Posts Tagged ‘Laura Horn’

As many of you know, I’m cutting the number of blog posts I do every month down to two (unless I have something special to talk about, in which case we may get one or two more here), so I can use what little time I have to actually get some fiction writing done. And I thought, what better way to start this than to list all the things I’m doing?

Well, actually there are probably a lot better things I could talk about, but all writers are at least slightly narcissistic. Why else do we insist that people should read the fiction we write?

In any case, let’s start talking about me and the things going on in my life right now. This is Updates on What I’m Doing.

I’m now fully employed.

Let me guess, you thought I’d be talking books first, didn’t you? Nope, I’m doing this, because it’s so important, and the main reason I’m doing this cutback.

So, as many of you know, I started an internship here in Columbus, working in an Equal Employment Opportunity office, like I did last summer in Germany (ah, Deutschland! How I miss you so every day!). In an EEO office, we handle everything from promoting diversity and tolerance to getting employees accommodations for disabilities and handling mediation when someone is discriminated against. Within our office, everyone is expected to be able to work the full variety of these tasks, with perhaps some specialization in certain areas for some employees.

Personally, I love the job. The work is good work, the people are nice and laugh at most of my jokes, and the pay allows me to live on my own, which is a godsend (seriously, I love my family, but at this point in my life it’s better for me to be on my own and independent). And as of last Monday, I’m no longer an intern, but a full employee. Yeah, they decided to keep me! I’m so very grateful, and I’m looking forward to working in such a great office for ages to come, getting experience and getting settled into this weird thing called adulthood.

I’m also grateful for a morning cup of tea that’s s good as Starbucks but five times cheaper. Gotta love that.

The one thing I would complain about is that I don’t have as much time to write as I used to. Not surprising, I was unemployed prior to this, and that meant a slightly freer schedule. But the silver lining is, I actually can write knowing I have an income. So maybe I’ll write more slowly, but at least I won’t be doing the whole starving artist routine (seriously overrated).

Which brings me to my next point:

Reestablishing a writing routine

I used to say that I had no writing process, that I just wrote where I could and when I could. Turns out, that’s not really the case. I actually had a pretty established routine during the job search: after a full day of job-searching, I’d stop around five o’clock, have dinner, and write the evening away, watching TV and getting words in during the commercial break. I actually got through two drafts of Video Rage this way.

Well, I moved. And I don’t have a TV, so I stream mostly. And I have an earlier bedtime, which means less time to write. So there goes that routine out the window.

And since then, I’ve been trying to reestablish a routine, though I haven’t had as much success as I would like. I think I just sat down in front of the computer and hoped that something magical would happen. Obviously, magic didn’t occur, despite my prayers to all gods and demons within the vicinity. However, my friend Pat Bertram gave me an idea that’s been helpful: she recently joined a writer’s group where people try to write 250 words a day. Now, I can’t do it every day, but I try to do it as often as possible, and so far it seems to be working. Is it the writing routine I would like? No, but it’s baby steps, and that’s a good enough start if you ask me. Perhaps later on I’ll get to the point where I can write like I used to, even without a TV.

We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?

The Reborn City series

As many of you know, I have a final book planned for this series, which I intend to call Full Circle.  Well, as November is National Novel Writing Month and I wanted to do FC for that month (even though I doubt I’ll even get near ten thousand words), I’m doing some preliminary work on the novel this month. I’ve written a bit of the outline, I’ve come up with a list of names and traits for the group of villains, as well as a travel route for the main characters to take, and I’m working on a family tree for a certain character.

The one thing I’m worried about is the number of plot lines I’ve got going in this final novel. Some of these plot lines were set up in the first book, like some things Rip saw in his soul sage hallucinations, so I need to resolve them in the final novel or attentive readers will get angry and point out stuff about them on the Internet. When I put them in the first and second books, I thought they were great and it would be no problem to wrap them up in the final book. Now that I’m actually there, though…well, I have to wrap them all up. And I’m worried that people will find them letdowns or extraneous.

Oh well. I dug myself into this whole. I can dig myself out again. I must’ve thought those plot lines belonged the whole time I was writing/editing/publishing the first two books, so I’ll work them into the third book and see what happens. Who knows? Some people may not like them, but others might, and it’ll be true to my vision, which is what writing is all about, right?

Rose

So if I’m working on FC right now, does that mean I finished the latest draft of Rose? Well, no I haven’t. The thing is, this draft is proving much more difficult than the first two. I changed an important aspect of the story early in the draft, which ended up changing the entire story at a fundamental level, and I’m kept busy just trying to get the story to match that change. Not to mention that I’m adding a lot of material every time I sit in front of the computer to work on it, and that slows me down a bit too. Add in all the other stuff you do while editing–rephrasing sentences, taking out unneeded material, etc–and I took three months to get to Chapter Six.

