Thursday, December 27, 2012

Down to the wire

A short note here.

    My goal for December was four short stories. I just sent off the second one [Red Eyes and Yellow Teeth] today and got confirmation of receipt on first one [Dead Truth]. Third story is started and rolling along. I was going to avoid zombie stories, but there's this call and then ideas happened. Always with the ideas. My original thought was World War II and the fire bombing of Dresden Germany. Through the grapevine, I heard that the editor was looking for pre-CE [Current Era] stories, so I switched gears and went for the plagues of Egypt, specifically the last one. Kill the First Born, but not really, make them come back as zombies. Real life events happened concerning children as I was starting, so that idea got shutdown and went back to WWII.

    On a prompt, I began to poke around again and looked at Asia, notably China. There's lots of good ideas, including the Great Wall and the army of Terra Cotta Soldiers that were buried near the tomb of the 1st Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. That got the juices flowing and now I'm off on a 3rd idea and writing furiously to meet a January 1 deadline. Not going to hit my goal of four this month, but at least three.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Splatterpunk & World Building

    Four open calls, which I thought were all due on the 31st or the 1st, until my friend pointed out that the splatterpunk call for Grey Matter Press was due on the 21st. The good news is that I have a story that I think will fit. This was one of the origin stories that I wrote during NaNo this year. A rather dark tale that ventured into uncomfortable and unexplored territory in terms of subject matter. Bad news is that I need to rewrite parts of the story and see about adding another 1-2k words. It's 7k already [which I didn't expect], but pushing it to 9k couldn't hurt. So far, only the sheriff has managed not to get eaten.

    For those not familiar with the genre, splatterpunk is bloody, messy, and disgusting type of horror. The likes of Clive Barker, Poppy Z Brite, and Robert McCammon are commonly cited authors in the genre. I have a few books by Deadite Press that I've been reading as a reference to do the rewrite. "All You Can Eat" by Shane McKenzie was a particularly good read and very messed up. His descriptions and ability to keep my engrossed were top notch stuff, even if it means I'm not going near certain types of restaurants in the near future. Not for the faint of heart.

    On a different topic, been working on world building for my urban fantasy novella. Keep finding little inconsistencies and need to stamp them out hard. At the moment, I've got how magic works, what sort of supernatural things go bump in the night, how much the public knows, and a solidified character backgrounds. The broad magic categories comes out as Lovecraftian [hyper-science, also related to mentalism], Invocation or Necromantic [one coin, two sides], and Fae-related [gifted by heritage]. Werewolves, vampires, and zombies are not common in the setting. Great Old Ones [GOO], their minions, and The Fae are the common magical threats/obstacles. Humans can wield the power of the GOO's but it ends up driving them insane or changing them physically. The exception is mentalism, which is unreliable and weak, but safe to use. Invocation/Necromancy tap into the power of life and death as represented by spirits and non-Mythos entities. Either can be used for good or evil, it's a matter of application. Belief and conviction govern how much power can be harnessed by the wielder. Fae blood powers are nebulous right now and I'll cover them later.

    John Q Public is just beginning to notice that things go bump in the night. There's a sense of unease, rising to panic in some places. Some religious organizations are finding that the faithful can perform miracles and not all of them are controlled, as the most dogmatic are the least likely to develop the right frame of mind. The Fae are coming across the Wall, taking people, and causing chaos. Not all of them are evil, most are amoral and have little concept of human ethics. A side effect is that people with "fae blood" are finding themselves able to perform magic, both large and small effects. Governments are trying to keep a lid on the events with the usual mixed results. It's only a matter of time before an event happens in front of a large enough audience to blow the lid off everything.

Go to put that bit aside for the moment and finish up my current calls. And I promised my writing buddy that I would answer the ten questions about me and my current projects.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Winter Projects

    NaNoWriMo for the year is done and I hit the mark, if just barely. Put down some good words and some terrible words, along with seeds for additional stories. With the closing of City of Heroes and the writing that I did related to the game, I'm going to let that rest before returning to edit. Looking at my call list there's four that are due by the end of the month or beginning of January. For the 3-10k splatterpunk I'm thinking something supernatural or that appears supernatural. Zombies in history is about the Dresden firebombing and how the Nazis were using a different type of slave labor. The horror in history call is nebulous, but I'm thinking about a faerie related story set in the old west. Bloodbound Books has a call that pays professional rates for up to 5k. Four stories, 26 days. Time to get busy. I'm seeing a theme in some of my stories, as they are based around faeries and fae-like creatures. Trying to stay away from vampires, werewolves, and zombies [history one aside], but not going to rule them out totally.

