Monday, September 26, 2011

What did you look like?--writing exercise #2

From clothing and appearance to opinions/ideas, everyone changes throughout their life. Have you thought about how your character might have changed? Here's an exercise to help you get started about thinking how your character may have changed.

You have to answer these three questions about yourself:

*What did you look like in grade school?

*What did you look like as a pre-teen/teenager?

*What do you look like now?

Ready? GO!

*Grade school: I was taller than most of the guys my age, with lanky arms and knobby knees. My hair was long, probably the middle of my back if not my waist, and my mom often put it into a French braid topped with a hairbow as big as my face or hair bungees with plastic knobs on the ends--though if you rode a roller coaster with me, those stupid bungees could be deadly. Just ask my cousin Becky. ;)

Most likely, you would have found me running around in baggy shorts and t-shirts during the summer, and leggings with baggy long-sleeve shirts and sweaters in the winter. Barefoot, too. I hated dresses--my mom was lucky to force me into them about once a month for church. :)

*Pre-teen/teenager: I wore lots of hand-me-downs as a pre-teen and early teen. Think tapered-leg jeans, big t-shirts, etc. About 15, my style changed and I started wearing more fitted t-shirts and flare-leg jeans, as well as the occasional skirt. I became infatuated with Converses and wore my pair everywhere.

All the guys grew up and bypassed me, and even some of my girlfriends got taller than me. I went from beating up my little brother to being very nice to him. My hair went from super-long to short chin-length, to shoulder length. I got full bangs, then side bangs, as well as going from full to thin to gelled perm-curls to hair-straightener-flat and slick. I got glasses--first a thin little "secretary" pair, then some weird-shaped octagon things, then my square "nerdy" glasses--and contacts. I HATED pink. I got my ears pierced. Typical can't-figure-out-who-you-really-are teen years.

*Now (age 22): I wear dresses and skirts a lot. Half of my wardrobe consists of sundresses that I'm currently trying to figure out how to wear in the winter. ;) I have a lot of sweaters (hey, it's COLD up here!) and boots. I go for bold and bright colors, anything yellow, green, orange, or a combo of pink/gray makes me happy, I LOVE vintage clothing, and I like weird patterns or combinations of colors. My favorite casual outfit is a jean skirt, leggings, converses, and a smart-alecky-saying t-shirt. I've fully embraced my love of anything a little off-beat, and I love hats.

My hair hits my shoulder blades, and it's very layered and curly. I wear it down and loose, with a bandana or headband, or pulled into a ponytail or messy side-chignon. I take a bit of time with make-up instead of slapping it on. I still wear glasses or contacts. I filled out a bit and grew a bit so I'm nearly as tall as my mom.

So there you go! Did you change a lot or were you pretty stable? Hopefully this gave you some inspiration to dig into your character's past and unearth how they've changed. I can't wait to hear your answers to these questions! :D


**Next Month: Another writing exercise involving sound, a musing on how technology has changed our interactions, and a review/interview from the author of Finding Angel!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Meet the Author(s): Grace Bridges and Walt Staples

(This month, I'm interviewing two people--Grace Bridges, the publisher of Aquasynthesis (who also had some short stories in it) and Walt Staples, who wrote the narrative that tied all the Aquasynthesis

stories together. This is going to be a long post, but bear with us--it's going to be a fun one!!

Let's start with Grace:

Grace Bridges is the owner of Splashdown Books, and an incurably voracious reader and author of sci-fi. She has two published books: Faith Awakened (2007) and Legendary Space Pilgrims (2010). Grace is a Kiwi of Irish descent living in New Zealand, and is a multilingual do-it-yourself gal.

Catch up with her at

How did you get started with writing? With publishing? How do you balance being a writer and a publisher?

I have always been a writer, from my very earliest days - first in epic, sweeping stick-figure sagas on that old-fashioned computer paper that came joined up in rolls. I would take the roll sideways and just keep going across the joins. Later in words, still with plenty of illustrations! Then I wrote a novel. It took seven years. It was a very weird one (can anyone say first-person-present, dual storylines, supernatural and sensual Christian cyberpunk?) so instead of trying to submit it somewhere, I decided to go into business for myself. After that... once I had learned the tech skills for making books, it just seemed obvious to do it for others as well.