Yeah, I’m not happy about that. So I’m taking a break to work on other stuff and maybe get my mind into a better place so that when I return to Rose, I can give it the right sort of treatment. I don’t know when this will be, as FC will be given priority so I can get it out and finish the RC series once and for all, and perhaps after FC I’d like to work on stories other than Rose.

But hey, sometimes that’s how writers work. At times we’re able to work on a story, at other times we aren’t. And sometimes those gaps between periods of work on a manuscript can be very long. Stephen King tried to write Under the Dome twice in the 70’s and 80’s before getting it out in 2009. I’m not saying something similar will happen with Rose, but it might be quite the gap before I get to work on the third draft again.

Other Projects

This post is getting rather long, so I’ll just give a quick update on everything else that I’m working on:

  • Teenage Wasteland: I think after FC, this might also get a higher priority than other books. As a collection of short stories, it should take less time and effort than one big novel, so I’ll be working on this in-between drafts of FC most likely, or whenever I need a break and want to clear my mind. I’ve got about seven or eight stories already prepped for that book, and I’d like somewhere between thirteen and twenty-two in that collection, so I think I can get it done sooner rather than later. If so, I’ll make sure to let you guys know.
  • Laura Horn: Like Rose, LH had a major aspect of it changed in a previous draft. Unlike Rose, it didn’t give me this much grief. So I think I could get Laura Horn done very quickly as well, perhaps as soon as FC and TW are done.
  • A replacement for #FirstLineFriday: got something in the works, and it could be ready by October. That’s all I’m saying right now.
  • 5K Likes: We are so close, I can almost smell it! Make it happen, folks! Make it happen!

 

And that’s basically it at the moment. And I think after I finish with the Reborn City series and all this other stuff, I’ll try to limit the number of projects I have going on to two at a time. Because this is ridiculous.

Expect a blog post from me later this month, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got something planned I’ve been looking forward to talking about for a while. Until next time!

Happy Birthday to the blog
Happy Birthday to the blog
Happy Birthday, Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Five years. It’s been five years since I started this blog, feeling my way haphazardly through the process of writing and posting about my writing and my life (in order of priority), with the hopes of building an audience so that by the time of I published my first book (at eighteen, I figured it was only a matter of time before that happened), I might have some ready readers eager to buy my first book, and every one after.

That didn’t go exactly as planned. But I have gotten a lot out of Rami Ungar the Writer. For one things, I’ve made lots and lots of friends. Angela Misri, Matthew Williams, Kat Impossible, Ruth Ann Nordin, Pat Bertram, Joleene Naylor, Dellani Oakes, and so many more. I’ve had the chance to write for other blogs, including Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, and, yes, I’ve met people who’ve picked up my books and read them.

I’m also this close to nine-hundred followers, as well as so very close to five-thousand likes (like, sixty away! Sixty!). That’s something I’m very excited to achieve, though I’m not sure when either of those will happen.

But it’s more than just stats or book sales. The fact is, you’ve all been with me through a lot. Four years of college, the highs and lows of that fun, crazy experience. Progress in my writing career, including my first three published books, and the creation of several more, which I hope to get out as soon as possible. My study abroad trip, and then my internship in Germany, and all those fun, cool experiences. The long period of unemployment that nearly drove me insane, and finally the beginning of my new job/internship, which I hope will someday become a full-time position (God willing!). All of you, my Followers of Fear, have been with me through these past five years, and I’m really grateful for all the love and encouragement and interaction you’ve had with me. I hope that in the next five years, we can continue with this awesome relationship of ours, and maybe grow to let more people into this awesome community we’ve constructed online.

And that’s what the blogosphere is, when you get down to it. It’s a community. Connections of thousands upon thousands of writers on a million different subjects, getting together to talk about whatever. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so happy to be part of this community, no matter the size of my following or what we talk about on this blog.

Though I am happy that some of you are into horror and that some of you also read my books. I appreciate that a lot!

Now, onto the other stuff I promised with this post. First, a reader-suggested Q&A, with questions from this blog and from Facebook, as well as a couple of things I wanted to unload off my chest, so I asked myself (yes, I ask myself questions. I just don’t usually answer back. That would be weird). So without further ado, let’s begin:

What is your earliest recollection of your love of writing? (Sherri Kauth, from Facebook)

I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t love to write. Or rather, a time I didn’t like storytelling. I would draw for hours, pretending I was making a great fantasy story or the storyboards for the next Pokemon movie. When I started learning how to spell and write and read, my pictures were accompanied by words, and as I got older I used more and more words, until I was writing novels. It wasn’t until I was ten that I really set myself to writing (with the occasional flirtation of becoming a mad scientist or a rockstar), but all things come in good time, am I right?

