howls and static over a relentless beat, Kills’ lyrics paint a rather dark picture of modern society with a chorus inspired by the Jim Jones mass poisoning and what people are ready to accept without challenging it upon first hearing.

What propels the story and gives it an edge has to be the video, which relies on VHS effects and clever editing to give the viewer the idea that Kills is an accumulation of all the images, of all the controversies, that she in fact is the controversy. Given her dominating sexuality, the decision pays off, because even without lip syncing to her lyrics, skimpy outfits or anything close to choreography, Kills emotes her song through her carnal stares.

Kills reeks of sex. However, her sexuality is not the hyper sexuality of most pop singers, who are offered to viewers as a sex object. She is sex. She embodies the empowered sexuality of a woman in control of the situation, the predatory, the modern femme fatale with jaws ready to snap shut. That is why she doesn’t need a revealing outfit.

The happy ending edited in the song only signifies that she is charge and you, the listener, are her object to reach her climax.

Controversial, no?       

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

[Kickstarter] "Beyond the Sun" Edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Kickstarter fascinates me with the potential for the community to push onward a project into creation without  the traditional channels or as a means to find traditional channels to create a project. It's wonderful and I get to observe it more or less since I am outside the US, but that doesn't mean that the projects don't catch my fancy. The newest one that I find completely brilliant and composed of extremely talented writers is edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and co-edited by Sarah Chorn.

Colonists take to the stars to discover new planets, new sentient beings, and build new lives for themselves and their families. Some travel years to find their destination, while others travel a year or less. Some discover a planet that just might be paradise, while others find nothing but unwelcoming aliens and terrain. It’s not just a struggle for territory but a struggle for understanding as cultures clash, disasters occur, danger lurks and lives are at risk. 20 stories of space colonists by both leading and up and coming science fiction writers of today. Mike Resnick revisits the Hugo, Nebula and Homer winning universe of his Africa stories. Grandmaster Robert Silverberg examines what happens when Jews tired of fighting for their homeland start over on a planet then must deal with a dybbuk (spirit) and aliens who wish to convert to Judaism. Autumn Rachel Dryden has colonists threatened by alien animals which burst out of shells on the ground like piranhas ready to feed on flesh. Jason Sanford has Amish colonists on New Amsterdam finding their settlement and way of life threatened by a comet and the English settlers who want to evacuate them. And a new story from Hugo and Nebula-winner Nancy Kress.

Space colonialism remains as one of the most recognizable science fiction trope, but I have to say that with the trend of realism in science fiction and gritty streaks, it's time to bring back the idealism and positivism of the genre. Reinvent it.

You can find more about the project at the official Kickstarter page. Clash of cultures has always interested me and given Bulgaria's cultural experience with being a colony to the Ottoman Empire gives me insight as to the dark side of colonialism. I feel fantastically excited to have been asked personally to take one of the few invitations to compete for a spot among Resnick, Silverberg and Kress. Keep an eye on this one, people.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whose Book Reviews Do You Trust?

Bad author behavior has been a trending topic that's been popping up for the past two weeks with enough frequency even for me to pick up that the authors of right now think they are in a MMO real-time-strategy, where they mobilize small armies and wage war against the rest of the Internet. 

I can't help, but imagine what's happening right now in the publishing world as a warped, sales-bent version of Heroes. I have heard of an author who sics fans against people with less favorable opinions of their books, authors who bash the books of rivals via anonymous profiles and authors who buy reviews online. I'm not really going to comment on the details of the current shit storm since others have done so far better than I (Steve Mosby and Alan Baxter have been eloquent enough to sum up). 

The current situation with reviews is dire, because Baxter says "reviews are the life blood of authors" (paraphrasing from a conversation on Facebook) and if we can't trust the veracity of reviews on Amazon, which are the customer's primary guideline as to the quality of a book, then what happens? I can't answer how this problem can be solved. I think that fake, marketing copy reviews and wars with fake negative reviews are still in their infant stages. As authors learn the ins and outs of the Internet, the skills to create fake buzz will only branch out. 

However, the dialogue is now beginning and I hope the culture surrounding the reviews and how they're obtained will change towards the better. What I'm a bit more interested in is whether the trust in reviews has been betrayed within the community itself? Do you still trust what reviewers write about books anymore? More importantly, whose reviews do you trust? 

I've been a reviewer for a significant time period and reading reviews has been an integral part of my education as I pick skills along the way. Over the years I have picked up words (hyperboles), phrases (comparisons, generous predictions) and structure of the review (speaking vaguely about the quality of the book with no details or just heading for an emotional reaction that seems rather out of place). If a review doesn't have an ounce of depth or show me the book has had a genuine effect on the reader either emotionally or intellectually, I disregard the review altogether. 

I'm sure other writers, other authors and other book aficionados have an eye for whether a review is sincere, but sometimes that eye might not catch the lie. Who can vouch for this and that reviewer, especially on Amazon. I don't use Amazon for my book buying and I don't intend to ever again. Big sites like Amazon are the perfect target for fraud, because they allow for anonymity so I naturally stay away from Amazon. Do you value Amazon high in terms of trustworthiness? 