    Further out is a call for Urban Fantasy novella's and short stories along with pulp heroes and astrological short stories. The novella is a rewrite of an older submission that was rejected. Looking over it, I need to tighten it up. Originally it was written as a superhero romance, something that I've never thought I would write about in combo. It has demons, heroes, faerie, necromancers, and assorted other tropes that work in the super hero genre. The hero/protagonist had someone try to rip out his soul and stuff a demon in him. Didn't work out so well for any of the parties involved. Looking at it critically, I don't like it, so that idea goes out the window and he's become the child of a Faerie Lord and human romance. That ties in a bit better with the overall story. Removing the super hero related trappings isn't hard; a few renames here and there, tweaking of motivations, and giving some “logic” to the background. The one thing that I'm still looking at is to remove the romantic, but the call isn't specific to any theme, just Urban Fantasy. Either way, there's some tweaking involved to make the love interest more active in the story and not as passive.

    Last thing I need to catch up on is my reports for the local WHL hockey team here in Portland. Woefully behind on those.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Final Days

      November is a very strange month this year. One of the online games that I'm playing, City of Heroes, is going away. I'll not get into the details of why or how, but suffice to say something that's been a big influence on my writing for the past three years. I fell in with a group of people that role-play their characters, create stories around them, and try to bring them to life. They aren't perfect people nor do the people in question try to make them perfect. We built a world around these characters, breathed life into them, and let them struggle to obtain goals or personal agendas. Some grew and become more. Others fell into darker pits and never became much. Some just lived their lives; working, loving, laughing, crying. They were humans in a world filled with aliens, mutants, magicians, and super-science. Nothing was static, things changed, a boring life makes for dull writing. There are stories yet to be told, adventures to be recounted, villains to overcome, and epitaphs to be written.

     People have commented that it's just a game, why be so worked up? Multiple reasons that I'm upset. There's the community of people that I've met through the game. In the past three years I've met a handful of them in real life and hung out together. Putting a face to a name and shaking their hand gives that connection a personal touch, beyond just a name on a screen. More so than that, is the motivation I got to write fiction around the characters I played, around the characters other people played [with their permission], and lending out my characters to be used in other people's fiction. I'm invested in the game or perhaps the opportunity that it gave me to write.

     One of the features of the games was called Architect Entertainment, which allowed the player to create homemade missions and content. What it produced was a mixed bag of genius material and pure drek that exploited the system. Going to skip the drek and go with the good stuff. People that I hung out created stories as good as if not better than many of the story arcs produced by the developers. They spent hours writing dialogue, creating adversarial groups, and putting together a story that was fun to play. All for a handful of missions that might not last more than an hour or two, but would spur on additional stories and built up over time. We had recurring villains, insane adventures, heroic sacrifices, and a lot of laughs and drama along the way. It's something I'm going miss.

     That brings me the next part. One of the people I met in game is an author. It started innocently enough with a comment someone made in a global channel about her writing. So I dropped my normal reserved shell and asked her a question on writing. Did she have an advice. First thing that came back was “Don't quit your day job”. Blew that bit of advice out of the water earlier this year, but it's good advice. Living on your writing is hard. Not everyone gets that golden contract. People struggle to get published. Sorry, tangent. We talked a bit more over the next few weeks about writing and she was encouraging. She told me to write as much as I could and give me pointers on how to improve my prose, where I was making mistakes, or being crap. Honest feedback without being condescending or rude. If not for her, I would've never written or submitted the short story “Madame” that was recently published. In the past three years, her and I have played off each other in writing fan fiction about our characters in City of Heroes. Not a week goes by where we talk about writing and improving our craft. I'm even on her short list of people that get to look at her latest creation and give feedback. That's my big takeaway from the game, I found one more person to motivate me to write and do better.

     So yeah, it's not just a game. It was a doorway for me. New friends, a ton of fun play, and motivation to improve my writing. At 11:59:59pm PST on November 30th, the servers go offline. A world dies, but the characters live on in our writing and in our minds.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Runaway Story

     The last couple of days have been an interesting mix of banging my head on the wall and being in the zone. The past has taught me the value of making multiple saves and a good backup. There's a copy of everything I've written on my hard drive and on two jump drives that I keep around. For NaNo this year, I only backed up to one of the jump drives. And on Thanksgiving, overwrote the wrong backup. Lost about 5k worth of work and put myself further behind. To make sure that doesn't happen again, I tossed another copy up to Google drive for cloud storage and now have two backups. Moral of the story – Pay attention to which file you're writing too and always keep more than one backup.