If you had to write in a completely different genre from what you’ve done so far, which one would you choose? (Kat Impossible, from the blog)

Easy, I’d go with erotica! I’ve read erotica before, and there’s definitely an art to it. It’s more than just simple porn, it’s a story revolving around sex. And I’ve written a sex scene or two in my time, one of which ended up in the final draft of Snake (of which someone close to me said, “He nailed it!”). I even have an erotic pen name I’d use if I ever got into the genre, along with some ideas for stories.

Of course, I’m not so sure my current employers would enjoy having an erotica writer on staff. Then again, they’re okay with me writing horror stories, so long as I don’t talk about them at work, so…

What is a favorite hobby besides reading, writing, or watching horror movies/TV? (Joleene Naylor, from the blog)

Oh goodness, that’s most of what I do when I’m not at work or eating or sleeping. Hmm…I guess rocking out to music or reading too much manga. And hanging out with friends, and family too (when I feel like I can retain my sanity).

Who is the favorite character you have created? (Tammy Whaley, from Faceebok)

Ooh, another tough one. In a way, I love all my characters. They’re like my children. Even the psychopathic ones. But if I had to choose, I’d have to go with Laura Horn, from the novel of the same name that I’m working on. In a way, she’s the character that I’ve made go through the hardest trials, and for whom her growth as a character is especially dramatic. For all of that, I want to give her a hug and tell her that she’ll be okay, even though I’m the source of her suffering (like I’ve said before, Writers are Cruel Gods). So I guess her suffering makes her my favorite character. What does that say about me?

What’s something from the past year you regret?

This is one I’m asking myself. Yes, I do have something: back in winter, I said I was going to do a series of posts about mental illness and its portrayal in horror stories. However, since then I’ve been so busy with so many different things, I haven’t had a moment to really work on this series, let alone do a post about attitudes about mental illness in general. So that’s been a problem for me. I felt guilty about it, since a lot of you were enthusiastic about me doing the project. And if I ever have actual time for it in the future, I will try my hardest to do the project. For now though, it’s on a far back burner until I can actually do something about it.

Well, I’m getting to the point where I’m really worrying about length, so I’ll wrap up the Q&A there (too bad, because I wanted to include more questions). Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and I hope you liked the answers.

And finally, the giveaway. If you are interested in getting an autographed copy of one of my books, here are the rules. Below in the comments, you have to submit the following:

  1. Your name, as it would be listed on your mail (if you have a nickname you’d prefer, we can talk about that later).
  2. Which book you’d like from me (the choices are The Quiet Game, Reborn City, Snake, or Video Rage).
  3. What you find scary personally.
  4. The hashtag #RUscared? (See what I did there?)

Include all that below, and I’ll pick a winner a week from today, on August 9th. I’ll contact the winner, and send them the book, no matter where they live. Excited? Good. Ready? GO!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know if anything comes up before Friday. In the meantime, thanks again for sticking with me through all this time. I really appreciate it.

Big news, my Followers of Fear! On August 2nd, I will have reached five years of blogging! Yeah, five years. This blog (and the wonderful people who follow it, thank you very much for sticking with me through thick and thin) has been with me through four years of college, numerous articles on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, two visits to Europe, one-and-a-half internships, a very long period of unemployment, four published books (plus three at various stages of the editing/compilation process), too many short stories to count, a couple of which were published in some magazines and two anthologies, and a weird period of my life where I hunted down a serial killer while consulting with and developing an unusual relationship with another serial killer.

Oh wait, that’s the plot of Silence of the Lambs. Never mind.

Anyway, in honor of the big day, I will be doing a few things differently (and I don’t mean buying myself a cake in honor of the day, though that might happen as well). For one, I will be doing a Q&A, with questions provided by you, the readers. If there are any burning questions you’ve wanted to ask me, you can ask those in the comments up until July 31st, and I will answer them.

However, if you ask me to tell you where I live, or if I will marry you, I will have to decline on both counts. Sorry obsessives, I don’t want to end up in a real life version of Misery or Yandere Simulator.

Also, if you want to know what scares me, I’ll tell you right now: the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon from the 1980’s. I’m pretty sure the chipmunks from that show are actually the result of a strange genetic mutation, either from nuclear fallout or genetic engineering, and the males in that species all have some deformity in their middles that prevent them from wearing anything but long muumuus. Why else do the Chipettes get actual clothes but the title characters don’t?

I’m also terrified of large spiders. Tiny ones, I can deal with. However, if I can make out individual features on its face or it looks like it could easily stretch across the palm of my hand, I will scream like a little girl. It’s happened before.

I also want to hear feedback from you, dear readers. What do you think I’m doing right as a writer and a blogger? Anything I can improve upon? What posts do you prefer from me? Tell me in the comments below, so I can make Rami Ungar the Writer an even better blog.

Another reason to look forward to the big day, I’m going to be doing a giveaway on August 2nd in honor of the big occasion. I will be giving away an autographed copy one of my books (your choice of which one), that I will send to the winner after winning. I’ll give the full details on the day of the anniversary, so if you want to participate, check in on August 2nd. I’ll announce the winner in a subsequent blog post.