Whose reviews do you trust anyways? Do you go to GoodReads or do you trust a site like LibraryThing? Do you log into forums and what is your relationship to the reviewer? I believe that these are the questions that people are asking and answering for themselves right now or at least should be asked and emphasized on. If authors try to cheat, then it's quite necessary for readers to recalibrate whatever defenses they have against fraudulent behavior.

I think that a discussion about how to make authors abandon these cheap tricks is necessary and I think it has already begun, but by answering the question of whose reviews we trust alongside, we will be able as a community invested in literature to help the occassional book buyer to avoid a potential scam. 

What do you think?

Monday, September 10, 2012

[Book] "Tales of the Nun & Dragon" edited by Adele Wearing

It's Monday and I do enjoy, when a Monday starts on a good note. Today is the official publication date of Fox Spirit Books' debut in the 'Bushy Tales' anthology series, "Tales of the Nun & Dragon", edited by Adele Wearing. For all interested, you can find the ebook through the American and British Amazon and if indie is your life blood, through Wirzards Tower Press as well, though that will be available in the coming days. 

‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ features twenty three stories by a mixture of well-known and new authors who offer up a delightful blend of genres. There are zombie dragons, latex nuns, trips through time, nunsploitation and some unusual fantasy tales and fables. The book also features internal illustrations by artist Kieran Walsh. 

To celebrate the launch of ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ and in honour of International Talk Like a Pirate Day we are running a small contest.

Between now and the 19th September 2012 we will be taking open submissions of flash fiction (up to 1000 words) on any interpretation of the subject of pirates and piracy. The three best stories will be posted on the Fox Spirit website and their authors will receive a hard copy of Tales of the Nun & Dragon once it becomes available. They will also be invited to submit for a place in one of the two Bushy Tales anthologies planned for early 2013, ‘Tales of the Fox and Fae’ and ‘Tales of the Mouse and Minotaur’.

Competition entries must be sent as a pdf or word doc, to adele@foxspirit.co.uk and titled ‘Pirate Flash’. Any entries over the 1,000 word limit will not be considered.

I've had a fun time following the exploits of Adele Wearing in the publishing world. I'm a huge supporter of Fox Spirit Books and so far, I'm very happy about the decisions that go behind each launch. That's the way a small press should move through the world. 

Early reviews have been favorable as well. The Eloquent Page and Tony's Thoughts have found the anthology to be delightful and with some free time on my hands, I will share my thoughts on it as well. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

[On Writing] Logistics behind a Title

Yesterday, I wrote the final lines of my erotica short with horror elements and superheroes entitled "Pages & Play Things". I'm positive about this project as it started with a less of a bang, but as I continued writing I've rediscovered the way to translate my thoughts in projects, something I have been fearing given my absence from writing for a long time. 

Two peculiar things happened with this project. First, I had to fiddle with the story itself and first write 2,000 words before I finally heard the story click with me. And the second has to do with the title itself. If you have talked about writing with me, you will know that I start first with the title. The title is the name of the story and when I sit down to talk to the story, let it come to me, I like to know who I'm talking with. After all, my mother has taught me not to speak with strangers. 

When I don't have the title, I don't know the story. "Pages & Play Things" I think captures the subject matter of the story (a special book, which exists in defiance to the cultural and technological background of its story world) and the genre, a mixture of the erotic and nefarious. After all, Eros and Thanatos walk hand in hand. 

Before the story received this title I started with "Big Powers in Small Tights", which played with the super hero elements heavily, the eroticism of tights and the humor of my main character. Eventually, I decided to down play the humor and dial up the erotic heat and re-titled to "Teamwork", which in the context of the genre should more or less speak for itself.

Although this title is now perfect for creating the steamy images I want to elicit from the title alone, I wasn't  all that happy how it disconnects from the actual plot. The crux of the story lies within the intense diametrical oposition of the protagonist with his teammates. By that time I thought that maybe I need to hint at the plot, so I settled for "The Book That Wants to Play", but as I fitted the title in my mind, my writing devoured all the humourous bits and substituted them with weird, budding elements of horror, so I had to lose the B-movie vibe. 

As I penned the ending and logged into Facebook to announce how happy I felt at the completion of this one story, I didn't feel the title was right and as I wrote the status update "Pages & Play Things" rolled off on the keyboard. What do I think the perfect title should be? 

I think it should convey the tone of the work (the aliteration hints towards the writig style), should hint of the genre or at the very least the story archetype ("play things" whispers a bit about that) and should point at the focus of the story (the book). Sometimes all three elements can't be incorporated, but a combination of two should suffice. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

[Sound of Sunday] Pretty Reckless & Robyn

Today is the day I finally completed a project I have started two weeks ago give or take. It's good to have a story completed and after much contemplation, I think the title "Pages and Play Things" have stuck for real as I will probably discuss later, but as I wrote I was heavily under the influence of two diametrically opposed artists. Both are female, blond, gifted vocalists and lyricists.