Balance? There is none. I write when I feel like it, blindly pushing other projects out of the way to let the lightning strike. Still, writing must often take a back seat when the publishing schedule looms. I write on occasional afternoons off - and mostly far away from my desk.

I know your publishing model is a bit different than other publishing houses. How did you come up with the model? Why?

Well, I hate that whole publishing culture of rejections. So I set out to minimise my production of them. The first manuscripts I picked up came out of casual critique exchanges with the members of the Lost Genre Guild, and I liked that so much I decided to continue doing it that way. It's not an actual submission, so there doesn't have to be a rejection, see? And if I critique something I really like, then that author is going to hear from me.

That's cool! So how long does it usually take from signing a contract to publishing the book?

It really depends on how ready the book is. Some authors write so clean, we can do it in a month. That's how long I generally need for final editing and project design. If it takes longer, it's mostly because the schedule is full. No matter how I try, I cannot do more than one book a month and survive. I'm currently looking hard at the available slots for next year, and they are almost all full up. It saddens me that I won't be able to move fast on any project for a while because of that, but there's only one of me. Perhaps someday if I have someone in my team who can do everything I do, we could increase our output.

The way you put the anthology together (as a bunch of stories connected by a narrative) is pretty unique. How did you do it?

It wasn't my idea! I have my team to thank for that. Originally I was just going to stick the stories in by author and be done with it. But Travis suggested they should be arranged by theme, and he came up with the first draft order. Everyone helped to finalise it, and then Keven had the idea to write a joining narration. We asked Walt to write it, and Keven helped with that. Keven's wife DeAnna provided the stunning cover art. And several people aided in editing as well. It was truly a team effort, and I'm so proud of my crew.

And you guys all did a really great job. Do you have a favorite funny writing quote?

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. ~ G. K. Chesterton.

That's going in my quote book for sure! Any advice to future publishers/editors?

Aim at perfection. Nothing else will do. Don't allow yourself to put out a sub-par product for reasons of speed, cost, effort, or friendship. The buck stops with you - you will be associated with that book for a good long time to come, and yes, maybe even forever. So you'd better be sure you're 100% happy with it.

Awesome! Now for Walt:

Walt Staples spent far too many years thinking the unthinkable for a living. He maintains this has had no effect on him though he admits to a predilection for collecting odd people and an inordinate thirst for Dr Pepper. While his physical position is generally indeterminable, his heart is firmly located at 38.9N, 78.2W. His work has appeared in Digital Dragon Magazine, Avenir Eclectia, Wherever It Pleases, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Christmas: Peace on All the Worlds, and Residential Aliens Magazine. His rather questionable humor appears the first Monday of each month on the Catholic Writers' Guild Blog. Walt also wastes everyone’s time with his blog at: . He is a member of a number of organizations which shall remain nameless with the exception of the Catholic Writers’ Guild and the Lost Genre Guild--both of whose blackmail payments are in arrears. In lieu of the normal payments, he was elected president of the CWG (a move that proved far more costly to that organization than the previous arrangement). He agreed to move on after everything of value was piled outside the gates. Walt is also rumored to be a member of the Marine Corps Association.

According to Walt, the future trend of his life was probably foreshadowed when he was three. Driving with his parents, as they looked for a place to go to the bathroom on a Virginia fire trail, he was involved in a head-on collision with another family coming from the other direction also looking for a place to go to the bathroom. He credits this experience for his rather cockeyed view of the world.

How long have you been writing?

Walt: Quite a while. Apparently before I could read in fact (and, yeah, I don't understand that either). Looking at my first notebook (“Big Chief” brand, first grade lined, 80 pages, tear-off), there appear to be runic/Sanskrit-like inscriptions between the burning ducks, automobiles on horse legs, and cats in warbonnets (like I said, I don't understand either).