     There's are those moments when everything clicks and the words flow like Niagara Falls. Saturday was one of those days, where I was in the zone. It started with a new origin story, about one of the villains and his “quest” for revenge. As I wrote, I found myself disliking him with a passion, as he slaughters his way through a village and meets his childhood tormentors for the first time in twenty years. Not everything is cut and dry as he remembers and is faced with a dilemma as one of the tormentors is now a priestess and actually sorry for what happened. The others he kills in a slow and methodical manner that includes humiliating and degrading situations. Straying from the point, which is the story just flowed out. The descriptions, the dialogue, everything just synced and I ended up with close to six thousand words on paper. Best effort so far this month and I got a story that could be submitted after a rewrite and edit. Going to finish it up today and move on to recreating some of the words I lost in the save screw up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Free E-Books

Quick post for today. Free books for those with Kindles or feel like reading online.

Digital Ink

And another by Permuted Press - Eleven Twenty-Three

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, I'll be away from the PC most of the day and back for a bigger blog post on Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


      Subject matter of this post may be a bit on the squicky side for people and may contain a bit of TMI. Consider yourself warned.

     Recently, I've been looking at a lot of calls for horror short stories. Many are focused on a certain sub-genre or theme for the anthology. Not a bad thing, but occasionally I come across one that is a bit too specific and deals with subject matters that I'm not entirely comfortable writing about. The most recent one was one that wanted zombie erotica. For one thing, I think that zombies are way over down lately. Same with vampires and werewolves. Two, not totally comfortable putting my name on erotica. Put them together and I'm not keen to dwell on it, so I moved on to other calls. What does this have to do with inspiration? Let me tell ya.

     On the way home Saturday night I saw a car with an unusual phrase on the back window. Normally I see the fish plaques or the stickers showing the family which I normally ignore. When I looked at this, it took me a moment to process what I was reading, then my brain went into overdrive. The car's owners had put the phrase “Truckstop Darlin'” on the driver side of the back window. That brought up a few ideas that danced around in my head and lodged there for fun. The other part to this is that my friends were in town for Bizzaro Con, which is a shock horror writer's gathering. We had been discussing subject matter related to the hosts of the con earlier in the evening. Putting this all together, got me thinking of the zombie erotica call and before I could stop, the idea of zombie hookers at a truckstop lodged firmly in my mind. Pimp optional. Will I write this story? No. Might it show up somewhere down the road in another story? Probably, it's too good of an idea to just toss aside. Will the phrase “Truckstop Darlin” show up in a future story? Oh yes. A quick Google for Truckstop Darlin, shows it's a country and western band, so take that as you will. The few people that I've told about it, all give the same answer as to the first thing that comes to mind.

     This illustrates, in a rather twisted way, how inspiration works for me. It can hit at any time, for any reason, and any number of prompts which may have nothing to do with you current project. I carry around a notebook when I'm out, just for this reason. If an idea or thought strikes me, down it goes into the book for later review. Many of my ideas come from reading the news, seeing oddball or unusual things [such as that phrase on the back window], movies, books, and talking with my friends and peers. I asked one of my writing friends how they came up with some of their subjects. Now I get that. Now I understand. The creative process is free form. Sure you can sit and think to come up with the subject. Other times, you should let your mind drift and take inspiration from the world around you.

     On the subject of movies, I picked up The Avengers on DVD and watched it a couple of times. Still amazed and impressed in the writing, acting, and directing. Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo both steal the show with Chris Evans coming in a solid third. That's not to say the other actors weren't good, but those cast members hit all the notes and hit them hard. Ruffalo needed more screen time as Banner and the next Hulk move needs him as the lead. I've been watching a lot of superheroes movies this month to keep the fires of inspiration going for NaNoWriMo. One of the inspirational ideas that came out of my watching the movies it adapting the story and characters to a different genre, such as fantasy. Captain America become a Warrior or perhaps a Paladin of Justice, Iron Man is a Wizard, Black Widow gets the Rogue slot, while Hawkeye takes Ranger. Hulk could be imaged as an Alchemist under a magical curse that turns him into a rage monster, while Thor is a Divine Champion; one of the aspects of his god. File off the serial numbers and you have an adventuring party ready to go with the tension and bonds built in. Not original, but it's the thought process that interests me as the moment. How can I retell this story and give it a new perspective? What can I take from this and how can I apply it to writing? Or it just motivates me to write a better story and work to get people to care about the characters and see what happens next.

