A Time to Be Thankful

Welcome Bookbrainers! Thank you for taking the time to stop and visit during this holiday weekend (for those of you in the United States). As I sit down to enjoy all my favorite comfort foods, spend time with my amazing family, and do some shopping, I wanted to reach out to all of you to talk about what I’m most thankful for.

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Other than the obvious (family, friends, health, and all of you amazing-ass Bookbrainers!), I’m always thankful for books. Not just books I get to read or ones I want to write, but every book and places that have them and people who read them. As cheesy as it sounds, books will always be the closest to real magic in the world. Books change minds and lives in ways that other mediums just can’t.

What sticks with me most (and please forgive me because I can’t remember where I read this and I don’t want to take credit), is that I once read that reading is being able to read someone’s mind through both time and space. I can read a book written by someone who died hundreds of years ago in a place I’ve never been and doing this, I can read their thoughts, know their feelings, understand their lives, and make friendships that will last until I am gone.

Now I understand that being able to read and have as many books as I do is a privilege that I’ve gotten through luck of the draw. There are people out there who are not as lucky. There are people who struggle in life for food and clean water, for education and a chance to reach for more. For many years now I’ve been a HUGE fan of an organization I mentioned on the blog before (link to old blog here) called Worldbuilders which was created by my favorite writer Patrick Rothfuss. Every year starting in the middle of November they start their annual charity event where they raise money for those in need by donating everything to an organization called Heifer International.  They basically raise money to educate and provide lasting and permanent change to people’s lives. They don’t give a man a fish, they teach him to fish then give him a pole, tackle box, and a boat.

As of my writing this Worldbuilders have already raised over $206,000 with 15 days left to donate. Now here’s the fun part!

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There are three ways to donate! You and buy items that you think are cool from The Tinker’s Pack which has memorabilia from all sorts of geeky stuff there. You could also head over to their auctions and bid on REALLY cool stuff! Or the last option is to directly donate where you can either just donate the money OR you can choose to be entered into a lottery for a chance at literally thousands of cool prizes!

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There you go guys! A chance to help books and people make a positive difference in the world just when it feels like we could all use a win. Take care everyone!

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Looking Under the Hood

Happy weekend Bookbrainers! I hope all of you are doing well. I want to…*sniff* thank you for all the love and support I’ve gotten for the last flash fiction challenge I did. It was super fun to write and I really enjoyed it!  But this led to an interesting conversation. I was talking with a friend of mine about the story when he said…

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“What is your writing process?”

Now this was a great question that’s not easy to answer. The two main reasons this is hard to answer is because the process changes for the kind of writing I’m doing (short story, poem, a novel, etc.) and that the process is both visual and mental. So to answer this question I’m going to talk about short story writing specifically (though some does apply to novel writing) and mostly just the visual aspect of it, but also some of the mental.

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(Did that make sense? GOOD! Moving on then!)

Step One: To come up with a story there is no better way to describe it as casting my imagination out and seeing what I catch. Often I take something solid like a picture, or a topic, or a question and play with it in my head. And as I think and toss around ideas, eventually something clicks (almost audibly) and there it is. An outline of a story. But at this point it’s like looking at a forest from Google Maps. I can see the whole thing, but no details…yet.

Step Two: Now that I have an idea of a story, it’s time to zoom in on the forest and find the best path through it. At this point I sit down and bullet point out the entire story from start to finish. First A happens, then B, then C, then D, etc. until I reach the story’s end. During this phase I fill in all the gaps and mentally flesh out the characters and find out more about who they are and how they fit into their story.

Step Three: Take all my notes from Step Two and toss them aside.

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Step Four: Now that I’ve tossed my notes aside I sit down and write my story. While I write I have everything from my notes in my head, all the ideas, plots, characters, images, and I follow what I wanted for my story. The reason I toss the notes aside during the actual writing is because (for me at least) the words are a living thing. I have final say over them and I control them, but at the end of the day the story and its characters are a living breathing thing on the page. If I try and force it to fit into an outline that I created that just doesn’t feel right as my fingers dance around the keyboard, then all I’m doing is creating shit writing. A story needs room to organically grow and change as it needs to to become the best version of that story that I’m capable of telling.

Step Five: Revision. This is where I go back over the story and read it as a whole for the first time to myself. Here I’m not focused on anything other than things like, “Is that sentence worded well? Can it sound better?” or “Does this make sense? Will the reader follow and understand what I’m saying and what I mean?” After all that if there’s time (I’m looking at you flash fiction challenges!) then I actually pick through and make sure the editing is as clean as possible.

