WIP-it Wednesday: August 9th, 2017

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

It’s been an eventful week. On Thursday I received the critique feedback on the first draft of Cretaceous Queen and started working with them. By about midnight, I had a second draft and sent it over to Madicienne and had ended up dividing the novelette into five chapters: “Extinction Event”, “Urruatta”, “Last Best Hope”, “Countdown” and “Overtime”.

Friday kicked-off a four day weekend. Writing-wise, Friday was a washout as the day was jam-packed with long delayed errands and appointments:

This included my first visit with my doctor in over a year since I lost and then regained health insurance. She gave me a physical and the works, including my 10 year TDAP booster shot. I’d regret this shortly.

To be clear, my wife and I had planned the long weekend with vacation time specifically to paint our back porch, not for me to have a double weekend to write with. But the weather shifted, and alas it rained:

Okay, maybe I was a little like this kid at the same time:

Yeah. So… bummer. But hey, more time to write, right? ;-)

Well, by early Saturday morning I also wasn’t feeling that great. Aches, pains and fatigue like I was coming down with the flu. In truth it wasn’t the flu, I was having an allergic reaction to the vaccination.

I soldiered through pretty well that first day. I’d had an old story idea return from a few years ago and it got stuck repeating itself in my head for days thanks to a writing prompt Bryan Aiello had shared on Wednesday. I decided to excise it as a few hundred word warm-up piece of flash-fiction before I got to work on the novel. Instead, I spent the day writing a new 1,600 word short story I’ve titled Far from Acheron.  It’s now in a second draft and soon will be in its third.

I went to bed feeling worse, and a restless night brought me to a Sunday where I felt truly awful. My allergic reaction had become moderately severe, with cold sweats, shakes, chills, and tingling numbness in my fingers and toes added to everything from the prior day.

Not an ideal way to feel getting back into the novel in general, and more-so with the difficult time I’m having with this chapter in particular. But even if I could only half-feel my shaking fingers, I could still hit keys with them. It was time to just keep swimming writing.

Although it was far from a stellar day’s work on Vivian’s Last Cigarette, I added a thousand words I wouldn’t have otherwise.

By Monday morning, my condition had improved to something slightly better than how I’d felt Saturday. I spent the last day of my vacation working and reworking that tricky new chapter six. Writing-wise, the chapter grew by another thousand words. But more importantly, I think I finally figured out a bunch of the plot snarls that have been hindering me with this part of the book.

Chapter six has been a very complicated affair to write. It starts with a tense foot chase that pushes forward with several peaks and valleys. At the height of its last peak, a door is literally slammed in the face of the bad-guys as my intrepid orc protagonists escape into the sanctuary of the Magic Moo-Shroom Metaphysical Shop.

It’s a super abrupt change in pace. Inside the shop Viv and Gronk have finally attained some safety, but the threat of the antagonists remain: Although they are reluctant to enter the building, they still have the orcs trapped inside. Keeping that threat warm and tangible while introducing the new allies the protagonists meet in the Moo-Shroom –as well as introducing the character of the shop itself– has been a tough juggling act.

It’s like a wide valley in the action, because after some introductions and formulated plans, Viv and Gronk attempt to sneak out of the besieged shop. This results in a madcap and final round of action where little turns out as anyone had planned. But our orcy duo do, at last, fully escape their pursuers in the end.

Yes, that is a lot going on in one chapter: A huge chase through several new locations with lots of action that expands on several new antagonists introduced in the prior chapter… Then a total shift in scene… Then two entirely new characters and an eccentric setting are introduced… And then after that there’s a round of comedic action before a final escape.

It’s all… a lot to digest in a single chapter, isn’t it? ;-)

I’ll also relay that I intended this chapter to be the one where I join the book’s completely revised and expanded opening to the rest of the pre-existing novel. So there was that on my mind as well.

I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to think of a way to cover all this ground in this single chapter for weeks between other projects. But on Sunday, I let go of the idea that six would be the “last new chapter” that I’d stubbornly held onto for so long. By doing that I can reconcile the narrative shift after the initial action of the chase by simply starting a new chapter at the point where the protagonists enter the Metaphysical Shop.

