Kreativ Blogger Award and Updates

I was honored this week to receive “The Kreativ Blogger Award” from Paige Addams. She presented the award both this site and my Scarlet Order Vampire Site. Paige blogs about paranormal romance and is sharing her novel-in-progress. She’s raised some interesting writing issues there and it’s definitely a blog worth checking out.

For those who aren’t familiar with “blog awards” they basically are a way for people to share blogs they like. The “Kreativ Blogger” award was started in Norway by a lady named Hulda and she literally handcrafted the award and posted a photo to her blog. Here’s the original version that first hit the internet in May 2008:

The spirit of these awards is to “pay it forward” and recommend other blogs you like. Let me start out by recommending those blogs I have linked in the left-hand sidebar. Ernest Hogan, Emily Devenport, Robert Collins and Gayle Martin all have great things to say at their sites.

In addition to these, I have to give a special shoutout to Emily Guido who has been a loyal follower of both my blogs. I have been enjoying her excerpts from the “Light-Bearer” series about a group of angelic light bearers and their allies, the blood hunters. She also honored me with the “Lucky 7 Meme Award” which I’ll cover as part of tomorrow’s post at the Scarlet Order Vampire’s page.

Sky Warrior Books runs a blog I highly recommend. They post news of interest to writers along with some great marketing tips.

O.M. Grey’s Caught in the Cogs is a blog worth checking out. She is podcasting her steampunk vampire novel Avalon Revisited and talks about polyandrous relationships. This last won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but she has really good advice about relationships in general.

Finally, go check out Paige’s blog. I’m truly honored that she’s enjoyed both of my blogs enough to “pay it forward” and recommend me to her readers. Thank you, Paige!

Let me close out this section of the post by “paying it forward” another way. Is there a topic you’d like me to address here at the Web Journal or over at the Scarlet Order Vampires site? If so, drop me a comment. Topics related to writing, editing and astronomy will generally be covered here at the Web Journal. Topics about vampires and horror will likely be covered over the Scarlet Order Vampires page. I’m happy to see what I can do!

Coming Soon: Dragon’s Fall

I just finished reviewing the galley proofs for Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order. This is the novel that tells how the Scarlet Order—a band of vampire mercenaries—were formed. It makes a journey from Hellenistic Greece through Arthurian Britain, into the Holy Land, and finally winds up in Vlad the Impaler’s Transylvania. The novel is the prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order which is available as:

Dragon’s Fall is my sixth novel. Now, if you have a copy of Owl Dance, you’ll see the blurb on the back touts that as my seventh novel. The reason for that is two-fold. First off, I finished writing Dragon’s Fall before I finished writing Owl Dance. Also, although the entire novel is just now moving into production, parts of Dragon’s Fall have been available for a while. Dragon’s Fall is a novel in five acts. Here are links where you can learn about the first two acts:

Tales of the Talisman Submissions

Tales of the Talisman Magazine opens to submissions tomorrow, July 1, 2012. We will remain open until full. Most likely that will be somewhere around August 15, 2012. We are reading for the Spring 2013 Steampunk Issue and the Summer 2014 issue. The Summer 2014 issue will return to our potpouri format of science fiction, fantasy and horror. So, all types of speculative fiction submissions will be welcome. Be sure to follow our guidelines at: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com/gl.html. If you can’t be bothered to follow the guidelines, don’t expect me to bother reading your story. Simple as that! If you’re confused about a point, feel free to ask. I look forward to your stories and good luck!

Ray Bradbury, A Personal Remembrance

In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.

RAY BRADBURY Pictures, Images and Photos

On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s presentation, Rod picked me up and we went to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when we were stopped by the principal. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leaped at the opportunity. We found Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.

Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went forward to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write everyday. All of that has remained with me over the years.

I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.

I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.

ray bradbury Pictures, Images and Photos

After that workshop, Bill, Kumie and I decided to create a science fiction and fantasy anthology series called Hadrosaur Tales. We dedicated the first volume to Ray Bradbury and sent him a copy. He sent back a letter praising the stories along with signed photos for all the contributors.

A couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Hills, White Whale, which collected Ray Bradbury’s stories of working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.

About that time, I was also reading submissions for Hadrosaur Tales. There were three in a row that told the story of a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me and that the “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”

Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.

That day, Ray Bradbury pointed at me and said, “Live forever, submit your stories now!” I have lived by that ever since and now it’s my turn to point to you. “Live forever!”

Outlining Success

One question I have been asked in some recent discussions is whether I’m an outliner or a pantser. In other words, do I outline my stories and books or do I write by the seat of my pants? Over the years, I have written both ways, and I have even combined the two approaches. These days, though, I’m primarily an outliner.

In the most recent issue of the SFWA Bulletin there was an excellent article by C.J. Henderson that dared authors to consider whether or not they were ready for success. People who want to be writers often hear how they need to be prepared to face rejection and failure, but what happens when you’ve stood up to all that and suddenly find yourself with a contract for a book you haven’t written? Part of my personal answer to that question is to be an outliner. Admittedly, this might not work for everyone, but it’s a technique that works for me.

You see, there have been two cases where I tried to write novels by the seat of my pants and failed in my first attempt. The first was Heirs of the New Earth. The second was The Solar Sea. In the first case I wrote myself into a corner and I could see no way out, so I set the novel aside and wrote Vampires of the Scarlet Order instead. In the second case, I was getting bogged down in plot and character details that were neat, but didn’t drive the story forward at all. I ended up abandoning that version of the manuscript altogether.

The problem is, when confronted with a contract for a novel or a series of novels, I can’t afford to write myself into a corner or spend too much time on details that don’t matter to the story’s ultimate outcome. Sorting out the major plot points, understanding the novel’s direction, and turning that into an outline is one of the best ways for me to avoid that trap.

With that in mind, let me present some outlining techniques that have worked for me.

  1. Outline on note cards instead of using the computer. Each note card contains exactly one plot or character point. This allows you to shuffle the points and add new points as necessary until you create a strong plot with good character growth. This is exactly the method I used to get out of the corner I had written myself into with Heirs of the New Earth.
  2. Be mindful of your characters and their reactions as you outline. When you create a plot point, think about how all the affected characters will react. Sometimes you’ll find your story comes to life even as you’re writing the outline. In this way, you preserve some of the organic essence you can get when writing by the seat of your pants.
  3. Don’t outline too tightly. Restrict your outline to simple plot points. This gives your imagination some freedom as you’re writing.
  4. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your outline. If your characters say or do something surprising while you’re writing, let them. Feel free to explore a subplot or a ramification. Your outline is a map, but having a map doesn’t mean there there aren’t multiple ways to reach your objective.

Just to note, I ultimately did write The Solar Sea from scratch by the seat of my pants during the National Novel Writing Month in 2004. So, I’m by no means against being a pantser. That said, I outlined both Owl Dance and my vampire novel Dragon’s Fall. Outlines are useful tools for marking the trail. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the trail periodically and explore the surrounding countryside, though! The outline only exists to help you find your way back to your objective.

Interviewed at Long and Short Reviews: