Photo Finish Friday: All Is Not Lost by William Patino

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All Is Not Lost by William PatinoClick the picture below for full-size. On Photo Finish Fridays, I feature a selected piece of landscape photography that I have come across. I find that real-world photography can be just as inspirational to my imagination for crafting story settings as any piece of fantastic artwork that I might share on a Tuesday. I present these without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

All Is Not Lost by William Patino

All Is Not Lost by William Patino. Click here for more of the photographer’s work!

Throwback Thursday: Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way!

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The 1980 Rankin/Bass animated version of The Return of the King isn’t without its flaws, but it is lovable in spite of them. And it also has this earwormy song! I often find myself humming it when I’m feeling overwhelmed by a Work in Progress, or writing up one on my WIP-it Wednesdays. ;-)

I’ve always loved the character design of the orcs in this film. My orcs in Vivian’s Last Cigarette don’t look much like them at all, but their ashen green skin is directly inspired by theirs.

WIP-it Wednesday: January 18th, 2017

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18jan17

“It’s almost… done?”

Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

I had a solid weekend of writing, adding close to three-thousand words to the final chapter of Vivian’s Last Cigarette. The manuscript is now likely within a thousand words of becoming a finished first draft… and the excitement of typing “The End” is building! :-)

The chapter itself has continued coming together nicely. It carried a more serious tone than I had had expected it would throughout the first half, but then the humor began to intensify. Those parts really flowed, and I got some good laughs out of them myself! My work on Sunday night definitely left off with the chapter winding down towards the open ending I want to close the book with.

Barring things unseen, I’m certain that the manuscript will be done this weekend. That’s far from saying the book will be done and ready, however it’s a huge step along the pathway to that!

Next up will be reads and edits. The process is going to be different for me with this piece because of its size. Previously, my editing work has been with short stories (length of a chapter) or novelettes (length of a few chapters). Vivian’s is seventeen chapters. My plan is to send it out in “blocks” averaging three chapters each to readers in sequence. I feel that will be more manageable and efficient.

It will work something like this: It starts with reader “A” getting the first block of three chapters. They review and send their notes back to me, and I provide them with the second block of chapters (4, 5 and 6) on receipt. I revise the first block while they are working on the second, and then send the first block (now a second draft) to reader “B”. Regardless of whether reader “A” is still reviewing the second block or not, that doesn’t affect reader “B”. The process will continue like this through successive chapter blocks and readers until the last reviewer reaches the end.

This method has a number of advantages. First, it fits the style of revision that I’m used to and that has been successful for me. Admittedly, it’s on a larger scale and the cycling chain of reads is new. But in principle it seems close enough.

It should be more immediate and possibly expedient given that reviewers will not have to wait for the person before them to read the whole book… and then wait for me to work in all possible revisions. Lastly, latter readers will have the benefits of cleaner drafts that should edit progressively faster with basic errors already (or mostly) fixed before they even take a look.

It should also be helpful to me as an author by keeping the focus on tight groupings of chapters one at a time, rather than a long revision spanning the whole book between complete reads.

As usual, the dynamic alpha-reading duo of my wife and good friend Jessica will be getting the first look at the novel as the “A” and “B” readers, respectively. From there, I’ve got at least four fellow writers who have expressed a lot of enthusiasm to act as beta readers with possibly more in the wings.

That’s a good number of eyes and minds helping me to polish the book and make the story the best that it can be. And at least seven drafts of work! I won’t be surprised if the editing process keeps me busy until the spring.

At the same time, once the first draft is finished, I need to start work on securing an artist and cover for the book. I’ve jumped the gun on that process more than once with other projects, so I made a vow with Vivian’s Last Cigarette to not speak to any illustrators until the first draft was done. As the subject of the novel isn’t your typical fantasy or even urban fantasy fare, I suspect finding just the right talent might be a challenge. Still, I do have a short list of artists who have been sources of orcy art that has been inspirational to me while crafting the book. I’ll be sending inquires to them first and see what happens.

Excellent covers should be a priority for any book, but I think for my novel it might be key factor helping it to reach an audience. The title is good and intriguing, but I’m concerned that at face value alone it might be mistaken for a punk rock retrospective or modern romance/drama. The cover needs to convey the fantasy aspect, and to a lesser degree, the 1980s setting.

Currently, I’m thinking that something featuring the orc protagonists Viv and Gronk in period clothing might fit that bill nicely. ;-)

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!

Mid-Week Muses: “I believe we’ve started an adventure”

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Mid-Week MusesA weekly compilation of collected microfictions composed by yours truly. If your time is short, these are shorter!