Oh, and one more note: I’ve got a couple of interviews coming up. One is with a blog I discovered through my friend Joleene Naylor, who will be releasing an interview soon. The other is actually a podcast. I’ll be rejoining my friend and colleague Dellani Oakes on her podcast, Red River Online Radio (links to follow soon) to talk books, authors, and maybe reading an excerpt from Video Rage. Get excited!

Alright, gotta go. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions and feedback, and I’m especially looking forward to celebrating this big milestone with you. Let’s have a good time on the second, shall we?

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

So I finished that outline for that new novel I plan to write for NaNoWriMo later this year. First draft of the outline, anyway. I probably will revisit it again before November, make some more tweaks and possibly add a scene or two. It’s a ghost story, and since ghost stories tend to involve the protagonist or protagonists being affected on a very personal level by the spirits involved, often by exacerbating personal problems as well as actually haunting the people involved (ghosts and ghost stories are very intimate that way, I’ve noticed), I’ll want to make sure that that’s done right in this story before I write it.

Now that that’s taken care of, I’m finally getting around to working on Rose, the novel I wrote as a thesis for my senior year of college. If you’re unfamiliar with that novel, it’s about a woman with amnesia who finds herself trapped in the home of a man who says he’s her boyfriend, her body going through astounding changes which this man says was to save her life. I started writing it in September 2014, went back a couple weeks later to rework the entire story because the direction I was going in at first just wasn’t right for the story I wanted to tell, and finished the first draft in January 2015. Not too long afterwards I did a second draft that I finished around April, and I haven’t touched it since.

So yeah, it’s been nearly a year since I worked on that novel. But between working and living in Germany, writing some original short stories and editing Video Rage twice and giving Laura Horn a much-needed second draft, can you blame me?

Okay, I might have also been a bit hesitant to approach Rose again. During my thesis defense at the end of my senior year, my advisor told me that if I were to get Rose up to the level worthy of getting it published, I would have to do quite a lot of work on it. And not just grammar and spelling, though that was mostly okay. I had to work in new scenes, space out some others, rework a couple of characters, and change a bunch of stuff in the beginning of the book. Add to that the normal work of editing, and I’ve got one hell of a third draft ahead of me. It’s a bit intimidating, almost like starting a new novel and facing a blank page asking for sixty-thousand plus words.

Yeah, the horror writer’s scared of his own creation. Make fun of him and the irony. Go ahead, get it out of your system.

But you know what? I think I’m up for the task. I took Laura Horn, which I was sure would need an entire rewrite, and the worst that it came to was a few tossed chapters and one major plot point subtly changed to better reflect actual circumstances. If I can tackle that (and LH was a much longer book, by the way), I think I can tackle Rose.

And not only that, but with this being the third draft, I think once this is one I can send it to n editor for a final look-over before I get ready to publish the book. So if we’re lucky, I could have Rose ready for publication by the end of the year. Wouldn’t that be great?

So I’m going to get two articles out of the way, and then I’m going to get straight onto Rose (unless I get the notes back on VR, in which case editing that takes precedence). Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to be very busy these next couple of months (though that is kind of my life in general).

So last night, with no Wi-Fi to distract me (and someone won’t be coming by to fix that until tomorrow, dammit), and with only a few chapters left, I managed to finish up the second draft of Laura Horn, the novel I’ve been editing these past couple of months. This is actually rather extraordinary, because if you remember when I first started talking about editing LH, I was worried that certain elements of the story wouldn’t hold up and I would have to rewrite the whole thing.

Now, if you haven’t heard of LH on this blog yet, it’s a novel I wrote in my third year of college about a girl with a very dark past who becomes involved entrapped in a terrible conspiracy when she comes across some information certain powerful people would kill to keep hidden. It’s got some false-accusation-by-powerful-folks elements, a little Die Hard in the last act, and it all centers around a deeply-troubled teenage girl. Sounds a little crazy, right? And that’s why I worried I would have to rewrite it, so it sounded a little less crazy.

But I decided to try and edit it, see if this story was still salvageable in some form. And over the next couple of months, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Turns out, the story was much more salvageable than I thought. I just had to change certain details, such as how these powerful people try to isolate my main character (big thing in this story, believe me), combine a whole bunch of chapters (I think six chapters were smashed together to make longer chapters that flowed better), chuck out two chapters that were unnecessary after detail changes or were extraneous upon second read, and a few other details here and there. The result was a much better second draft, and I still managed to keep a lot of the details and plot points I wanted to keep. Not bad for a few months’ work.

I also noticed some interesting stuff with the second draft. For instance, there’s the page and word counts: with the first draft, the page count (using 8.5″ x 11″ MS Word pages, using 12-point Times New Roman font) was 356 pages and 94,774 words. Meanwhile, the second draft had 334 pages and 98,498 words. Now take a second look at those numbers. If there are less pages, why are there more words in the second draft?