What have you been listening to?  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

[Cover Art Post] Pandemonium Books: Lost Souls & Crossroads

I have been a tremendous fan of the Pandemonium Books series, since my friends Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry decided to take a stab at the publication business. Kudos to them as they have succeeded in doing what a lot of small presses have not right from the get-go and that is create quality products. Their first titles include stories by a number of writers I know and respect, which on itself is rather impressive as you can see how much trust and mutual respect goes around and comes around. 

However, what I find highly impressive is that this editor duo make no compromise with the quality of their anthologies and this can be seen in the newest titles, which are now available for purchase. 

"Lost Souls"

Monday, August 27, 2012

Art: "Tales of the Nun and Dragon"

This is a bit overdue as I have been absent-minded all August, which seems to be rather predictable for me this years in particular. Now, I would like to draw your attention to a fun project entitled "Tales of The Nun & Dragon", which will soon be published by Fox Spirit Books.

Here's the official blurb: 

"The Nun & Dragon is an old pub, although not England’s oldest. Still, even before a pub stood there the site seemed to draw travellers who had a tale to tell. It sits in a small English village with one of those odd names like ‘Barton on the Beans’ or ‘Sheepy Magna’, though it isn’t either of those. 
It’s not a place you find by looking, it’s a place you stumble across when your armour is scorched and bent or your hair bleached white by an encounter with an unholy order. There is a reason it’s known as ‘The Nun & Dragon’ after all. 
It’s a place that draws stories, the kind no one would believe if you told them somewhere else, but here, where the homebrew tastes slightly of honey and cinnamon and the fire is always blazing, people will take you at your word. 
If you collected all the stories ever told at The Nun and Dragon you would see all of history and culture from our world and possibly, if the tellers are to be trusted, beyond it, gathered there."

What you might not know, however, is that I have received a copy of the illustrations, which will appear in the book itself. Drawn by Kieran Walsh, these are pure monochrome beauties that bring out the nostalgia in me, even though I'm technically not old enough to demand nostalgia rights. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Parsec Award Finalists Announced

Today has been all about awards. As the World Fantasy Award Nominations have been announced, I have received news that Tales to Terrify has been short-listed for the category Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team. 

Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team
Brief Description: This person or team is new to podcasting in the past Parsec eligibility year, becoming a significant voice that has contributed to the community as a whole.

You can find the original post on the Parsec Award site. 

Quite naturally I am at a loss of words, because working as an editor for Tales to Terrify feels like a normal and extremely pleasurable way to spend my days, so the concept of receiving an award is utterly awesome and right out of the blue, because I still think achievements like these unlock with a blinding light.

Since it's almost midnight I will sleep on this and provide a follow-up post. That's it from now! 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Proper Etiquette When Filing Your Work

This perplexing and daring piece of photography is courtesy of Dutch photographer, Erwin Olaf.
This post is inspired by my miniature heart-attack, when I remembered incorrectly where I have stashed one of my earlier projects and couldn't find it. I understand why everyone prefers digital filing systems, at the very least you are confined to one box. When you have torn off pages stashed "somewhere", there's a goose chase, if I have ever seen one. 

Writers, learn this lesson and learn it well. 

DO: Make a note of the place, where you store any physical writing you make. It would be best to have one central stash for these miscellaneous pages. PRO TIP: If your memory is unreliable and it has gotten you in all sorts of trouble before, home-made library card, darling! 

DON'T: Promise yourself you will surely remember in a year's time the exact location you slipped five torn-off pages. Memory don't work that way, sweety. PRO TIP: Don't think of thinking "I will type it up later", you hear me. Your scumbag brain will trick you into losing the pages! 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Things No One Tells You about NOT Writing

Harry Markov
Piece by Alberto Cerriteno.
I'm returning with the image
of the day feel to my blog. 

With much scrapping through the coffin’s wooden lid and elbowing through dirt, the blog has arisen from the yonder to feast on the righteous flesh of those who have succeeded it. Fear its indiscriminate trolling, ill mannered finger pointing and infection-sprouting referral links that will spell your doom.

Long story short, I have graduated from university.

Achievement unlocked: Bachelor in International Economics.

Finally, a writer with the knowledge and understanding of spending habits OR you know, the harbinger of our world economy’s end; whichever comes first I say.

On to the good stuff, eh? It’s been precisely one month, twenty-two days, five hours and forty minutes since my last post (I’m writing this on a Saturday, so it will probably be longer by the time you see it, but I’m not a stickler for numbers). Thankfully, this period does not apply to my sobriety.

During my absence, my blog’s reached 30,000 hits according StatCounter. My gratitude to all image searches and the people, who typed in “rule 34 Justice League”, “naughty time DC” or my favorite “sexy Baba Yaga”. Nothing lights my heart brighter than a quest for a serviceable geriatric of the occult variety. Given the less savory searches, I think I may have discovered a potent niche within visual pornography. 

Although I have been boldly going where no writer desires to half-step in (reality) and my ten tireless digits have slaved over the keyboard, I have been writing non-fiction, rather than what I really wanted to write. Priorities demanded I secure a juicy diploma and a steady income, so I don’t feel as if I have betrayed my purpose as a writer. If someone preaches that you have to write no matter what, then you should shoot said person in the face, because if writing causes unnecessary pain (after all the expression goes ‘suffering for’ and not ‘from’ your art), what’s the point in doing it.  

