Blogger Recognition Award Nomination

Blogger Recognition Award

Imagine my surprise when I went into my email and discovered that I had been nominated by Alice Dempsey over at her blog, Alice and Her Looking Glass. Thanks, Alice, I really appreciate it. The Blogger Recognition Award was created by Edge of Night, as a way to recognize bloggers and to allow them in turn to recognize the bloggers of their choice. Pretty nifty, huh?

According to the Award Rules, I have to do the following as a Nominee:

1: Nominate 15 other blogs you want to give the award to! And really dig around for these – you can’t nominate yourself or the person who nominated you.

2: Create a post to show off your award. And give a little backstory to your blog, and your personal blogging journey. Also, give some advice to other bloggers about blogging, and the blogosphere. Also, thank whoever nominated you, and include your award in the post – do this by right-clicking, saving, and uploading the image above.

3: Comment on the 15 blogs to let them know that you are nominating them.

4: And provide a link back to the original creator of the award, Edge of Night, so that we can all keep track of the award and who has been nominated!

How I came to The Blogosphere:

I’ve been writing and storytelling for most of my life. I initially didn’t have much interest in blogging, but friends and acquaintances prevailed upon me to start one as a way to promote my books and myself.

In my opinion, expanding into Blogging is a surprisingly natural and liberating part of the process because as writers, we often work in a vacuum. Blogging allows me to extend myself beyond mere stories into areas where I can share the thought process behind my storytelling.

My Advice:

When starting up a blog, it’s a good idea to decide beforehand where you want to go with it and what you want to do. Once you have determined the Where and What, you can then move on to the Why and Who. It is important to have a direction and a purpose.

Also, it is a good idea to know your Blogging Voice. What I mean is that if you want to be funny, smart, sarcastic, deep, etc. Your Voice is important because it is the carrier wave that will be moving your message along.

My Nominations:

Note: I had almost 100 blogs to go through to make a list of 15. If it were up to me, I would nominate everyone I follow.

1. Broke Fiction

2. Dream Big, Dream Often

3. Write me a book, John!

4. The Drabble

5. Poesypluspolemics

6. Daily (w)rite

7. Adopting James

8. Michael’s Origins

9. In Noir Velvet

10. Skipah’s Realm

11. Jack J Binding

12. Healthy Quack

13. Jack Flacco

14. Cristian Mihai

15. Orange Pond Connects

Parallax Update #10

The Parallax Train moves steadily onward. This is the latest excerpt from Chapter 18, which closes out this part of the story. It isn’t the end of the book, but it completes a good portion of the Hero’s transition from what he was to what he is to become. Enjoy. 🙂

Pratt stopped pounding on the door and heard the footsteps fade away on the other side. The room reminded him of Koren’s Training Room back on the ship, but this was different in a way that he couldn’t put his finger on. He shivered against the darkness as he searched for some perspective on the room’s size. No matter how far he searched, no matter in what direction he reached in, his hands never met a wall. However, his efforts always led him back to the same door he originally entered from. How is this possible? He thought as he threw up his hands several times in frustration. There has to be a trick to this place.

*Perhaps I can help?*

“Oh no.” Pratt thrust his hands into his pockets, searching for his injector. He remembered keeping it close by, but it was missing. “What the Hell?”

*They took it from you.* Pinchot appeared beside him, her smile as bright and annoying as ever. *I’m starting to like these walking hand bags.*

“You know, Pinchot was many things.” Pratt said, trying to adjust his eyes to the lack of light that was only pieced by what peeked from under the doorway. “But she was one of the least xenophobic people I ever knew.”

*That’s easy when you only know two of other kids on the Block, Jack. How do you know that she wasn’t a raging humanist under all her so-called military discipline?*

“You’re not using that word correctly.” Pratt turned his attention back to exploring the darkness. “Hell, you’re not even real. I should have given myself a double dose before leaving the crawler. I’m such an idiot.”

*Don’t beat yourself up* She told him. *After all, you have a four lane parking lot in your head and five cars are trying to park at the same time. Something’s bound to fall through the cracks.*

“Stop trying to help.” Pratt said. “There’s a reason why the High Master stuck me in here. It has to be a puzzle, but what’s the solution? There’s always a solution.” He looked into the darkness. “Perhaps, the puzzle is the solution.” He sat down on the stone floor and closed his eyes. “When I tried to fight for a way out, I got nowhere. I must try something else. So, shut up while I’m thinking.”