Addendum: As it happens, this came along from the local NaNoPDX group -

Saturday, November 17, 2012

NaNo 2012 Excerpt 1

    This year for NaNoWriMo I'm doing a set of superhero stories. The origins of the characters that I've created over the past years while playing the MMO, City of Heroes. The game is being shutdown on November 30th by NCSoft for reasons unknown. I'm not going to get into that, but suffice to say, NaNo is the perfect excuse to detail out the one paragraph backgrounds that I previously created. The excerpts are unedited, other than a quick glance for spelling, so be prepared, it's first draft material all the way.
    This character is Emmerson Whitte aka TK-O, a mutant with the ability to project kinetic energy in close range bursts. At this point in the story, his abilities haven't manifested and sort of the depressing bit of the story. I was talking to a friend and describing this bit and that bit about the character's background when it struck me. He's Batman, of sorts. Not rich or nearly as messed up in the head, but many of the same traits: orphan, self reliant, smart, strong willed.
    Feedback is always welcome.

Praetoria – Imperial City
    Emmerson sparred with the speed bag. Left. Right. Left. Left. Left. Right. Kick. Sweat dripped off his body as he went through the routine. Around him others worked out, chatted, and socialized in the gym, ignoring the youth in their midst. His face was flush and mouth drawn tightly as he poured his frustration into the object. They are late. Where are they? Why haven't they come for me? It had been almost a week since his parents had dropped him off at the creche. There had been no response from the emails and calls he had placed. Silence.
     “Emmerson Whitte?”
     He paused and looked up, realizing that the workout room had gone silent. People stared at the newcomer in his gold and black armor plated uniform, heavy shoulder pads, and visored riot-helmet which he held on his side. The man was handsome, military style haircut, beard and goatee which were not regulation, and sad brown eyes. “Yes?”
     “Hello son. I'm Officer Smith with Power Division. Could you come with me, we need to talk.”
     “What's this about?”
     “Not here son, somewhere private.” The officer glanced around the room.
     Smith turned to the rest of the room. “Please leave, this is official Power Division business.” The crowd moved towards the door, ushered along by a pair of Clockwork automations. One of the man complained loudly about the interruption, but quieted at a glance from the officer.
     Emmerson watched the others leave, then looked up at the man.
     The officer squatted down and sat his helmet down on the floor. “Son, I have some bad news.” He hesitated. “Son, your parents... were killed in action. They died heroes, saving thousands of others from an attack by Hamidon. I'm sorry, son.”
     “No.” His mouth twitched around the word.
     “Never damn easy,” Smith muttered softly. “I'm truly sorry, Emmerson. They were good people and are going to be missed.”
     “No. They promised they were coming back. They promised.” His jaw tightened as tears formed in the corner of his eyes. “It's a trick.”
     Officer Smith reached out and pulled the boy close. “I know it's hard, but you have to understand, they are gone.”
     On his eleventh birthday, Emmerson cried.