Regrets aside, I have learned a few things about not writing, which I think no one mentions as valid lessons for writers. Sometimes you have to not write and tackle other obstacles, but the moment you return to your writing projects, you will come head to head with several issues. I believe that most writers should prepare psychologically for these challenges.   

You Become the White Rabbit.
Everyone knows the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, the perpetually out-of-time tiny fluff ball of fucker in a petticoat. You become him. I became him (minus the petticoat) and I still haven’t repositioned my posterior with the intent to create. By now I should have finished with detailed prep-work for a novel series in the works for the last two years concept-wise.

Yes, prep-work for some doesn’t qualify to prance around with a status ‘full-fledged writing’ (though I protest the second-class citizenship some writers attribute to prep-work). Yet, for all intents and purposes, prep-work is writing.

What in the seven hells happened?

My space-time-continuum healed itself, which is a very fancy phrasing to explain slapping a band aid on my schedule, where the writing used to be and allow for my routine to change. I have unlearned the lessons about discipline. I have forgotten the sacrifices, their importance and I hop around much like the White Rabbit, constantly out of time. Perhaps Lewis Carroll could have given the bunny an organizer, but either way, be prepared to fight for your right to write all over again.     

You Have Drunk from the Waters of Lethe.
In Greek mythology, the waters from the river Lethe caused loss of memory. Now substitute drinking the waters from a hell river with watching television as a favorite pastime and you’ve got yourself a writer in abstinence.

During the months in preparations for exams, I had long periods of ADD (I’m only tentatively ascribing the condition to myself), where I couldn’t sit down to write. Naturally, my brain did its best to hide all writing tools (as if it prepared me for a treasure hunt) and erase their user instructions. I’m struggling with this mildly humorous, mostly self-serving post.

Sentence variation, masculine verbs and active voice? What were they? Coming back from a long spell of not writing will most likely mean that you will have to teach yourself your style from the ground up. Unless you are exceptional, then I hate you.

Your Mind Is a Sleeping Beauty.
Wait, what?

Yes, your mind, though in all honestly it’s just the part in charge of writing, which has slipped in a night gown, under the covers and has forgotten to set its alarm clock. Cue the handsome love interest.

Not only did I forget how to write, I forgot how to think as a storyteller. Don’t gasp. I’m still a storyteller, just a pale clone. It happens, when you don’t practice. Writing is not riding a bike; you don’t mount the keyboard and start from a saved checkpoint. Hearing the story, spinning the story, shaping the story into a fresher take on whatever plot you are rehashing from the mono-myth takes more time than you have grown used to.

I remember a writing exercise on the Internet, whose objective was to write ten story ideas in one go without a break. Nothing simpler than writing the core idea, the story’s backbone. Ten backbones. Pretty easy, right?

The first two or maybe three pose no challenge. However, they are the most obvious ones, the ones your imagination has seen done elsewhere and cached for a quick use later on. To access your mind’s full capabilities as a storyteller, you have to dig deeper, which is something I’ve to repeat once again.   

My personal lesson with not writing boils down to ‘one step forward, two steps back’. I have not fallen beyond salvation, but I’ll have to scrape the rust off my tools.

What are your stories from times, where you had periods of not writing?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Geeks Get Your Slut Out in a New Anthology

I've been bogged down by studying for my finals, so blogging is still not something I can do on a regular basis per se, but I promise to make a return soon enough. In the mean time here is a fun little project, which I think will have a bright, bright future. 

The slutty librarian has always been a thing and geeks have been sexually objectified in visual media. Natural progression demands that fiction follows tout suite and so the foamy gods of erotica bring to you "Geek Love". As with all things fetish, "Geek Love" demands your kinky, nerdy funding to become a "thing".

Artist Lee Moyer has delivered a neo-pin-up cover art so nerd-gasm inducing that my circuit board overheated and almost exploded. 

Here is a little bit more about the Kickstarter project from Geek Love:  
"Do you have the hots for that uber-sexy IT chick who knows exactly how to turn your computer on? Do you find a mad scientist’s lab a sexier setting than the bridal suite at the Ritz? Do you take tours through the natural history museum just so you can watch the tour guide talk about the hardness of perfectly preserved dino bones? Know how to twiddle a game controller with the best of them? Then you’ll love Geek Love. Geek Love will be a collection that celebrates geekdom in all its erotic, smart, hot-as-an-exploding-chem-lab ways. Think smart and sexy, girls with glasses, boys with brains, computers with all the right hardware. 
We have a kick-ass team putting this collection together, full of skilled editors, planning gurus, artists and promotional rockstars, including Lee Moyer, Jaym Gates, Janine Ashbless, Adam Israel and Shanna Germain. 
This will be a Kickstarter Project, and the funds will be used to pay the writers and artists, to produce the full-color ebook, and to promote the collection. If we receive additional funds (and we absolutely believe we will), that money will be used to offer a print version of the collection. 
The Kickstarter will launch in September, after we have assembled a tentative table of contents. The invitations are out now, and we are already hearing from a number of fantastic authors and artists. We are working on reward tiers and expansion packages while we wait for the submissions to roll in. 
In the meantime, we’d love some feedback from you! What sort of rewards would tempt you? What kind of geeky erotica have you always wanted, but never been able to find? Let us know! 
Do you have a sexy, geeky story to tell? We’ll have an open submission period in August. Give us characters who are smart, nerdy and wordy — whether they’re playing Doctor or petting Schrödinger’s pussy! Bring us your mad (and sane) scientists, your grammar nerds and your nerdy grandmas, your role players and cos-players, your freaks and geeks, your goggles and gears."