I've been fouling up and getting published sporadically for the last 25 years. I started writing hard science and geohistory, followed by general literature and mystery, took a turn into radio play scripting, tripped into comic book scripting, and since my retirement, things have exploded with science fiction and fantasy, historical mystery, small town fiction, and a head-on collision of all of the above at times.

Wow, that's quite a journey! In all that time, what is your favorite character you've created? That you've read about?

I think it's a dead heat between Conrad Ritter, a former Bavarian homicide investigator trapped in the Afrika Korps; his grandson, E.D. Ritter, sheriff of Danube County in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley; and Uncle Onslow, chief engineer on the intra-system tanker, Tau Ceti Maru. E.D. has appeared in stories published online by The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and Uncle Onslow has appeared in stories published in Digital Dragon Magazine and Avenir Eclectia . The nice thing about writing my characters is they're easy—I just cheat and use people I've known (and I've associated with some pretty strange types too).

As to my favorite character I've run across in my reading, I'd have to say Robert A. Heinlein's sneaky, little old man. If you notice, he seems to show up in just about every one of Heinlein's stories—kind of a combination Deus ex machina from below and Greek Chorus. A close second is Brian Freemantle's Charlie Muffin.

I love Uncle Oslow! He's one of my favorite characters on Avenir Eclectia. Next question: what was it like bringing a bunch of stories together with the narration you wrote for Aquasynthesis?

My end was easy. I was handed the stories (which are a major pleasure to read—even for the third or fourth run through) and the order of their appearance in the book (according to the police scanner, homicide and C.S.I. are still working the scene of the editorial conference). All I had to do was come up with Master Tok and his student Gizile, a coherent plot line linking the stories, and write it (with a heck of a lot of help). Like I said, dead easy.

Yeah, sounds sooo easy! ;) What's your favorite funny writing quote?

“Remember: Sleep deprivation is a writing tool.” – G.K. Fields, author of Chained Dogs

No joke! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

No. But if you hear some, please tell me--I need all the help I can get. Seriously, a good story is a tripod made up of character, setting, and plot. If any of those three legs are weak, the beast is going to fold up on you.

Good advice!

Awesome interviews, Walt and Grace. Thanks for stopping by Magical Ink!


**Next Week: Another fun writing exercise to get your creative juices flowing!

Friday, September 16, 2011

more Published stuff and a Milestone

Hello y'all! Got a few announcements from the beautiful fall U.P. this morning...

A new microfiction on Avenir Eclectia: "Cara peered through the crack that led from her hidey-hole to the marketplace. Orphans, hunters, and merchants scurried around the large area, giving no sign that they'd seen her worm into the pile of broken beams..." READ MORE

A new chapter of Falls the Shadow, where Maricossa decides to take the plunge: “Are you holding back because I’m a girl?”

Maricossa smiled at Connie as she bounced and dodged across the leather training mat. “You know better than that,” he said, “I’m just waiting for you to burn up your energy with all that bouncing." ... READ MORE blog has reached 30 followers!! Yay! Thanks to everyone new to the Magical Ink blogs and to all my goldie-oldie followers! :D (And if you haven't checked out the Bookshelf...well, you should. A new reading suggestion every week...what could be better?!?)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Novel Spotlight: Aquasynthesis

Aquasynthesis is a collection of short stories from the authors at Splashdown Books. They range from a miracle-working ring, to learning sentient computers, to a Lucky Penny, to an obsession with ears, all tied together with short snippets from the viewpoint of a girl watching a pool of water freeze and melt.

If you think that sounds's speculative fiction.

Let me quickly review some of my favorite stories in the mix:

Dude by Kat Heckenbach: This story made me laugh so hard! It was a creative, non-traditional use of an elf and I loved it. This was easily my favorite story in the entire collection. Kat's two other stories, Between the Pages and The Artist, were also amazing. Her book, Finding Angel, is under contract, so I know it's one I have to get!