Well, I’ve been thinking on that, and I think it has partly to do with how my writing style has evolved since I wrote the first draft of LH. As well as changing how I construct the sentences I use to tell my stories, I’ve come to try and limit how much dialogue I use and try to do more introspection. Now, dialogue is important for any story, but it can quickly fill up a page while leaving a lot of blank space. And in Laura Horn, I found that some of that page-filling dialogue was unneeded, especially after some of the chapters from the first draft were combined or cut out of the second draft.

And in place of this dialogue, I ended up putting in a lot more introspective segments, the kind where the characters are looking deep into themselves, figuring out things or reflecting on situations through their own unique lenses. Those segments use a lot of words, and fill up a page while leaving less blank space than before. That explains why there’s less pages but more words (and I have a feeling that this difference may show up even more in the third draft when I get around to that).

So now that I’ve finished the second draft, what’s next for Laura Horn? Well, as always I’ll put it aside for now so when I start a new draft, I can look at it with fresh eyes. And I will need those fresh eyes, since there are a few things even with the second draft I would like to change: I still think I could put in a bit more introspective stuff and get rid of unneeded portions of dialogue. I also wonder if I could bring out more of Laura’s personality earlier in the story and make her more relatable. There are also some portions near the end which are a little melodramatic, and there are places where I feel I could do more to make the reader believe what is happening. We’ll see what happens when I get into that third draft.

In the meantime, I’ll take a look at a few of the short stories for my new collection Teenage Wasteland and polish them up a bit before starting a third draft of my novel/senior thesis Rose. I’ll also be working on the final draft of Video Rage with an editor I’ve contracted to work with, so all those who have been waiting desperately for the sequel to Reborn City can calm down now because I’ll hopefully have that book out later this year. And I’d like to have enough time to do some research for a novel I want to write this November for NaNoWriMo. So yeah, I’ll be busy, and I’m not even getting into the things that normally occupy my life outside of writing.

But hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way, would I? Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear, because I’m going to try accomplish a lot this year, and I’m going to be blogging about it the whole damn way.

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday, my weekly ritual trying to create a blogging trend (and apparently I’m making some success).

Now, here are the rules for the people who’ve never seen or done #FirstLineFriday before:

  • Write a blog post on your own blog titled “#FirstLineFriday”, hashtag and all.
  • Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  • Post the first one or two lines of a potential work, a work-in-progress, or a completed or published short story.
  • Ask your readers for feedback.

So, this week’s entry is from an idea I had for a sequel to Rose, the novel I wrote as my thesis project during my last year of college (and which I hope to do another draft of once I finish the second draft of Laura Horn). Now, I never planned to do a sequel to Rose, though I did try to leave open the possibility of a sequel while writing the story. The other morning, however, I woke up and the idea for a sequel just formed in my head. Immediately I had characters, situations, the conflict, the setting. All of it just–pardon the pun–sprouted in my head (read the summary for Rose if you don’t get the joke). I got out of bed, wrote down the basics in my little notebook, and then when I got on the computer later I wrote it down on my Ideas list. Now I’m turning it into a #FirstLineFriday entry. That’s progress!

Anyway, I don’t know when I’ll get around to writing a sequel to Rose–it would mostly depend on my mood, how busy I am, and any other projects calling to me to be written, among other things–but the idea is there if I want to pursue it. For now though, here’s what I imagine the first two lines would be:

The door of the house was wide open, despite the cold weather outside and the big “Foreclosed” sign in the yard. I should’ve been immediately suspicious, but I was too tired, cold, and hungry to care.

Thoughts? Errors? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow night I’m planning on heading to the movies and seeing the new horror movie “The Forest”, so expect a review of that either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. Until then, have a pleasant weekend, and make sure to check out the 2016 New Year’s Sale while there’s still time.

Oh wait, one last thing. This #FirstLineFriday, I’m doing something different. This time, I’m tagging someone and making them do #FirstLineFriday too. And this week, I’m tagging…YOU! Yes, you! You’re tagged, so either this week or next week, do a #FirstLineFriday blog post. Got it? Good! I can’t wait to see what you create.

Around this time of year, it’s customary for many bloggers to do a post reflecting on the last year and their hopes for the coming year. I decided to wait a few days to do mine because I posted a lot of stuff during the first couple of days of the New Year, and I didn’t want you guys to get sick of me (especially since a lot of what I posted was advertisement). And I won’t be doing the sort of post with the odd comparisons to famous venues and the listing stats, because I dislike doing those sorts of posts. Instead, I think I’ll just do what writers and bloggers do best, and write.