And there you have it Bookbrainers! That is honestly the best way I think I can describe how my brain processes and writes stories. Is there a LOT of other things that go into writing? OH HELL YES! But to be fair I’m not going to get into the depths of how to best use active sentences or how to establish characterization or techniques of imagery. That kind of skill with writing are things that for the most part I use reflexively on my first drafts and actively on all the others. If you want more on that depth of writing I’m sure I’ll touch on a lot of it eventually here, otherwise look into some good books on writing if you want a more, “How To,” guide. Or read a lot. Reading is awesome!!!

Literary Diner: How Would You Like Your Sci-Fi Today?

Welcome back Bookbrainers! I hope you all had a kick-ass week! So recently I did a guest appearance on my friend Doug’s podcast called Rawcast A.D. (if you’ve been reading the blog awhile I’ve mentioned him before), where we talked a lot about current technology and where that technology is going in the future. You can listen to it here!

So talking with Doug about technology got me thinking about Science Fiction as a genre. I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Fantasy as a genre both to read and write, but there has always been amazing gems of Science Fiction that I’ve been drawn towards. One of my all-time favorites being Orson Scott Card, who is a fantastic writer if you’ve never given his books a chance. His largest series (and my favorite) being about two characters, Ender and Bean. If you haven’t given them a read I would highly recommend doing so!

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(The books are great, just ignore this…please?)

For the most part though, Card’s books fall under what is commonly called, “Soft,” science fiction. This means that the technology in his writing does get some explanation, but it’s not very in-depth (mostly) and it takes a backseat to the characters and plot.

The opposite of this is obviously, “Hard,” science fiction. A good more modern example of this would be Michael Crichton, who wrote books like Jurassic Park and Timeline.

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(That’s just badassery right there!)

The science in his books tends to be very detailed and take a strong center point in plot itself. In the early days of Science Fiction writing this was by far more common as for many writers their characters and even the plot was mostly just required decoration around their ideas about technology. These writers even felt that the transition to “soft” Science Fiction was heresy against good writing.

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(Dude do you even science?)

So my question to you Bookbrainers is which do you like more? Science Fiction that takes the time to thoroughly explain the technology that is in the story, or do you just want a quick glossed over explanation and on to the more important things? I personally feel that neither extreme is best, but a kind of meeting in the middle. I personally don’t need to know every detail of the teleporting device and the science behind it all, but damn it I want more than, “It works because it just does! Now quit questioning my methods! *continues shoving cats into fuel tank.*”

So sound off your opinion here on the blog, on our Facebook page (here), or on our NEW TWITTER…page? Feed? Thing? *storms off to go find out its proper name*

Stop! I Collaborated now Listen!

Alright Bookbrainers, (yeah you heard me), I have something special for you this week! Some of you may have noticed me post about this VERY briefly on the blog’s Facebook page, but I recently went on my friend’s podcast called Rawcast: A.D. (Here: https://soundcloud.com/rawcastad/017-bookbrain ) and got to promote the blog to his listeners. I HIGHLY recommend that you go over when you get the chance to give it a listen. Doug (the host of Rawcast: A.D.) and I talk about the blog quite a bit…

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…as well as talk about movies and books worth reading. Doug and I go waaaaay back to our college days at UW-Stevens Point. There is also a podcast we did talking about that if you’re for some reason interested in me…can’t imagine why you would be though…(*cough* look at above picture *cough*).

Anyway! Doug’s podcast has been on hiatus for a while, but he’d bringing it back better than ever going forward! Doug talks about everything from politics, to books and movies, to just random fun things that he feels like brining up. So if you’re interested in him or if you just want to hear me jabber like a moron for an hour about writing give it a listen!

Now to celebrate this awesome crossover how about a…FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!!! On next week’s blog I’ll post the new challenge for YOU (yes you) to vote on and me to pick the wining suggestion and write on. So all you Bookbrainers…

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I want all of you to get involved in this next challenge and have your friends (all those Nobrainers who don’t read the blog) vote too! Also when I ask you to, “Bring me everyone,” what I mean is…

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Have a great week!

Creative Inspiration: Dungeons and Dragons

Alright you beautiful readers! This week I’m taking the time to dig into one of my favorite creative inspirations, so grab your dice and let’s talk Dungeons and Dragons!

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(May the odds be ever in you favor!)

I’m fairly sure I was born with a love for all things fantasy. If you were to take a sample of my DNA and look at it under a microscope you’d see a tiny film strip of a wizard fighting a dragon. So it’s no wonder that this game appeals to me, what with it having a picture of both wizards and dragons on many of its covers. The only strange thing is that I didn’t get introduced to the game until I was in high school. (So many wasted years!) The game is even loved by people such as Vin Diesel.

(Disclaimer: I actually stopped playing official D&D years ago. I play a game called Pathfinder, which is essentially the same game but by a different developer. I just called it D&D when talking to other people because it’s easier and they don’t really care about the difference.)