"I'm not a lame superhero? 
Asil, I've got pigeon powers 
and sprout wings." 
The tween girl smiled. "Flying's 
always cool, Ken." 
Ken shouldered the fleeing 
criminal, swooping in like a 
pigeon-winged angel. 
"Great tackle!" Asil said. 
"No, just a bad landing!" 
Big Bad admired Red's new 
form. The two wolves smiled. 
"Come on," she nudged. "I wanna 
huff and puff and blow your 
house in!" 
"They call it Zeus: A 100 
kilometer magnetic accelerator 
cannon inside an asteroid, using 
smaller asteroids as ammunition." 
Her eyes were mystified. "W-we 
were just in New York. How can 
we be in LA?" 
"To clarify, we're actually in 
Santa Monica," Mol said. 
Asil emerged wearing a grey hijab 
layered over a broad, black domino 
mask. Her colorful plastic arm 
drew all the attention. 
"... and that's why you'll fail!"
She glared at the skull. "But—" 
"—Don't debate the dead. They 
have time, we don't," Mol said. 
Mrs. Hamilton muttered an 
incantation and slapped the winged 
imp with her wooden ruler. It 
laughed. Then it hissed before 
exploding. 
Amy lay stargazing on the raft, 
a chicken nested on her stomach. 
"I believe we've started an 
adventure," she said petting the hen. 
Lilly ran holding the prince's hand. 
They laughed shrinking out of their 
clothes, then dove as frogs into the 
pond. Home at last. 
He sandwiched his head between pillows, 
trying to ignore the skittering noises. 
Then it crossed the bed with an 
insectine scuttle. 
"They say the eyes are a window 
to the soul." 
"I look into yours and see a void." 

Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

Art-Tastic Tuesday: A Quiet Winter by Ryan Van Dongen

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A Quiet Winter by Ryan Van DongenClick the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

A Quiet Winter by Ryan Van Dongen

A Quiet Winter by Ryan Van Dongen. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Epic Music Monday: Colossal Trailer Music – Aftermath

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I love epic music! For me it is a perfect combination of the classic orchestral scoring, chorales and electronica music that I have enjoyed for decades. This stuff inspires me, and is a great companion as I write away on an exiting piece of fiction. Therefore, on Mondays I share a new piece by various artists on the blog… Epic Music Mondays!

Photo Finish Friday: ‘Path Through the Meadow of Val Ferret’ by Unknown

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Path Through the Meadow of Val Ferret by UnknownClick the picture below for full-size. On Photo Finish Fridays, I feature a selected piece of landscape photography that I have come across. I find that real-world photography can be just as inspirational to my imagination for crafting story settings as any piece of fantastic artwork that I might share on a Tuesday. I present these without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Path Through the Meadow of Val Ferret by Unknown

‘Path Through the Meadow of Val Ferret’ by Unknown Photographer.

Throwback Thursday: Untitled Illustration by Jeff Easley

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Untitled Illustration by Jeff Easley

Untitled Illustration by Jeff Easley

Jeff Easley has a well known legacy from his long tenure as an artist working for TSR, and later Wizards of the Coast. His fantasy artwork in the tradition of Frank Frazetta graced the covers and interiors of many Dungeons and Dragons rule-books and adventures. Beautiful women, heroic men, epic monsters… his work is classic! I’ve always loved his stuff and admired his skill. Although gorgeous paintings are his hallmarks, this inked illustration adorning the seventy-second page of the 1986 AD&D Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide supplement stays in my memory.

It’s always captured my imagination. What’s going on here? How did these lovey ladies end up in this situation? Are they twin princesses waiting for Conan to show up, or just waiting for their turn in the belly-dance competition? What happens next? Does she really think that stick is going to do any good? ;-)

WIP-it Wednesday: January 11th, 2017

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04jan16

Getting back to work…

Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

I finally got back to working on Vivian’s Last Cigarette! The last chapter is started, and although I didn’t get a ton written, I did add a solid twelve-hundred words.

Those words comprised a tricky opening scene that introduces three characters in the last chapter of the book. Perhaps introduced is too strong a word… They’ve actually all been mentioned a good number of times since the opening of the story, and their absence has been a key plot point.

But still, this is the reader’s first chance to meet the trio firsthand rather than in the spoken recollections of others. Although I didn’t plan for it to play out as such, I think that many may construct views of them based off of assumptions. Some might be surprised at how they actually are, and I’m really pleased at that idea!

