Democracy Monument at Night. Bangkok, Thailand.

Starting Your Next BIG Project – 3 Simple Steps

Do you want to write a book? You want to start a blog? You’ve been thinking about this project for a while, but it seems so huge, you don’t know where to start (or maybe, you’re just too afraid)?

Good.

The size of this task may be threatening, but you are the Architect, you are inspired by the greatness of others, and you see this project as a challenge, an opportunity to become great yourself.

So, Architect, how do you build your monument? What is the first step you take?

Continue reading Starting Your Next BIG Project – 3 Simple Steps

A Light in the Dark

The Outward Path (Short Story – 5000 Words)

Now available in all ebook formats, free of charge. Download here from Smashwords or purchase from Amazon (I’m still waiting on Amazon to discover that it’s free on Smashwords, so for the moment, it’s only free on Smashwords. I’ll update this when it’s changed).

Captain Sanesh lowered his head, clasped his hands together, and tried to remember the last time he’d seen any captain sit, cross-legged, on the cold, metal floor. His knees were a respectful distance from the bodybag. Martin had placed strips of fabric around the room, and each was painted with symbols that Sanesh had seen tattooed on Martin’s skin, and printed in Martin’s books. Tall, black sticks ringed the bodybag, like miniature obelisks, exhaling smoke toward the ceiling. A tingling sensation played under his skin.

Continue reading The Outward Path (Short Story – 5000 Words)

4 Reasons You Should be Taking Risks with your Fiction

P. S. Hoffman:

Sage advice from a literary agent. If you’re beginning a new project (I know I am!), then take a look at this. It might change your approach.

Originally posted on Carly Watters, Literary Agent:

Playing it safe gets boring. Writers who take chances end up pushing the boundaries and get conversations going. And when conversations get started publicity will take off.

  • Station Eleven
  • Age of Miracles
  • The Golem and the Jinni

What do these books have in common? They defy category. They took risks and they paid off. They step outside our known boundaries, but stick to universal human emotion–that’s how we relate to their worlds.

4 Reasons You Should be Taking Risks with your Fiction:

1. Memorable is better than derivative. Nothing will make people remember like something they’ve never read before. Agents included. We are always looking for things that we can’t forget. When we say “we’ll know it when we see it” this is what we’re getting at. If we can’t forget it means that when we send something to an editor that they won’t be able to get it out of…

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Too Many Names? A Tip for Cleaning Up Your Writing

“The Word of Wigaldir calls you!”

“Eternal life in Enga’s arms.”

“Fear not, sinners. Lether the Blessed will bring us to salvation!”

Like the mating calls of jungle birds, voices sailed over our heads, clamoring for our attention. Bristling with energy and humid with sweat, a forest of limbs and bodies slowed our passage through the bazaar. My guide, a woman half-hidden under a shawl, kept one hand tightly wrapped around my wrist as she pulled me through the Tangle. Bodies pressed in around us.

“What does any of this have to do with my stories?” I shouted over the din of people and prophets.

A girl with golden coins covering her eyes singled me out in the Tangle, writhing as she spoke,  “Come, and worship at the altar of Satina with me. The sensual tongue-”

Continue reading Too Many Names? A Tip for Cleaning Up Your Writing

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Strike with Lightning – Using Turning Points to Engage Your Readers

Twelve days in the desert, and I did not know how much farther I had to go. My horses were dead, my waterskins were empty, and my legs shook with every step. The string of mountains I had been following were dwindling, but I found refuge from the sun’s gaze in a cluster of sand-worn boulders.

Before me, the land wavered in the heat. Not a soul in sight. No plants, nor birds. I would have killed for any sign of life. Even a snake would’ve been welcome. Instead, I got a dust devil.

Wind swept down from the mountains, tangling itself up in the heat, until the two were locked in a kind of combat, spinning and throwing each other around, picking up dust, until there was a tower of sand rolling and revolving across the empty dance floor of the desert. The dust devil crackled with energy, and electric tongues licked out from the gathering sand.

Wind tugged on the buttons of my shirt and pulled on my hair. If I wasn’t so exhausted, I would’ve stood up. I could hear the energy crackling, I could feel it in my skin as the dust devil whipped closer to my shelter.

Continue reading Strike with Lightning – Using Turning Points to Engage Your Readers

Shepherd by Othman Mohammad

First, You Must Climb Down – Facing Your Unknowns

I was safe, and I was suffocating. Grass and mud stuck to my legs, and the wet dirt squelched under my sandals. I was on a hill, and all I could do was look, turning from one direction to the next, terrified of making the wrong move.

If I move, I will slip. I will fall down this hill, and I do not know if I will ever get up.

So I did not move.

Thumping footsteps heralded the approach of the man with the goat-skin hide. Stabbing his staff into the hillside, he ascended my hill, until he stopped, watching me shiver in the cold, dewy darkness, mud plastered up to my knees. The goat-man pointed the hooked end of his staff at me, and commanded me to identify myself.

“I am the writer.”

“What are you doing up here?” His head was covered by a hollowed-out goat’s head, and two huge, spiralling horns stuck out on either side of the skull.

“I’m stuck.”

His eyebrows knitted together, his beard twitched, and the goat horns bowed when he looked at my feet.

“No, you are not.”

“I can’t go on. I can not write, and I can not move, and I can not think.”

The goat man lifted a hand to stroke the fur on the back of his goat’s head, as he gazed over the foothills, sinking and rising out of a sea of mist. To me, they were like waves locked in place, growing taller and darker the further they went. The goat man picked something out of his beard and flicked it away into the darkness.