Friday, March 30, 2012

E.B. White on Writing

Who: E.B. White

Written: "Stuart Little", "Charlotte's Web" and co-wrote "The Elements of Style" with Strunk

What did he say: I'm actually featuring a letter in its entirety he wrote a young girl with the aspirations to become a writer. I won't comment on it, because I completely agree.

"At seventeen, the future is apt to seem formidable, even depressing. You should see the pages of my journal circa 1916.
 You asked me about writing--how I did it. There is no trick to it. If you like to write and want to write, you write, no matter where you are or what else you are doing or whether anyone pays any heed. I must have written half a million words (mostly in my journal) before I had anything published, save for a couple of short items in St. Nicholas. If you want to write about feelings, about the end of summer, about growing, write about it. A great deal of writing is not "plotted"--most of my essays have no plot structure, they are a ramble in the woods, or a ramble in the basement of my mind. You ask, "Who cares?" Everybody cares. You say, "It's been written before." Everything has been written before. 
I went to college but not direct from high school; there was an interval of six or eight months. Sometimes it works out well to take a short vacation from the academic world--I have a grandson who took a year off and got a job in Aspen, Colorado. After a year of skiing and working, he is now settled into Colby College as a freshman. But I can't advise you, or won't advise you, on any such decision. If you have a counselor at school, I'd seek the counselor's advice. In college (Cornell), I got on the daily newspaper and ended up as editor of it. It enabled me to do a lot of writing and gave me a good journalistic experience. You are right that a person's real duty in life is to save his dream, but don't worry about it and don't let them scare you. Henry Thoreau, who wrote Walden, said, "I learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." The sentence, after more than a hundred years, is still alive. So, advance confidently. And when you write something, send it (neatly typed) to a magazine or a publishing house. Not all magazines read unsolicited contributions, but some do. The New Yorker is always looking for new talent. Write a short piece for them, send it to The Editor. That's what I did forty-some years ago.
Good luck. Sincerely, E. B. White"

What's your story about advice early on in your career?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anton Chekhov on Writing

Who: Anton Chekhov

Written: "A Marriage Proposal" (play), "The Cherry Orchard" (play) and "The Lady with the Dog" (short story) among many others.

What did he say: He has said a lot about the process of writing. Chekhov had been very vocal and seemingly adored to theorize about writing. There are quotes on writing that exceed the length of a paragraph. I've taken it as my mission to show the shorter, but still impact-full snippets.

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." 
"My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying."  
"When you describe the miserable and unfortunate, and want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder — that seems to give a kind of background to another's grief, against which it stands out more clearly. Whereas in your story the characters cry and you sigh. Yes, be more cold. ... The more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make."

What do I think: 'Show don't tell' is as old as the game itself, but the quote shows the advice in practice. The use of so few words also encourages that the number of words is of little consequence. Rather pay attention to how you use them. 

I can't say whether we really lie in those two parts, but it stroke me as pretty interesting, because in my own experience, writers tend to rework the beginning and the end multiple times and with enviable intensity. 

'Colder' will also provoke you to worldbuild better. I have noticed that secondary worlds fall flat, because only the minimal has been done to elicit an emotion. This is where 'show don't tell' works on a macro level as well. If you will have a segment of a society suffer in your secondary world, you better strive to compete with real life as far as cruelty is considered. 

Is crying enough to convey tragedy? What sells misery?  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oscar Wilde on Writing

Who: Oscar Wilde

Written: "The Picture of Dorian Grey", "House of Pomegranates" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" among others

What did he say: He's the minimalist so far. His quotes are snappy, witty and easy to commit to memory, for when you want to come across intelligent.

"Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess."

"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."

"Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

What do I think: All three create a narrative about the dangers of mediocrity and the virtue of writing with an edge. Making impressions demands grabbing the attention and 'excess' here comes quite handy. These quotes actually tie with a quote of Twain about the regret of not doing things. Write dangerously is a concept I have yet to explore in its entirety, but I agree in testing ones limit. 

How far can you go? How far have you gone?     

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mark Twain on Writing

Who: Mark Twain

Written: "The Prince and the Pauper", "The Adventure of Tom Sawyer", "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "A Double Barreled Detective Story" among others

What did he say: He said a lot, but most of his quotes have been written in the context of his letters to various people. The only straightforward advice given on writing is this:
“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” 
This second one that I enjoyed very much comes from his letter to W. D. Howells. 
"Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell." 
What do I think: 'Very' is not my crutch word per se. I think that 'very' has been clubbed to death so that no one uses it as much. I could be wrong. Do editors edit 'damn' out these days? I think we have well passed the point of desensitizing here. I'd say that the principal 'avoid crutch word X' is full on force, though I think that it's way better to be proactive with weeding these out rather than troll your editor. Of course, Twain seems like a joker. 