He closed his eyes and fought to clear his mind. For all her annoyance, his personal demon was right about one thing: he had allowed way too much to burden his mind. So, how does one go against their own nature? He always thought of himself as a Guardian, a Protector from way back. How does one change the habits of a lifetime?

He sensed light outside his closed eyelids. When he opened them, he found himself standing in a large courtyard that reminded him of a hacienda museum he had once visited in California, back on Earth. The row of brightly colored flowers that bordered the stone and wood overhangs were exactly as he remembered. But why here of all places?

He felt an old memory stirred in the back of his mind and slowly migrate to the front of his consciousness. As the memory coalesced, the scene before him changed. He watched a group of young boys, dressed in familiar school uniforms that he struggled to recognize, holding down a smaller boy while throwing punches and kicks. A red and yellow shoulder patch bearing a book and shield emblem caught his eye and made his breath catch in his throat.

“Oh no.” He groaned inward. “Not this. Not again.” He took a step forward and stopped. Why was he stopping? I should stop this, he thought, these kids are bullies and bullies are never to be tolerated. What did I do last time?
He felt disconnected as he watched younger versions of his parents rush past him, dressed in crisp white naval uniforms to break up the fight. The bullies were shooed away and the victim lifted, battered, bruised and bloodied, to his feet. Pratt cringed inward as shame filled him from head to toe. Soon, members of the museum staff came over with a first aid kit and tended to the boy’s injuries. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words would come out.

His father saw him and came over, crouching in front of him with small flecks of blood adorning the bottom of his jacket. “Jack, do you know what you did wrong?”

Pratt shook his head. “No, Sir, I wasn’t involved.”

John Jacob Pratt nodded and gestured toward the fight’s aftermath. “Precisely. You weren’t involved and someone got hurt. Jack, you must never allow an unfair fight to continue. We live in a world where the Strong prey on the Weak and it is up to us to defend those who can’t defend themselves. Do you understand?”

“But why me? Why do I have to put myself in danger for someone I don’t know?”

Pratt’s father sighed. “Because you are a Leader and that is what Leaders do. Your mother and I didn’t raise you to turn a blind eye to situations like this because it didn’t involve you. That boy was lucky that we saw him when we did. Never, ever, turn your back on someone in need. Am I clear, Mister?”

“Yes, Sir.”

A shroud of darkness descended over him once again like a curtain separating the acts of a theater play. His eyes could sense the change in light, but after the experience on Planet Chaos, he wasn’t sure if it were real or just in his mind. He felt awake and aware, but how could he be sure?

“I know you’re watching me.” He yelled into the darkness. “I don’t know why you’re doing this, but I’ll find a way out of this cage.” The lack of an echo disturbed him greatly as he struggled to find some light to get his bearings from. Even the door he originally came in was gone. “A little light would be helpful, you know?”

He felt something slide across the stone floor and stop against his left foot. Reaching down, he grasped a small cylinder and picked it up. The cylinder was light, flexible and pointed at both ends as he twirled it between his fingers. He raised it to his left ear and shook it, feeling the smallest amount of liquid move around inside. A light stick? He became bored with the cylinder and began playing with it until he flexed it too far and he heard a crack and then a bright blue light.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” He smiled. “It was a light stick.”

The light stick’s glow did little to push back the darkness, but at least he could get some perspective on his situation. After several attempts at exploring the room, he found his way back to the center, where his thoughts went back to the vision he had experienced. Not acting to stop the fight always weighed heavily on his mind. He could have stopped it. He was bigger and stronger than the other boys, but his lack of investment in others hampered his ability to empathize with the plight of others. It wasn’t a question of being mean; it was simple preoccupation with his own affairs.

“Those who come here, come to learn.” The High Master’s voice startled him from his reverie. “What have you come here to learn?”

Pratt couldn’t see him, but the Locknar’s presence was undeniable and close. “I didn’t come here to do anything but accompany Koren in his ritual. There’s nothing for me to learn here.”

“Are you so sure?” A light appeared on the other side of the room, prompting Pratt to move toward it. The light became an open doorway, adorned with circuitry that hummed and blinked in time with some unseen rhythm. “You are preparing for a path which you have not set out upon yet.”