“This land is dangerous. All land is dangerous, if you have never explored it.

“This is a threatening country, in the night.” He picked something out of his beard and flicked it away into the darkness. “There are many dangers to be wary of. You are lucky. None of them will kill you. I know this land, and I know it’s dangers. I can not always see them, but I know what they are.”

“What should I do?” I asked, rubbing my hands over my chilled arms.

He shrugged, “What do you want to do?”

“I want to succeed. I want to be good. I want to write the best words that I can.”

The goat man smiled, nodding. I think my response had pleased him.

He spoke, “It is up to you. You can stay here, or you can climb down this hill. If you stay, you will never fail, you will remain above the mist. But you will never move.”

“So I should stay here?”

“Hah!” He barked, “If you stay here, you will never succeed! To succeed, you must fail. Many times. To go up, you must first climb down. And as you can see,” He gestured with his staff, “There are many hills, many ups, and many downs in your way.”

The goat-man pulled his goat-hide tighter around him, and began to walk down the hill.

“Wait!” I called, “What if I make the wrong step?”

“In the mist, you You may find a wolf, or you may find a sheep. You may find many wolves, and sheep, and other things too. But beyond the mists, something waits for you, Writer. Beyond the mists, there is a mountain, a mountain nobody has claimed.”

He turned and grinned at me, horns glinting in the moonlight, “It could be your mountain.

With a few squelching steps he descended into the mist. I took a breath, clutched my pen, and I followed.

Writing Challenge: When you reach a peak, when you finally succeed, you will find new fears. Fear is good, fear will help you grow as a writer, and as a person. You, and your characters, must learn from these fears.

So, go. Write something short, about a fear you are facing, or a fear your character is facing. What is your unknown? How will you explore it?

Image courtesy of Othman Mohammad via Flickr Creative Commons

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Love and Sex and Poetry – What’s Your Favorite?

“If my Valentine you won’t be,
I’ll hang myself on your Christmas tree.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Today, millions of people will be in love.

Today, millions of people will be in tears.

And today, millions of people probably won’t care that it’s Valentine’s Day. But I care. I care a lot.

You know why?

Because love and loss are the greatest catalysts of poetry, poetic language, and all things written.

Today, I want to hear about your favorite poems, songs, notes, letters, or passages on all things Love. And Lust. And the wonders of human connection. If you wrote your own piece, or want to share a particularly moving blog post about love, please post it down in the comments below!

To get things started, I’ll share one of my favorite songs from Chet Baker:

As always, don’t forget to like and follow the blog. Happy Valentines day to you, dear writers. 

Image courtesy of Brittanie Loren Pendleton via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Half the Battle (Short Fiction: 150 Words)

It’s not Friday, it’s not a hundred words or less, but following rules was never really my strong suit. Here is my piece for last week’s ‘Friday Fictioneers’ prompt over at Rochelle’s blog. Maybe this week I’ll try to be on time. 

B and C were tied together at the ankle, waiting impatiently for Y and Z to do the same.

“What’s in the house?” C asked, leaning on her free leg while B was rushing the other pair to hurry up.

“B told me there was treasure. Is there treasure, B?” Y asked.

“YES,” an exasperated B, “but only the smartest group gets it, and that’s gonna be me and C.”

“Yea!” Said C.

“Nuh uh,” said Y.

“You kidding? Look how long it’s taking Z to tie that knot around your legs. I bet it’s not even a real knot,” B bent down and pretended to inspect it, but he didn’t actually know what a real knot was.

Without warning, B stood back up and shouted “Go!” while pulling C behind him.

Silent Z tugged at Y’s arm, and pulled her around the outside of the maze. They reached the house first, but the only treasure they found was the sound of B and C’s arguing voices, still lost in the hedges.

Thank you for reading! Tell me what you thought in the comments below, and don’t forget to like or follow the blog. Criticism is always a gift. And don’t forget to check out the other submissions here.

Image courtesy of Melanie Greenwood

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How Strangers Can Inspire Your Characters

If you are a writer, then you are a whole thesaurus of other things too.You are an artist, an architect, a dreamer, a tactician, a politician, an anthropologist, a historian, the list continues.

Today, none of these roles are your concern, because today, you are a psychologist.

As a writer, you should be obsessed with human behavior, because human behavior is what will drive your characters:

  • Why do people do things?
  • What would make someone act a certain way?
  • Why do these people want this, and what are they willing to do for it?
  • What would change their minds?

By now, you know that motivations are important, but what else is there to creating a good character? How do professional writers do it? How badly do you want to do some homework?

Don’t answer that last one. Let’s get into two different techniques that are going to help you improve your characters:

Continue reading How Strangers Can Inspire Your Characters

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Like Sharks in a Harbor (Flash Fiction)

Woong counted no less than four alarms when he poked his head into the observation deck. He could pick apart each one: proximity, emergency, something blocking the cargo doors.

But the last one, a sort of angry beeping that sounded important had the sound of authority, like it wasn’t supposed to be ignored.

He didn’t know what it was, and he definitely didn’t have time to figure it out. Woong had to find the system that controlled the cargo door, disengage whatever safety protocols this freighter had in place, and get the door to open.

The short range crackled in his ear, “Woong! How’s it going in there?”

“Found the obs, it’s clear. I’m looking for the door controls now.”

“Nice. Know what you’re looking for?”

Woong scratched his head, his eyes darting from one appliance to the next. The room was poorly lit, except for the hypnotic glare from monitors, and the light from the giant window that looked down into the main cargo bay.  “I’m looking for a computer right next to an override, but I don’t-”

Continue reading Like Sharks in a Harbor (Flash Fiction)