That transforms the “wide valley” of the original take into the “starting plain” of a new chapter. From that level beginning, I can then ramp up the action leading to the mini-climax of this arc of the story. It’s a more standard means to reach this end, and I think it’ll be better all the way around.

The initial chase portion of the chapter runs just shy of 3,500 words, a length comparable to many of the novel’s other chapters. So that’s a good fit. It also takes me from being at an awkward point of a potentially very long sixth chapter, to having a completed first draft of the sixth chapter and 1,500 words into a new chapter seven. :-)

This has been a very rough patch of water, and I’m sure all writers hit them with their books. But you just have to keep swimming…

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

Mid-Week Muses: “Four Billion Years of Regression Hit the Time Traveler”

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

"Alright Ede, time to sneak-"
"I AM VERY STEALTHY!"
"Ede, you need to-"
"BE QUIET! GOT IT!"
"Oh, we're so caught already..."

They took his child away.
They killed his wife. And
after decades of war to stop
them, he now faced the son
he never knew in battle.

Four billion years of regression
hit the time traveler. Her
bare form became primordial
ooze, and she the mother of
all life

 
Clair warmed a cold crab
rangoon with her electric
touch, then looked to
Camden coyly. "Your turn.
Tell me about your powers."

He pulled her out of focus.
She became a blur, then a
smear on the background...
then she never existed at
all.

 
She set the cruising shuttle
to autopilot. Then her
hopeful eyes turned to his
and guided a hand to her
pregnant waist.

 
The trio were again alone
in the room.

"Is it a Death-Note?" her brother
asked beside Tim.

She jotted a couple changes
to his entry in the
notebook. "No, it doesn't
kill." 

"Then what's it do?" Her
sister asked holding
Tim's hand.

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

Art-Tastic Tuesday: The Megasaur Poachers, by Alex Konstad

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Click 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!

The Megasaur Poachers, by Alex Konstad. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Epic Music Monday: Thomas Bergersen – Aura

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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: Boulder Beach, by Colin Zwirner

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Click 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!

Boulder Beach, by Colin Zwirner. Click here for more of the photographer’s work!

Throwback Thursday: Saving the Best for Last, by Daniel R. Horne (1987)

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Saving the Best for Last, by Daniel R. Horne

This painting by Daniel R. Horne premiered as the cover of Dragon Magazine issue 126, which arrived in my mailbox in October of 1987. Thereafter, it would reappear in several other TSR products and advertisements.

My thirteen-year-old reaction? “Wow!”

Back in the day, Dragon had a excellent track record for Halloween (and April’s Fools) themed covers, and this piece was no exception. It’s got great composition: The figure of the undead giant bursting through the snow is full of threat and movement, and the ranger’s pose with her bow is both desperate and determined at the same time.

Against the pale background, both characters really pop and demand your attention… with the darker shades of the giant adding weight and strength to him from his more extreme contrast. And the little details like the giant’s half-missing finger, the sword stuck in his breastplate, and the faint but not overdone glow at the tip of the arrow. All of these keep your eyes wandering and drawing it all in.

Finally, the painting poses an excellent if unspoken question that leaves us in suspense: What happens next?!

Over the years, I’ve thought of several possible conclusions. But I’ll let you keep-up the tradition and think up one of your own. ;-)

WIP-it Wednesday: August 2nd, 2017

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

After three weekends of writing, I finished a first draft of Cretaceous Queen on Sunday afternoon. :-) It totals 9,300 words currently, taking it beyond the realm of a short story to become a lean novelette. I’m happy with this, as I have a good track-record with novelette-sized pieces.

Novelettes allow me to craft an amount of story equal to a few good chapters from a novel, so I can go a little deeper with the tale than a short story would allow. But because they stop shy of a novella length (which usually starts around 18,000 words) or a novel by far (around 50,000 words minimum) they aren’t huge commitments to either write or read. Novelettes also have the benefit of being able to be serialized readily, as you can easily work the natural ebb and flow of chapters into them.

And turning Cretaceous Queen into a short serial for the blog is exactly what I have in mind.