For those of you reading not too familiar with the game, Dungeons and Dragons (much like myself), comes to you from the great state of beer and cheese, Wisconsin. The game was introduced to the world by Gary Gygax in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in January of 1974. Since then the game has seen many years of ups and downs, with the high of its popularity being in the 80’s (think Stranger Things from Netflix), though it has been growing in popularity in the last few years again now that all things geek and nerdy are mainstream popular.

Each player in the game creates a character from the rules offered in the books ranging from your standard Wizard…

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To the Rouge…

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To the basic Fighter…

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(It’s super effective!)

Once you as a play pick your class, race, and buy gear from what gold you have, you’re ready to play! One player though has to act as the narrator for the story and control the monsters you fight, they’re called the Dungeon Master (though to be fair the newer books acknowledge that this name has a LOT of geeky connotation with it have has started to call them the, “Game Master,” instead to try and sound cooler…it’s not working).

It’s the job of the Dungeon Master (DM) that I want to focus on though. For many of the games I’ve played my job was to be the game’s DM. There are pre-made games that I could run in this role, but the fun and challenge of creating my own worlds using the game’s rules and putting my friends into stories that I create (often without much preparation since that’s a lot of work and I’m busy *cough* lazy *cough*), has challenged me to become a better story teller over the years and helped inspire me to think about fantasy stories in many different ways. As well one of the challenges of running a game is that it only works when the players are having fun. Playing has challenged me in a way where I have to balance each player’s own enjoyment of the game, my enjoyment of running it, and keeping the game fair and running smoothly. It’s the kind of challenge that any writer interested in fantasy should consider since keeping readers happy functions much the same way and provides very similar challenges.

Hopefully in the future you think of D&D less like this…

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And more like this…

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Now that you’re more familiar with this amazing game and its possible influence, my challenge to you is this…go and enjoy your weekend!

Recent Reads: Book Review!

Happy weekend readers! I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying summer! So for this week I wanted to talk briefly about some recent books I’ve read. (I feel like a kid with a summer reading list from the library!) All the authors out there giving advice on writing all say the same thing, read. Now for anyone who knows me you know that’s not a difficult request! So I thought I’d share the most recent books I’ve read. I just finished reading The Rook and its sequel Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley.

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Without giving away too much these books are about a secret British government organization of people with supernatural powers who fight to keep supernatural things secret and to protect the public from them. Basically think House of Cards meets Men in Black meets The X-Men. The first book is told from the perspective of Myfanwy Thomas, who is one of the controlling members of this organization…who has had all her memories removed and wakes up surrounded by dead people. It’s ok though, since the original Myfanwy knew that someone was going to wipe her mind so she left instructions for her to pretend to be her.

These books are funny and will grip you from the beginning with both political supernatural intrigue and an incredibly interesting and extremely fleshed out world that these books take place in. I can’t recommend them enough!

So while you wait for my first book to hit shelves in like five years, give these a try and enjoy!

Giving Credit: Writing Tips

It’s the weekend! I hope all of you fine readers are doing well. I want to give a BIG thanks to everyone for all the kind words about my flash fiction story from last week! It meant a lot to me that you took the time to read something a little longer than my normal blog posts and that you actually liked it!

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So because everyone seemed to enjoy it, I’m going to make flash fiction challenges like that a regular thing on here! But since it takes time away from me working on my book, I won’t be doing them more than once a month or so. Now, it has occurred to me that I never really spoke on how I came up with the challenge. Short answer: I didn’t.

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Long answer: So a few years ago I was walking through Barns and Nobel with my fiancé and I found the section of books that deal with tips for writing. I spent over half an hour looking through the various titles and scanning chapters. Now I have a degree in English and a minor in creative writing and I’ve spent a lot of my adult life thinking about and studying the craft of writing…yet I can’t seem to ever have enough books on the subject. Not all books on writing are good, and some aren’t really meant for people like me, but there are always some that I find have great tips and ideas about how to write that I gravitate to.

During this trip I found one that has since become my favorite. It was titled, The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig. (You can see why the title grabbed me.) This book was filled with great ideas about writing put in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a text book and doesn’t sound like something a guy named Brad would say while wearing an ascot and admiring his own flatulence.

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(Fact: Fred’s real name is Brad)

I can’t say enough how much I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in writing! So while reading it I became interested in the author Chuck Wendig and looked him up. He has a blog. It’s right here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ I started reading his blog and on it every Friday he features a post called (you guessed it you super smarty pants reader!) Flash Fiction Challenge. Now for his blog he’s challenging his readers to do the writing and he just comes up with the prompts (somehow). In the future I may take more challenges from his blog to use or I may come up with my own, either way I’m very excited to keep writing both this blog and flash fiction, and seeing what ideas I can juice from my brain for you!

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Have a great weekend everyone!