When the Game Became Too Real by Ryan Grabow: I. Need. Air. Gulp. An adrenaline-laced story with the protagonist stuck in virtual reality, based on his forthcoming novel, Caffiene. Yeah. I'm gonna need this book too.

The Kissing Part by Fred Warren: A companion story to his novel The Muse, this is a cute story that reminds me of something my little sister did to one of my stories once.

Summer Snaps: a deleted scene from Keven Newsome's Winter, the book that launched Darkwater, the supernatural imprint of Splashdown. It's a supernatural thriller about a Christian Goth named Winter who receives visions from God. I wasn't too sure about the book--I mean, Christian Goths? Really?--but reading the story made me interested. Add Winter to my must-buy pile.

The Unjust Judge by Adam Graham: The story about a man who refuses to mete out justice and a widowed alien who refuses to give up...sounds just like something the author of Tales of the Dim Knight would write. Serious and funny all at once, and an excellent story.

The Field Trip by P. A. Baines: Ha! A story about two aliens learning about earth...and the difference a comma can make. Oosha. (Oops.) ;)

Overall thoughts: Some of the stories were better-written than others, but all made me curious to check out the authors I haven't read before. For people concerned about content, most of the book is clean. One story (Bob by P. A. Baines) contains a mild cuss-word, and Caprice Hokstad's story Fettered Soul contains a little sensuality (but nothing happens, not even a kiss. Oh yeah, and I really like this story too. Add two more books to my "must-buy" pile.). Aquasynthesis should be fine for those over 16.

If you like Christian speculative fiction and want a book you can read in short snippets, I'd definitely recommend Aquasynthesis. It will give you a good introduction to the fan-tabulous authors at Splashdown!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


**Next Week: Interviews with the publisher and an author of Aquasynthesis!

Monday, September 5, 2011

What am I doing?

Has this summer gone by too quickly? I feel like it! Of course, it's only been summer in "da U. P." for about two months now. ;) Justin & I visited Missouri in the middle of August. When we left, summer was still in full swing. When we got back, it smelled like fall and the trees were just barely starting to turn.

It's been a while since I updated on my writing projects, so let me do that real quick.

Half Blood:

Sloooooooooooow. I'm on plot point 11 of 31--about 31,500 words out of a projected 85K. But I finally got the beginning down (crosses fingers and hopes she didn't just jinx herself). It's definitely hard with this story because I've have to 1) change the story world and history, 2) make up different reason for the highlanders and lowlanders to be fighting (because let's face it, the Crown of Ages was nothing but a semi-ridiculous plot device anyway), and 3), write a new beginning and make sure it matches the tone of a story I wrote 2 years ago. But I think Apricotpie readers will appreciate how I've deepened and expanded the story.My deadline is the end of October.

Bargain with an Elf:

On standstill until I finished Half Blood. I plan on using it for my NaNo novel this year. Maybe starting out small and building up will help me not panic. ;)

Falls the Shadow:

Is expanding. We have up to Chapter 16 written, almost the entire rest of the book plotted, and are beginning to think about at least one sequel. Keep an eye on The Lost Scribes blog, because Libby, Maricossa, and Skylar are about to have their world turned upside-down and sideways! ;)

Short stories:

I'm continuing to write for Avenir Eclectia. I have four published pieces there right now and have plans for a short serial that involves not only Pieter and Cara, but Reeder (from Brush) and two new characters who will add a bit of a steampunk vibe to the rest of the story. (Of course, I had to get some steampunk in there somewhere! ;) ) Keep your eye on that site!

On other short stories, Bound To Dance didn't make it in the contest I entered, so I want to work on revising it...sometime. When I have time between everything else...which will be never. LOL. I'll get to it sometime soon and I hope to submit it to places like Residential Aliens and Digital Dragon.

I also have a Secret Project. ;) More will be forthcoming when more is decided on.

Until then, have a good week, write well, and keep safe from spare-appendage-crunching beasts like dragons and chimeras and so forth. ;)


**Next Week: A review of a new anthology from Splashdown Books!


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