It will easily convert into at least a four-part piece that I can share with you for as many weeks, my plan being to share its chapters progressively on Saturdays. I’ve been trying to increase the amount and frequency that my own writing appears on the blog this year, with longer one-shot pieces like Crossing and Aniyah joining my weekly microfiction offerings of Mid-Week Muses and Fifty Word Fantasy. Running Cretaceous Queen as a serial fits with that goal perfectly. :-)

I’m not sure when I’ll start sharing it, but it’ll likely be at least a few weeks. Currently the draft is in the hands of my wife, to whom I almost always grant the first read and critique of my pieces. Once I work in edits from her notes, Queen will be headed to Madicienne; my friend and fellow author who provided the spark of inspiration that got me writing it in the first place. The story is, in a real way, a gift for her as much as it has been a gift to myself. And after Madicienne is done, I have at least two other writer friends waiting to read it.

Those readers alone will get me to a fifth draft of the piece, and there may be more. But given my past experiences with similarly sized works, editing in changes shouldn’t take great lengths of time unless I really missed a mark somewhere and they need to be extensive.

By design, Cretaceous Queen opens in media res and ends with a few questions and a new problem unresolved. I wouldn’t call it a cliffhanger ending. But I would say that it’s more than a passive, open ending in that I think it will leave readers that liked it with a strong desire to find out what happens next.

That ending is by design as well: My goal with both the opening and ending was to capture the feeling of stepping into series already in progress.

This tactic could easily be confusing. To prevent that, I designed the story as if the reader was stepping into the building climax of an early or the very first story arc of the series. That allows me to start the piece literally on a running pace, but not with an overwhelming amount of backstory that needs to be relayed for it to make sense.

The story opens with an exciting introduction to protagonists Katie and Max that doesn’t require any knowledge of prior events to understand. Thereafter, the reader is brought up to speed on vital parts of backstory dropped while the pair deals with a challenge and converses trying to solve a sudden, and serious, problem stemming from it. I was pretty happy with myself for getting all that done within only a few brisk pages, and all the while with enough action that it didn’t become a slog of exposition either.

From there, it’s right into the meat of the story. The stakes have been set high. The reader knows what they are, and why, at this point. So it’s all about how and if this pair of fifteen-year-olds can rise up to the challenge.

I don’t really let-up on the kids as things get rolling, either. Instead, I throw a toolbox full of wrenches at them over the course of the plot. ;-)

When I finished Cretaceous Queen on Sunday, it legitimately felt like I had finished the pilot for a series. I’d done worldbuilding to get my concepts straight, and plotting for events both before and after the story to form something akin to a rough series bible. It was a good feeling: I’d created something inspired by early 90s anime including battling robots and magical girls, and combined that with dinosaurs and American style superheroic conventions.

My inner teen fanboy loved it, and I think I’ve written it in such a way that many others will too. I’m really curious to hear their reactions, and I’ve got this feeling that they’re going to want more. Having had such a positive experience crafting this “pilot”, I’m not opposed to writing the rest of the series so that it becomes worthy of a bouncy, 90s J-pop theme song in the future. ;-)

But aside from edits to Queen, that can wait. The time has come for me to return to Vivian’s Last Cigarette in a major way next week!

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

Mid-Week Muses: “Words are Magic, and Those That Weave Them Well are Wizards”

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

"To read is to conjure
thought and image from
nothing. Words are magic,
and those that weave
them well are wizards."

 
"He thinks he's in
control, but really
he's just an unwieldy
puppet with a dozen
people pulling his
strings."

Harold turned on the
sailboat's radio,
vigilantly listening
as he had for months.
Silence again. The
mainland was a tomb. 

 
Crypto-Cloth pulled a
bazooka out of her tight
jeans.

Asil blinked. "How'd—"

"Extradimensional pockets."

"Now THAT'S a power!"

Titania brushed the
physicist's cheek. "You
seek the truth of my
being?"

He nodded to the fairy queen.

"Then seek the truth of
yours."

The spell cast, he opened
his closet to Aneko and
her Sunday morning in
Hokkaido. His Saturday
night in Boston closed
behind him.

Fluid gushed as it escaped
the plastic maturation bag.
Turning rows of hungry eyes
to the scientists, it's
first steps followed.

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

Art-Tastic Tuesday: Unwoven Seamstress and her Serger, by Travis Anderson

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Click 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!

Unwoven Seamstress and her Serger, by Travis Anderson. Click here for more of the artist’s work!