So, how was 2015? Well, I was surprised by how many people found 2015 to be a really bad year for them. So many people on Facebook and in daily conversation went so far to call 2015 “shitty”. Even my sister, who accomplished so much this past year, including getting her driver’s license and car and becoming a certified professional baker (so proud of her on that). This is especially odd when you think about how these people don’t live in war zones or aren’t homeless or anything, but then again we can’t always be expected to compare ourselves to those who have it worse, can we?

Personally, I feel that 2015 was a bit of a roller coaster with all sorts of ups and downs. I had a pretty mellow final semester with only three classes and a thesis to do, but at the same time I had a job search that sometimes felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. During graduation and the two-three weeks surrounding it, I felt like the prom queen, with all the attention on me, showering praise and good wishes. Not too long afterward I got to go see some of my favorite metal bands in concert, and got the chance to intern in Germany. Of course, the trip to Germany got delayed, and one set of tickets I couldn’t fully refund, so that was money wasted.

Life’s a rollercoaster, is it not?

When I finally did get to Germany, it was a great experience. I learned a lot working with the US Army, explored as much of Germany as I could in the four months I was there, and made some memories and friendships that I hope will stay with me for a long time. On the other hand, I could get very tired, and if things didn’t go as planned, that stressed me out. I didn’t get to stay, and even when you’re making a good living and have a place to stay on base, which is much cheaper than getting your own apartment, living abroad is expensive. I came back to the States with about the same amount of money in my bank account as when I left.

And finally, when I got back home, I found a lot a lot of people wanting to know how I did in Germany and what it was like. I also got a lot of support as I started up the job search again, and I finished editing one novel and made significant progress on another. And I even got a narrator for that audio book for Reborn City I’ve been trying to get off the ground! On the other hand…still jobless for the moment, and until I have some income, I can’t get an editor to look at Video Rage for one final touch-up before publication.

All in all, I felt this year reflected life in general. There are things that don’t always go your way and you could live without, but there are plenty of good things to even it out, and in the end you wouldn’t give up the experiences you’ve had for the world. That’s certainly been my experience. While I would’ve loved to not have those delays with Germany and still have some more money in my bank account, and I had hoped to be employed by this point, I am very happy that I’ve had the experiences and learned the lessons that I did this year.

As for this coming year…well, I have my hopes. I want to get a job, obviously, and without getting into specifics, I’ve had some luck with that, thanks in part to the help I’ve gotten from numerous sources. I want to publish at least one book this year, though I’m aiming for two, plus some short stories here and there. And I would definitely like to move out into my own place (preferably a one-bedroom apartment that allows pets, like cute little kitty cats).

Oh, and I would definitely like to finish editing a few more stories, make some more progress on my new collection of short stories Teenage Wasteland, and get that audio book of Reborn City released.

Will any of this happen? I can’t say, because the future is not certain. However, a lot of stuff is very likely, including the stuff listed above. And I’m hoping that along with those, a lot of other stuff happens this year. While I had a pretty good 2015, I know that on a global scale things were, to say the least, messed up. Gun violence, terrorism, refugees not given the treatment they deserve, continued abuse of the environment. There was plenty of good–gay marriage is now legal all throughout the nation, thank God–but I feel we need to see a lot more of that sort of good to outweigh the bad. Already I’ve seen what I feel is good action from the President, but it’s going to take a lot more than that before I’m satisfied.

Cheers to a fresh start.

Well, I’ve rambled on enough for one evening. I’ll finish off with a reminder that all of my books are on sale through January 14th from Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords, and that I hope we all accomplish the goals we set ourselves this year. And I guess that includes new year’s resolutions, though I know those rarely last long. Oh well, good luck with those too I guess.

Happy 2016, my Followers of Fear!

So I stayed up way too late last night working on Laura Horn, and I’m happy to say that I’ve reached another milestone in the editing process. Now, for those of you who don’t know, Laura Horn is a novel I wrote during my third year of college at Ohio State, and follows a teenage girl with a tragic past who comes across a conspiracy against the US government and finds herself in the position to stop it. It’s kind of like White House Down or Olympus Has Fallen, only instead of some hunky action hero, you’ve got a teenage girl trying to sort through her inner trauma.

Yeah, that’s a story I wrote, and I’m making it work somehow. It’s no harder to believe than a teenage girl taking on a government that kills a bunch of its citizens’ children in an annual death game or forces its youth to choose factions based on their personalities, anyway.

Anyway, the novel is divided into seven sections, including the prologue and epilogue, based on what happens in those sections. Last night I completed editing on the last two chapters of Part III, which means I’m a little more than halfway through editing the novel. To which I say, “Hooray, I’m making progress!”

And I remember thinking that the first draft of this novel might be a little too hard to believe. I don’t mean that like I meant the examples above, I meant that while the story itself would make a great novel, the way it played out in the first draft wouldn’t work. I actually considered rewriting the story so that the story seemed slightly more plausible. But then I decided to take a chance and start editing the first draft, see if I could still make a great story with the material I already had.