“God, I hate riddles.” Pratt stopped short of entering the doorway and threw his hands up in the air. “That’s it. I quit. I didn’t ask for all the stuff that’s come down on me. All I wanted was to finish my service and go back to Earth. I didn’t ask to be the Galaxy’s Soldier of Fortune.”

“We are not always given a choice as to our destiny.” The High Master’s voice echoed around him. “Yours is a journey that seeks its own end. To that end, you must prepare yourself for what is to come.”

“I’m just a man.”

“A man, yes, but a man with a purpose. Embrace your role and live the life that you were always meant to live. Enter the Doorway to find the answers you seek.”

“I really hate riddles, but being stuck in a dark room without a way out is no picnic either.” Pratt stepped through the doorway.

And found himself standing back in a room that was oddly familiar, yet out of place on a Locknar planet. Rows of broken wooden benches with what looked like silhouettes burned into their backs, rested on either side of him while an elaborate altar lay behind him as he turned to study his surroundings.

“What the Hell is this?” He said. “Where am I? More damned riddles.”

He walked to the rear of the room, past stained glass windows until he reached a door that led to a smaller room with one double door exit and two large windows on either side, their glass panes painting everything in reflected kaleidoscopes. He walked up to a window and looked out.

Pratt’s breath caught in his throat as he looked out on a world filled with devastation and destruction as far as the eye could see. Piles of rubble that used to be buildings and homes cluttered broken and cratered streets in all directions. Overhead, Signiferian ships moved in slow battle lines, their weapons firing in bursts at unseen ground targets, the explosive fireballs rising high into the atmosphere. Questions filled his mind as he went to the exit and pressed in the panic bars. The double doors opened without protest.

His nostrils were assailed by the sickly smell of burnt flesh as he stepped outside and descended a set of large concrete steps to the street level. His senses told him that he wasn’t on Mitalum, or anywhere close to the M42 Nebula. The sky was too blue, the ground too brown, the buildings too…human. Wait a minute, he thought as he turned around and stared up at the resolute remains of an old catholic church, its Neo-Gothic architecture and rooftop crosses presiding over the chaos below.

He reclimbed the steps to find a tarnished dedication plate set into one of the church’s cornerstones. “St. Matthew’s Church.” He read. “Established 4/16/2015. Blessed are The Meek.” He straightened up. “I’m back on Earth, but how? And when?”

The world slowed to a crawl as missiles appeared on the horizon and detonated on top of the enemy ships, each explosion a mushroom of death and destruction that bathed the planet in a wave of light and heat. A shock wave shook the ground, then another, and then still another until Earth itself convulsed in a death rattle that brought everything left standing down in a shifting pile of debris that rained down around him. Eventually, cracks appeared in the ground and Pratt realized that he was watching his home die. Mercifully, darkness fell around him before the scene completed.

“You chose to reject your destiny.” The High Master appeared beside him. “As a result, Koren failed in his bid to expose those in the Hegemony, our peoples exhausted themselves with years more of fighting while The Signiferians gathered both their forces and strengths, and eventually no one was strong enough to resist them when they came in force.”

“The Signiferians said I had the keys to something that kept them away until now.” Pratt said. “How could they get around that?” He didn’t wait for an answer as the realization struck him between the eyes. “I quit. I quit and went back to my old life. Somehow they got me back in their custody and found what they were looking for. Is that what you’re getting at?”

The High Master remained silent for a long time, not answering the question. He placed a clawed hand on Pratt’s forehead while chanting. Pratt felt warmth spread across his head before the hand was removed. “I have managed to remove the disguise that your tracking device employs. It is possible that your body’s immune system could attack and destroy the device successfully, but I would not expect such results with optimism. In the meantime, the device will not transmit with any degree of reliability. It will not last forever and I have left a suggestion in your mind to let you know when your time is running out.”

“In other words, no one’s holding my leash right now.” Pratt nodded. “What about your healers?”

“If there was time, I would gladly recommend it.”

“I understand.” Pratt said. “About a lot of things. Now that I’ve committed fully to this destiny of mine. May I ask you for a small favor?”

“Anything.”

“How about turning on the damn lights?”

Fighting Procrastination and Writer’s Block

In honor of my 100th Article, I thought I’d touch on an old favorite. Enjoy:

I’m going to start this one by saying that I tend to suffer from Procrastination. Yes, I freely admit it and it is a constant companion as I take each writing project from Beginning to End.