I love the second quote because it paints such an apocalyptic picture. Beauty. That is how I feel, when I finish a project and I believe that this is the prime reason, why so many people get caught in the revisions game or why series have proven to be so enjoyable. 

What do you think about Twain's quotes?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Expect a lot more radio silence, until the end of June. Though I will try to add at least some posts. I have been thinking a lot about writing, since my creative energies have been redirected to other projects in my line of work and social life rather than fiction writing. A lot of writers have also been thinking about the craft of writing.

Who: Ernest Hemingway

Written: "A Moveable Feast", "For Whom the Bells Toll" and the classic "The Old Man and the Sea" 

What did he say: Hemingway has said a lot about writing and what I've come to recognize as a powerful way to communicate urgency is the use of short sentences to the point I sneak in some sentence fragments. Here are two official quotes from his book on writing.
“Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done.” 
“I think you should learn about writing from everybody who has ever written that has anything to teach you.”
What do I think: I agree with both quotes. Writing is an art form based on continuous improvement as all art should be in the first place. Given the writers' predisposition to ferocious self-criticism, it's no surprise that the act of writing remains challenging. I think the second quote has more relevance now more than ever, because as readers and writers we are in the position to choose among a multitude of writers to learn about the craft. What I'm not entirely sure how to interpret the quote. I strive to learn from those, who through their words have provoked a change within my micro-cosmos. 

Do you share Ernest's opinion?    

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"The Tracks that Tower over Valleys" has been accepted

Well, the cat is out of the bag with this announcement via Pornokitsch. I've been writing a flash piece for Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry, the wonderful editorial team at Jurassic London, who have compiled a thrilling and  delicious anthology "Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke" with speculative stories set in London. The catch is that they have to be inspired by Dickens.  

Now, my flash "The Tracks that Tower over Valleys" is rather different in terms of setting, which is why it will appear in the electronic chapbook with the minimalist title "Fire": 

We're also pleased to announce "Fire" - an electronic chapbook of shorter-short fiction. Fire contains three fantastic stories from three unique voices, all skirting the inflammatory outer edges of Dickensian-inspired SF. 
"The Tracks that Tower over Valleys" by Harry Markov
"Sketches by Zob" by Osgood Vance
"A Tale of Cities Two" by Tom Loock

Monday, February 27, 2012

Joey HiFi cover for "Mockingbird" by Chuck Wendig

Miriam is trying to keep her ability – her curse – in check.But when Miriam touches a woman in line at the supermarket, she sees that the woman will be killed here, now.She reacts, and begins a new chapter in her life – one which can never be expected to go well.

The cover: Joey HiFi delivers another stunner of cover art. I certainly hope that Chuck Wendig never finishes his Urban Fantasy series, because that would mean that HiFi would have to supply us with the most progressive cover art I have seen. The incorporation of smaller images to create a larger silhouette is certainly not a new technique. In the hands of an amateur the results would repel the eye, especially if somehow bright colors get involved. But with black and white and a strategic splash of crimson, the cover is a looker. I have to say that this cover will catch my eye among many brightly colored images. Impressive considering how deliciously monochrome the image is.

Tell me what you think of this darling! What makes your cover senses tingle?

Mood: Rather cranky 
Coffee Cups Chugged: Three, but I had lots of Coke, so I guess… more? 
Song Selection: “Katy on a Mission” by Katy B [classy dubstep] 
TV Show: The Walking Dead 
Book: “Solaris Rising” edited by Ian Whates 
Movie Last Seen: Margaret Cho’s standup DVD “Beautiful” 
Current Writing Project: “The Tracks that Tower over Forgotten Valleys” 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"The New Hero" Anthology by Stone Skin Press

Book I want: “The New Hero” anthology to be released by Stone Skin Press

Cover: The cover art has been provided by Gene Ha, who will haunt my aesthetic wet dreams from now until I pass into a better place. What is there not to like here. The cover incorporates a very classical Ancient Greek fresco with anachronistic images to convey the meaning of the title. I honestly crave this book because of the cover.     

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, Julia Bond Ellingboe
Better Off Not Knowing, Jeff Tidball
Warrior of the Sunrise, Maurice Broaddus
The Midnight Knight, Ed Greenwood
The Thirty-Ninth Labor of Reb Palache, Richard Dansky
On Her Majesty’s Deep Space Service, Jonny Nexus
Cursebreaker: The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist, Kyla Ward
Against the Air Pirates, Graeme Davis
Fangs and Formaldehyde, Monica Valentinelli
Bad Beat for Aaron Burr, Kenneth Hite
Charcuterie, Chuck Wendig
Sundown in Sorrow’s Hollow, Monte Cook
A Man of Vice, Peter Freeman
The Captain, Adam Marek

Mood: The “what do I do with myself?” variety of energetic.   
Coffee Cups Chugged: The magic number three.
Song Selection: “Push” by Garbage
TV Show: RuPaul’s Drag Race  
Book: “Solaris Rising” edited by Ian Whates
Movie Last Seen: The Iron Lady – kind of a drag, but Meryl Streep is gorgeous, so you have to watch it.
Current Writing Project: “The Tracks that Tower over Forgotten Valleys”   

PS: I was totally inspired by Monica Valentinelli to adopt this bullet point presentation. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

[February 24th, Culture of Bulgaria] The Bulgarian Bus Conductor

Riding the bus in Bulgaria is one of the unique daily activities, which you will probably not have the chance to experience anywhere else in the world, except maybe in other Eastern European countries. I'm a fan of bus rides so I don't mind the ceaseless waiting for one. It's all part of the thrill I get from the chase and prowl. 