It’s made me appreciate how great it can be to have characters that exist in the story largely within the dialogue of other characters. My narrative style is kind of third-person limited-limited in Vivian’s Last… But Viv and Gronk speak a lot about their families and others in conversation. That’s allowed for some biased narration to slip in on their part, coloring those characters and their actions through the teen’s respective filters.

I’ve worked in some surprises when the characters are finally introduced in the flesh. It’s similar to the feeling you might get meeting someone in person after being told a lot of stories about them by a friend. There can be a disconnect as you merge the legend and the reality. For one character in particular… perhaps the least mentioned… Viv has been very harsh on her despite never meeting them and knowing her through what little Gronk has said. This has everything to do with Viv’s hang-ups rather than reality, and I think that the readers (and Viv) will be surprised when they actually meet Mel in person. :-)

Another aspect of giving an absent character presence in my story has been letting the tale unfold amid their personal space and possessions. Within the trio that joins the book in person only in its final chapter, this is exclusively true of Ann: A petite lady also know as Gronk’s mom.

Close to two-thirds of the book unfolds in and around the house she shares with her teenaged son. Hints and aspects of Ann are everywhere. From her decorating sense, to how she stocks a kitchen, to the personal affects we get a glimpse off. Aside from Gronk’s room, the house is a constant reminder of her… and the importance her absence is to the unfolding story.

For those reasons, when she finally makes her appearance I think many readers will be tickled to see what she’s actually like!

Everything that’s revealed is built upon what’s already been hinted, so there are no shockers. But what I’ve enjoyed in crafting Ann is that she’s a character that is plainly Gronk’s mother. Not by a physical resemblance… since Gronk has become an orc and Ann is still very much human… but in the way that her personality and quirks have influenced and shaped him.

I’m pretty happy with the way the last chapter is kicking off. I think the new characters are introduced and established quick and clean. The location of the scene and it’s relation to the story before that point should be easy to discern. And finally the unfolding action not only shows many character facets that should interest the reader, but also a glimpse of the wider world outside the main focus of the story.

I really wish I had more time to write this weekend. My Saturday was fairly consumed with launching and answering questions about major changes to how were run the writing contests on the FantasyWriters subreddit I moderate. Although we’ve been working on the changes for many months, getting it ready for the public has been one of the tasks keeping me from getting back to the novel I’ve mentioned in the last few weeks.

Now it’s done, and done well. With that behind me, Sunday felt so good with getting back to Vivian’s Last.

With time opening up, I’m thinking about starting a new short story to work on weekdays while focusing on the novel on the weekends. Specifically, it’s an Exerverse idea from the fall of 2015 that I might flesh-out to share on my blog and elsewhere. It’s been far too long since played around in that setting!

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!

Mid-Week Muses: “The dilapidated colony ship loomed like a corpse”

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Mid-Week Muses

A weekly compilation of collected microfictions composed by yours truly. If your time is short, these are shorter!

The warbot staved-in half of old 
49's android face. But 49 was 
unyielding, defending the new 
mother and infant tenaciously. 
Calliope listened to the 
whispers. "...Exer! That's what 
GARS does to you." 
Half human and cat, she sunk 
within her pea coat. 
The thugs saw a little old lady 
and easy target. She saw six fools 
about to die at the hands of the 
greatest shinobi ninja alive. 
Galen kicked the barrel of howling 
undead capuchins down the stairs. They 
crashed into the Nazis. 
"That WAS more fun!" he quipped. 
The dilapidated colony ship loomed 
like a corpse. Beth felt the push 
of her EVA suit thrusters before a 
tug of unease in zero-g. 
The archmage was unimpressed. 
"An elemental?" 
Dur grinned before teleporting. 
"...Of plutonium." 
There was a nuclear flash. 
He looked at her stunned. "We're alone. 
How is the city empty?" 
The barista shook. "The shop was full, 
then I saw them all vanish..." 
She turned in disgust from 
the inauguration. "That's it, 
all hope is gone!" 
"Not gone," her father said, 
"just harder to see." 
She gagged, eyes staring past the 
Adonis strangling her. Heather saw 
the frat boy she'd so rudely rebuked, 
coming to her rescue. 
"Yeh can't git me on shore!" the 
poacher taunted. 
The lake spirit whipped 40 years 
of fishing tackle at him. 
Snared, he screamed. 
Terale comforted him. "Your injuries 
would've killed you. Are you unhappy 
as an Ent?" 
He held her. "No, life's a birch sometimes." 

Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.