Sure, some parts of the story needed to be seriously changed, several chapters have been combined, and one I actually threw out because it became unnecessary, but all in all this story turned out to still be workable and make sense. And slowly, gaining speed as I worked through more and more chapters, I’ve fallen in love with this story and I’m very close to finishing up this draft.

So at this point, I’ve about twenty-four chapters left to work through (assuming I don’t combine any more of them or chuck one or two more out). I think I’ll start on the next chapter after I have lunch, and see where it gets me. If I’m lucky, I can get another two chapters out of the way, and maybe be done by the middle of next month.

So wish me luck, my Followers of Fear. Because this afternoon, I’m going into full editing mode, and I can’t wait to see what I come up with during that time.

I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a while now, but I only got around to it now after a friend of mine did it on her blog and I thought to myself, “Yeah, might as well get my butt in gear and do this already.”

So anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Bechdel test, it’s used to measure how feminist a work of fiction, usually a film or a novel, is. It was first created by cartoonist Allison Bechdel for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and has since become used in academic circles and with critics.

Here are the criteria for passing the Bechdel test:

  1. You have two female characters (sometimes having them named is a requirement, and I’ll do that here).
  2. They actually have to talk to each other.
  3. They have to talk about something other than a guy.

On that last part, I usually take it to mean talking about a guy who is in some sense romantically linked to one or both characters. After all, a lot of stories focus solely on a woman’s quest for love or marriage, and that’s it, and I feel like that’s what this test was designed for. And what if the two women are detectives and they’re talking about a suspect who’s male and how he’s difficult to bring to justice? That should be worthy of passing the Bechdel test.

Now before I begin, I want to make one thing clear: I don’t see this test as the end-all test for how feminist a work is. While some do use the Bechdel test in that capacity, I see it more as a tool to examine various works of fiction and promote discussion, rather than as the only way to get a work to be called feminist. Heck, even film organizations who use the test when rating a movie do it mostly for collecting information on gender inequality in films and to make viewers aware of that same gender inequality more than anything else.

So without further ado, here’s how my novels (I’d do the short stories as well, but there’s a lot of those, so I’ll pass) do with the Bechdel test:

  • Reborn City/Video Rage. I place these two together because they’re part of the same series. And they do pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. There are several named female characters in RC, particularly protagonists Zahara Bakur, Ilse, and Iori. And they do talk to each other about a lot of other stuff besides men, including the gang situation in West Reborn and how being a gangster is not for the faint of heart (a problem for Zahara considering she prefers peace and harmony to violence and gun fights). Similarly in VR, there are at least four or five named female characters, including the ones I mentioned above, and they also talk a lot about things other than men, including the situation they’re stuck in or the history of the war that made the world how it is in their present (our future).
  • Snake. Um…yes, but just barely. There are three or four named characters, including the female protagonist Allison Langland. However, as so much of the book focuses on the Snake’s quest to save Allison and then to keep her safe, she doesn’t have a lot of onscreen time with other female characters. There is a scene where Allison speaks with another character about events to come, but the Snake is also part of this conversation, so I guess it depends on your point-of-view on the subject. If there’s ever a sequel to this book, I may try to do better on that front while writing the story.
  • Laura Horn. Despite still working through the second draft, I can tell you LH passes the Bechdel test. There are several named female characters, including our protagonist, and that they do talk to one another about things other than men. Especially the fact that Laura’s wanted for a crime she never committed. Yeah, heavy stuff. Guys and romance actually don’t come up that much. Yeah, romantic feelings are part of the story, but by no means are they the focus, and I expect that will be the case still when I reach the final draft (whenever that is).
  • Rose. Again, this one just barely passes, and whether it does is a matter of perspective. As I’ve mentioned, Rose is about a woman held captive in the home of a man claiming to be her lover. Rose spends a lot of time on her own or with the guy whose house she’s in. She does have conversations with another female, but this female isn’t exactly human, and a few other things about this being call into question whether or not it counts. There’s also a conversation Rose has with another girl in a flashback, but I don’t know if flashbacks count either. So again, this one’s up for debate, one that might not be settled until after the book is published (whenever that is).

So the final verdict is that one half of my novels pass the Bechdel test, and the other half are a matter of opinion. Again, this test isn’t definitive by any means, and as demonstrated in the cases of Snake and Rose,  there are shortcomings to the test. However, it does feel good to know that half my work does pass the test, and the other half might. Surprisingly about half of all films don’t pass the Bechdel test, while quite a number of movies pass what is known as the reverse Bechdel test, which focuses on men (not going to bother with that, except to say that Rose is probably the only one that doesn’t pass). I like to think it says something good about my personality or writing style.

Perhaps in a few years I’ll try applying the Bechdel test to my works again and see what happens. In the meantime, I think I’ll focus on creating good stories in general. And possibly applying other tests to the stories I write (though I’m kind of afraid of what the results might be and what they say about me as a writer). We’ll see how I feel about it.