Buses being late is not an uncommon event, but Bulgarian bus drivers take it upon themselves to elevate lateness to an art form. If you take it upon yourselves to visit Bulgaria, you don't need to read a single time table, because even the bus drivers have no idea when they will arrive. 

Now once this is out of the way, I'll talk about the Bulgarian bus 'conductor'. When you think of a conductor, you picture an opera hall. However, in Bulgarian, a conductor is the person, who sells tickets in the bus. Now, in most countries to the West and I'm certain in some to the East, this job has long since been handed over to our future overlords, the machines. Here, not so much. 

The conductor is low-paid, has one of the most unappealing job descriptions in the world and conversations with them are rather dull. These grannies or aunties [yes, the most unappealing job positions in Bulgaria are all reserved for the ladies; feel special] have probably suffered quite a bit to end up on this end of the employment spectrum. I don't expect them to care that I don't know which stop is which [still happens to me] or that the bus has come half an hour late [while outside is -20 C], but the way these women look at you oozes accusation. 

It's as if every passenger is personally responsible for their predicament. They don't want you to talk to them and they don't want to talk to you. They frown, if you give them a bill larger than 5 BGN. They shout, if you ask them why the bus is late, and they never ever seem to know anything. So basically the bonuses of having live-human interaction with conductor are non-existent. 

What you do get out of the whole thing is a ticket and a mild case of emotional abuse.   

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[February 22nd ] Weird Wednesday, Project Hiatus & Blogging Changes

I hope this sets the tone nicely
There’s been no Weird Wednesday for awhile. Oh, you noticed? How nice! I feel special and cuddly just by thinking about you guys. First, there were exams. Then, there was fatigue and chronic lack of sleep. Now, a very nasty back pain is responsible for the delays in updates in the Weird Wednesday feature.

Well, since we have gone down this thorny road, why not get with the program and expect to see something [anything really] by the mid-goddamn-summer. Cause guess what? Weird Wednesday is going in a wee bit of a hiatus, until after June. Why, you might ask?

The question is a rather simple one to answer. Because my university runs on a campaign of complete misinformation, I had to receive primary information through the rumor mill about what I as a student had to do in order to apply to work on a thesis. Mind you, I already knew what I would be writing about and have it all worked out.

However, the university set the bar higher for those, who want to apply, from 4.50 overall grade to 5.25. Of course, I’m not a straight A [6.00 in Bulgaria] student, but a firm B student [meaning my overall grade sits at 5.00 firmly]. This means that I’m not qualified to apply for thesis, which is the considerably easier way to go about graduating. The rumor mill had been going Charlie Sheen crazy about what the new qualifications were going to be. The university conveniently leaked no information about any of the guidelines for thesis, which should be so high on their priority list. The consensus among everyone is that the new head appointed in our department wants to read a lot less than previous years. It suits him to give out as less as possible information and ruin it even for those, who are eligible to apply.   

Anyway, I finally had to check for myself, whether the rumor mill was correct and honestly, since I’ve found no official information on the website, I hoped that it was all nonsense. Well, it wasn’t. So now, I’m going to be one of the misfortunate ones revising material from two years ago. I have confirmed nine disciplines I’ll have to freshen up on and five, which I’m not that sure of.

So you see why I can’t really continue with my regular, big projects, but instead of complete hiatus and going off the grid, I will just blog shorter. More snippy, snappy comments and less snore-fests of posts.

Well, dearies. Let the torturous study begin.        

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

[Tuesday 21st February] Asa - "The Way I Feel"

I've had a long day at work and I've been on around for hours of sleep, so my brain's capable only of browsing naughty words and processing pretty moving images. Fortunately, I have the latest of "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "Smash" to get me through the night.

Because I love you, here is the wonderful Asa with "The Way I Feel". Have a Happy Pancake Day to all in the UK.

Monday, February 20, 2012

[Monday February 20th] 8 Things I Learned About Deadlines

Who wins now? EH!
It’s been a month and I’ve nearly forgotten how to blog, which is funny, cause these days you can’t make me shut up. Work has been a bit crazy and my fingers ache from the constant tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard. Then I had to bounce around doctors for awhile, which further added unnecessary stress [nothing too serious with me] and then came news from the frontier to the West, where mother is working right now. In between all of this I’ve been pretty silent, because I’ve been chasing deadlines.