Procrastination is one of those motivation-sapping things that isn’t limited to creative people. Everyone deals with it in one form or another and combating it can often be as intense as whatever task has been set before you. Procrastination also tends to be the first step toward Full-On Writer’s Block, which I’ll try to address here.

The Bad News is that if you are a chronic Procrastinator, you will probably be dealing with Procrastination forever.

However, The Good News is that Procrastination (and Writer’s Block) can be managed through a number of helpful techniques that have fairly high success rates at keeping the beast at bay for a while. Here are a few of them that I use:

1) Outlines:

Outlines are one of those things that people either love to death or hate with the passion of a hundred suns. There are some who believe that plotting out a story kills the spontaneity of creating and takes the fun out of the process. I’m not one of those people. When you have an Outline, you essentially have a road map of where you want the story to go. Outlines effectively answer the question of “What Happens Next?” and are very useful in moving your story forward. Granted, there are also times where you will have an idea that goes off the Outline. Don’t fret, because this is a good thing. You can always follow your inspiration and steer the story back in line with your outline. I call this situation “Going Off-Road”. The good thing about Going Off-Road is that it means that your creativity is kicking in.

2) Visualization:

Visualization is essentially picturing the scene in your mind and using that mental picture as a dictation source to write your story down. It’s a great way to imagine the details and actions of each scene so you have a more sensory connection to what you are writing about. Imagine watching a movie with no picture. Not much fun, huh? Now, put the picture back up and it all comes alive.

3) Get to know your Characters:

Your characters are more than set dressing. They are the people who populate your story, generate conflict, and move the plot along. When I tell a story, I always start with three basic character types:

Main Characters:

The Protagonist(s): The Hero/Heroine of the Story. They embody the highest percentage of story time because it’s their story and they have something they are striving for. There are optional sidekicks for The Protagonist(s, whose purpose is to assist in achieving the goal.

The Antagonist(s): The Foil for your Hero/Heroine. They exist to prevent your Protagonist from achieving their goal. They also can have optional sidekicks or minions. The amount of story time they occupy will depend on the kind of story you are writing.

Secondary Characters:

Secondary Characters are similar to sidekicks in that they provide a supporting role, but not always. Generally speaking, Secondary Characters come in for limited times and then often leave, either through Death, the 5:00 Train to Tucson, or whatever manner you come up with. Often, they are the ones who put the Protagonist or Antagonist on their respective paths.

Tertiary Characters:

Tertiary Characters are often, in my experience, those characters that are mentioned yet rarely seen. The tricky part about using Tertiary Characters is that their status in a story can change without warning. Think of them as an Extra in a movie that suddenly becomes a speaking part. Be judicious when creating these types because you may end up with a cast of characters that would put Ben Hur to shame.

4) Writing Quotas:

I’ve personally found this very effective in keeping me on task. Set a specific amount of words that you want to add to your story every day and don’t let up until you reach that goal. I use a relatively low number for my daily quota of 500 words. It’s an easy to reach goal and if you exceed it, you have a very good excuse to give yourself a reward for your hard work.

5) Give in to the Procrastination:

Finally, I don’t like to advocate this option, but unless you are on a contract deadline and have to get your book to the editor or publisher, you’re on a self-imposed deadline like I use for practice purposes. So, go play, take a smoke break, coffee break, mess around on The Internet, whatever. Eventually, you will feel the tug back to your story. Just realize that every minute you spend away from Writing is one less minute of story being written.

Guys, don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re not making progress. Any amount of work accomplished is progress. I personally have some days where I’m knocking out hundreds upon thousands of words and then others when I can barely make 500.

Don’t. Give. Up.

Conspiracy Theories as Inspiration

Take some time to travel The Internet and eventually you will run across some of the best fiction ever created by Human Beings: Conspiracy Theories.

Don’t get me wrong because I love to read a good Conspiracy Theory and frequently use them (with a twist) as inspiration for my original stories. This article won’t go into a lot of detail on specific Conspiracy Theories, but rather how they can be used as inspiration tools. That being said, let’s define the parameters of this conversation. For this discussion, I will be using definitions provided by the friendly folks at Merriam-Webster.com.

What is a Conspiracy?

1) the act of conspiring together.

2) an agreement among conspirators.

3) a group of conspirators.

What is a Theory?

1) the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another.