Praetoria – Nova Pratoria
    Emperor Cole stood on the platform. Alone. Aloof. A god in the form of a man. White suit. Black shoes. Black hair, cut short, not a strand out of place. Chiseled features, betraying just a touch of weariness. Regret. Sorrow. The white marble wall behind him stood against the artificial green grass of the park as a reminder to those walking past. People filled the park, even in the rain to catch a glimpse of humanity's savior. To see living proof that mankind would thrive and survive even in the darkest of hours. A light rain fell from sky, pattering on the sidewalks and the monument.
    God spoke. “We are gathered here to mourn the loss of our comrades. Men and women of Power Division that gave their lives in the fight against the Devouring Earth menace. People who sacrificed themselves to ensure thousands of others would see the next day. This is the ideal of Praetoria. Give all you can. Be the best you can. Become an example. A beacon of hope in the darkness, shining the way to a better future. We must look to the departed for inspiration, hold out memories of them close, and remember that they gave us a chance to go on.”
    God gestured to the wall. “Each one is here. Names of the fallen. Their spirits with us. Respect their gift, use it wisely, and make them proud.” He opened up a small book. “I will read the names and commit them to memory. Our memory.”
    Emmerson stood stiffly in the black suit. In the front of the crowd. Alone. No umbrella or hat to prevent the rain from soaking his head, the fabric, or running down his neck. He looked at the living God, half aware of the words and the memorial wall behind him. He heard the names, but they meant nothing, The wall was his world. His focus.
     “...Daniel Whitte. Gail Whitte...” God spoke their names. Sealing their fate. One final remembrance.
Tears ran down his face, indistinguishable from the rain. They're really gone. Their faces danced in his memory again. The trip to the top of the Keyes building. Working in the shop with his dad, building sound systems for people. School lessons from his mom on biology, chemistry, and physics. It was all gone. Everything was locked up in a trust. He was left with clothing, a few gadgets, and his memories. It's not fair. Why did they have to die? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. He shut his eyes to stop the tears.
    God had finished the list of names. “For those of us who are left, we will carry on in their names. To complete the work they have left unfinished, to make sure that their children have a future free of worry. Free from strife. To live in peace. Thank you for coming.” The crowd clapped politely as God walked off the stage. He glanced across the crowd. Eye contact for a moment. God's eyes softened and he whispered something to an aide, a balding man with dark shades.
    People drifted away. Returning home. Taking pictures of the living God. Pictures of the wall. A few read the names. Mourners looking for their loved one. A final closure before moving on. Emmerson found himself walking towards the wall, ignoring the man in shades. I have to see. Make it real. The wall reached into the sky, a monolithic structure. His eyes scanned the names. That was mom's friend. She was nice lady. A pang of hurt and sorrow struck his heart. There. In the middle. He reached out and ran his fingers over the names. Tears streamed down his cheeks. I miss you both. I'll make you proud of me.
    “Emmerson?” A metal hand rested on his shoulder.
    He looked up at the silver and blue Clockwork. Its impassive face looked down at him.
    “Do you need more time?”
    “No.” He sniffed and drew a deep breath. “I'm ready to go.”
    “Excellent. I have received new instructions. You will be transferred to the Imperial School for the Gifted. All expenses covered by imperial decree.”
    “Why? What about the boarding school?”
    “A directive from Power Division. It is a highly competitive school. Most applicants are rejected. This is an honor.” The voice was flat. Emotionless. Reciting facts. “All your belongings are being transferred as we speak and a room prepared.”
    “I guess.”
    “Please follow me, the car is waiting.”
    Emmerson trailed after the clockwork. Only a few people remained at the wall. Crying. Comforting each other. There was nothing for him. The man in the shades stood by the car, holding the door open. He nodded as the boy climbed in and closed it afterward.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

In the beginning...

Hi, my name is Doug Blakeslee and I'm an aspiring writer. This has been something of a dream of mine since I was in high school and just realized in the past few years thanks to encouragement from friends. I live in Portland Oregon, divorced, single, and sold my first short story [Madame] this past year to Smart Rhino Publications [] for the anthology “Uncommon Assassins”. A second short story [Perfection] is due out in 2013 in the anthology “Zippered Flesh 2”, also by Smart Rhino publications. My current focus is to write short stories for various calls and rewrite a previous NaNoWriMo attempts.

A bit more about me. I enjoy cooking and trying different ethnic foods. Other hobbies include role-playing games, board games, and computer games. Recently, one of my favorite MMO's, City of Heroes, announced that it is shutting down. I've played the game since it was launched 8 years ago and, thanks to the friends that I made there, is the reason I've focused more on my writing. During the past few years, I've written fanfic in collaboration with other players regarding characters we created for the game. This helped me grow as a writer and get rid of a few bad habits. For the last six years, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, not finishing my first two years, but succeeding the past four. This is the seventh year [2012] and I'm on course to finish up on time. For seven months of the year, I have season tickets to the local Western Hockey League club, the Portland Winterhawk. These are kids who are working towards the NHL and often come from all around the US and Canada, plus a few transplants from Europe. Most are in the league to polish their skills and catch the interest of an NHL team.

Here's a few of the current calls that I'm looking at:
Zombies in History & Civil War Ghost Stories – They have two horror submissions related to history. For the zombie part, I've got an idea focused on the Bombing of Dresden in World War II. What if the Allies “knew” something was going on and the planes weren't off target. No ideas on the Ghost Story yet.
Night Terrors III - They are offering pro rates, which would go towards the Horror Writers Association qualifications. It's all about the horror.
Mythical Horror – Find a myth and modernize it with a horror theme. Lots of possibility here.
Pulp Heroes – The Shadow, Doc Savage, and other early heroes of pulp fiction.
Urban Mythic - – Back in 2011 I answered a call for a romantic superhero novella, which was part urban fantasy, part superhero. My first submission to anything. Still have the rejection email, it was very polite. The story is going to get a rewrite to make it more urban fantasy, a big time edit, and then submitted once the window opens.
Sword, Sorcery, and the Mythos - Think Conan vs. the Shoggoths. Sort of one sided, but could be fun.
Splatter Punk - More horror ala Clive Barker, Poppy Z Brite, and Robert McCammon. Blood, blood, with a side of blood.

That brings us to the end. Before we go, I would like to pimp my friend Christine Morgan's writing, both at Sabledrake Enterprises and the official Christine Morgan website.