What advice about deadlines will tell is that you have to stick to them. What advice neglects to say is that you have to be extremely realistic about the number of deadlines or at least I’ve missed the guidebook to deadlines some way along the way. If there is a copy somewhere that no one needs, my e-mail is in my bio [just saying]. The gist of this post right now is that I’ve been an incredibly naughty boy and expected unrealistic things from myself.

As you might suspect already, I want to be on top of everything and it’s not been happening as planned. I edit for Tales to Terrify, I write and I review [though I thought I had stopped for good] and then I have several other big as hell blog initiatives, which more or less have fallen in the background. Top that with a full time job and university and you have yourself a basic recipe for chasing deadlines all the time. Here are the lessons I learned chasing deadlines and failing some times:

1] Write down everything connected to your project and deadlines. Most of the time, you will work in tiny bites of time. Managing fiction for a podcast has taught me that a big project is a clockwork robot rather than a brontosaurus, meaning that it’s a ticking organism with so many parts that take minutes separately, but letting them slip through the cracks of your mind will come back to bite you. This can easily apply to writing, which I learned after forgetting a few stunningly beautiful ways I could have employed in my latest story.

2] Newsflash: Life’s unpredictable, so you’d better learn to predict situations that will suck your time and be beyond your mortal control. Although doing what you love may offset the depression of having a job that suffocates you or [insert anything unpleasant you have to deal with every goddamn day], you have a real life with real people and other real things. Real life doesn’t like to be ignored. Hell to the no, girlfriend. Real life’s like a kitty cat, a bad kitty of imminent doom that poops on your head for no good reason.

If I hadn’t spent two weeks with intense pain, because of a bad back, I’d probably be on time with most of my deadlines. Plans mean nothing, when you are an unwilling component of this sick algorithm that is life. It’s a crucial skill to know how many projects you can undertake, which you are sure you will bring to fruition even if your life crashes in pretty painted flames of devastation.

3] You are not a time table. As much as I’d want to conquer the Internet and have hot men throw their jockstraps at me, I discovered that I can’t do everything. This is the basic mistake that I do time and time again. I assume that just because I have a free slot in my schedule and yes, I do have a schedule, I can put something in there.

So what happens, when you realize that your schedule has tasks that have you type and read for what feels like eternity and your brain says, enough is enough. Naturally, you crave some sort of outlet, be it skimpy books in pink covers [I stopped reading those, when I discovered that the skimpy pink books came only in female fantasy editions rather than gay fantasy ones] or reality TV [either classy and/or campy for me, please] coupled with as many TV series as I can watch. Maybe you are one of those weird people that go outside and talk to people, fleshy bits to fleshy bits. In translation, work will not be done. Work that needs to be done and you can’t complete, because you are exhausted. Plan activities that will allow you to recharge your batteries or I tell you that you’ve got a first class ticket to Burnout Land. PS: It will not be pretty. It never is and it’s the fastest way to hate something with burning passion.

4] You are responsible for your guilt. If you assign yourself too many deadlines, you don’t meet, because you sought to take a rest, you get your high and then what. Guilt that is what. The wrist-slitting guilt that has you all tossing and turning at night, accusing you that your careless ways are what will always separate you from those that have succeeded in their career. So unless you want to flirt with a sharp set of razor blades and set yourself for low self-esteem and failure, why not cut yourself some slack and what you are realistically able to complete as projects.

5] A deadline does not mean waiting for the last possible moment. The Internet is full of memes, where students consider their teacher’s deadline a challenge to see how late they can start with their paper. Don’t be that douche that purposefully starts at the last minute possible. I’ve done this stunt a couple of times and I’m far from proud with myself. Plus, apart from the inevitable guilt you will generate, your work will be sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. So do yourself a favor and start as early as possible.  

6] Don’t expect people you’ve put on a deadline to remember their deadline. Through my work at Tales to Terrify, I learned the hard way that delegating tasks and expecting them to be done isn’t as innocent as it seems. I did that. I trusted the powers that be that everything will be honky-dory and forgot about the deadline. Guess what. This came back to bite me, cause shit happens to the people you collaborate with. They get sick. They get involved in some sort of life conspiracy and the last thing on your collaborator’s mind is your deadline.

7] Talk with your collaborators about updates. If you want to avoid feeling like an idiot, negotiate with your collaborator how you as the one with the request will proceed in regards to the deadline. Set a few check point dates that will ensure that you get all the updates needed without coming off as a panicked, desperate ninny. You also get the bonus of psychologically engaging your collaborator so that even if suddenly something comes up that will cause delays, your collaborator is way more likely to warn you, even though in the greater scale of things your deadline matters. Of course, I’m referring to all the projects that run on good will rather than money. When money is involved, people tend to be a lot more organized.

8] Content first, publication later. To continue my thread, I’ve always started projects even before my involvement with Tales to Terrify, where I relied on people’s content. A normal person would be cautious enough to arrange the deadlines for the contributors long before they are needed. It’s way easier to schedule something that you have rather than something that you have promised to have. I, on the other hand, assume that everything runs on fairy magic, so I had a few close calls, but lesson has been learned. Everything can happen and a good deadline chaser knows that time is a stretchy, gooey thing that runs through the fingers.