2) abstract thought : speculation

3) the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art <music theory>

4) a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action <her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn>

5) an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory <in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all>

6) a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena <the wave theory of light>

7) a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation

8) an unproved assumption : conjecture

9) a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject <theory of equations>

Now that we have defined what a conspiracy and a theory is, let’s put them together.

The Dictionary Definition?

Merriam-Webster.com defines a Conspiracy Theory as “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Putting it all together:

Based on what we know about conspiracies and theories, we can’t help but come to the conclusion that a Conspiracy Theory is essentially the idea that a someone or group of someones is acting in a acting in a secret manner results in something happening. Let’s break that down even further:

Bob is getting ready for work when he slips on a bar of soap in the shower and breaks his neck on the floor. Obviously, Bob wouldn’t intentionally put the soap in a place where he would slip on it and kill himself. The key words “killed himself” are important because they take this event from a simple accident (bars of soap get slippery when wet) and turn it into a targeted event involving Bob, a bar of soap, and a window of opportunity where he gets in the shower, comes into contact with the soap, and then slips and falls to an admittedly embarrassing end. By removing the word accident and substituting killed himself, a simple fall in the shower is now the origin of a Conspiracy Theory.

But wait, as the salesman would say, there’s more!

We don’t know much about Bob so that ambiguity gives room for all kinds of wild speculation.

Did Bob work for the Government or in some other industry that’s not well-liked? If yes, then boom, you have another piece of the puzzle behind Poor Bob’s demise. Who cares if it’s not real. If someone contests your “facts”, you can always claim that the lack of accurate information is the result of some diabolical redaction of facts that can never be proved. If no, then simply make something up. After all, secret conspiratorial families like the Hapsburgs or Rothchilds have been supposedly controlling the world from behind the scenes for centuries. Or…LIZARD PEOPLE! I love the Lizard Overlords because they never show themselves, never seem to be revealed, and always seem to do the crappiest job at running the planet.

Wait, maybe Bob knew how to use Heavy Water, or Deuterium, in a way other than moderating nuclear reactions in reactors or in any number of applications including enhancing the visual capabilities of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, fuel in nuclear weapons, or in certain types of drugs. Bottom line, we’ve just taken a simple and tragic slip in the shower and turned it into a major conspiracy theory complete with bad guys operating in secret, chemicals that can be bad in the wrong hands, and Lizard People. Can’t forget the Lizard People.

Now you see why I enjoy Conspiracy Theories. Where else can you take a whole lot of disparate things, tie them together with a flimsiest of conjecture, and spit out something that sounds good on the other side but has no basis in Reality and no worthwhile use except in making a really good story.

I do feel bad about poor Bob though…. 😉

Identifying and Managing Distractions

Distractions, distractions, distractions.

Every activity has them and speaking for myself, they are the bane of my existence when I am working on creative projects. Even the most interesting and compelling subjects can be sidelined or even derailed completely by the smallest distraction.

What is a Distraction?

What ISN’T a Distraction. A Distraction can be something as tiny as needing to grab a pen or pencil to write down a story idea while composing prose at the keyboard for a current project to stretching out a break for a few minutes to pop on social sites like Twitter and Facebook to mess around for a while, to more significant things such as needing to stop to eat or perform various day to day chores. Each person’s circumstances will dictate what types of Distractions they will encounter.

How to cut down or eliminate Distractions?

Most Distractions can be minimized or eliminated by scheduling specific times to take care of the important day to day things before sitting down to be creative. I mean, you have to eat, right? Those certain day to day chores have to be completed, right? Creative pursuits have to be prioritized based on how important they are to your daily life. Those who depend on their creativity for their income will place a higher priority on producing content purely for their own amusement. This is a subjective and very wide scale, so trust me when I say that there is room between both endpoints for everyone.

Can Distractions be done away with completely?

Sadly, no. Distractions will always exist and where they exist, there is usually a reduction or at least a delay on productivity. Now, don’t be depressed about this because although annoying, they serve an important function is that they force us to steel our resolve toward what we consider important and rebuild the blocks of commitment that are frequently cannibalized under the banner of “Fun”.

How can I use my Distractions to my benefit?

Believe it or not, Distractions can be used to maintain your focus. The technique that I’ve found that works, most of the time, is to mix what creative project I’m involved with into the Distraction and use that Away Time to keep the project(s) fresh in my mind. Using this particular technique has helped me to keep those creative fires stoked enough to encourage me to get back to work as soon as possible.