What are your thoughts on the Bechdel test? Do your works pass it? Why or why not?

 

You know what there are a lot of these days? Fictional universes where characters from a variety of diverse works are all brought together into a single work or series of works where they interact with one another in various ways. From HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, to the many different iterations of DC and Marvel comic book worlds and their film and television counterparts, to the shared elements of Anne Rice’s vampire and witch series and Stephen King’s interconnected multiverse and then some, there are a lot of these shared universes these days. Heck, there’s even theories from everyday people about how different works by certain creators are all secretly part of the same story (examples include this Pixar theory and this theory on the majority of Joss Whedon’s work).

So I’m wondering, what is the reason behind all of these interconnected story worlds? What makes storytellers and creators of all different mediums want to have such expansive universes where everything is secretly connected and you have to create a huge conspiracy layout on your wall with tape and string and stuff?

Well, I think some part of it is money. At the end of the day, most storytelling is a business (except for maybe some of what appears on YouTube), and if two characters in separate stories are making profits for a creator or their business, they may try to bring the characters together if it’s feasible and if the fans want to see it. Heck, that’s kind of the reason for most comic book crossovers and the movies based around those crossovers. Fans enjoy seeing Superman and Batman work together or Tony Stark mentor Spider-Man or whatever, so the companies give them what they want and get a profit back.

That’s not to say that all of it is money or that money’s the biggest motivator (unless you’re a Hollywood studio, of course). Another big part of it is the creators. They love their characters, and many would like to see those characters they’ve invested time and effort in come together in an awesome story. How would they play off each other? What sort of trouble would they get into with each other and how would they pull themselves out of it? And how would they grow after meeting each other? I think a lot of writers create these crossovers just so they can answer these questions. They may make multiple volumes to continue asking those questions, adding new characters or situations to continue creating exciting new stories and dynamics. It can be pretty enticing to do that with characters you love so much, and I bet audiences enjoy it as well.

In fact, I’ve imagined doing that with Snake and Laura Horn. Yeah, I have. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve wanted the story of the Snake to continue, and I’ve planned sequels not just for Snake, but for LH as well, including one where the two characters meet and get into a crazy adventure together. And I may be a few books and several years from that crossover, but it’s there if I want to write it, and eventually I will write it. It just sounds like too much fun to pass up.

snake front cover

I really have to get around to that sequel someday soon.

Another reason that creators may do crossover works is just because it makes things easier. Now, I hear you typing in the comments already “How the heck does a crossover or shared universe make things easier?” I know it seems counter-intuitive, but let me give an example: Anne Rice introduced in Queen of the Damned, the third book in her Vampire Chronicles, the Talamasca, an international organization of scholars interested in studying the paranormal. Now, try as I might I could not find any information on why, but when Rice wrote her Mayfair Witches trilogy, she brought in the Talamasca society. Why? Because at some point in the first book she details the entire family history of the Mayfair family and its dozen-plus matriarchs and I guess it made sense to just bring in the Talamasca as an explanation as to why there was an entire history of the family when the family itself isn’t very interested in its history. And it helped with the later books in certain ways to have the Talamasca. See? It was easier to bring in an existing fictional organization concerned with the paranormal than make up an entirely new reason for a third party to document an entire mystical family’s history.

I’ve also heard that’s why HP Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos. He didn’t intend to create an entire cosmology, he just decided it might be easier to work with some familiar characteristics when creating all-powerful monsters, and from there it wasn’t too hard to make the jump to connecting Cthulhu to Yog-Sothoth and any of the other Old Ones. Now, I’m no Lovecraft expert, but I’d buy that explanation.

King’s references are so crazy! Check out this chart!

Of course, some authors do it because it’s fun to have a shared universe, for a variety of reasons. You can return to familiar characters and locations by doing so. You can make your readers marvel and go back to another story to say, “Hey, that matches up with so-and-so.” You can create a cosmology or a special reason why a character or characters or place or places appears in so many stories (I’ve got a character or two like that, I just haven’t been able to put them into any works yet. I tried with the human Barbie story and Evil Began in a Bar, but I couldn’t fit them into the former and I haven’t figured out how best to edit the latter yet, so…). And sometimes, it’s just fun to mess with your readers and make them wonder what the heck it all means (I’m pretty sure that’s the reason Stephen King references his other works so much, and the Dark Tower books simply grew out of a desire to create a complex story out of all that messing about).

Whatever the reason someone creates a shared universe, it’s pretty clear that there are plenty of reasons to do so, and that shared universes are here to stay. And whatever the reason behind them, as long as they’re done with love and people enjoy them, I see no reason not to keep doing them. Besides, I may have one or two I’d like to create someday.

Do you have a shared universe in your fiction? Why’d you create it? What has been the result of that?