Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Preview

Here's a preview of what's to come in 2011.

Since I'll be studying for actuarial exams this year, my writing will be curtailed.  This coming year, I'll concentrate most of my efforts toward self-promotion.  That is, though I won't do as much writing, I'll still reach out and try to get my stuff out there.

My goals:
  • Continue writing in this blog (even more so if I can help it).  Of course I will detail all my self-promotion efforts as I go along.
  • Explore the online aspiring writers' community.
    • Join forums.
    • Try out electronic critique groups.
    • Learn what other opportunities lie out there.
  • Fix Chapter 1 of Escape from the Planet Justice and then...
  • Research sci-fi agents and send out query packages.
  • Search out a local critique group.
  • Look into local writing groups.
  • Complete the first 4 chapters 3rd draft of The Silver Lining and then...
  • Research Mormon-themed publishers and send query packages.  (I consider Chapters 5-14 to be send-able.  If time permits, I'll continue the 3rd draft through the end of the book.  Also, if I happen to have an agent at the time, I may go through the agent instead of approaching publishers directly.)
  • Continue working on short stories and send off to magazines when completed.
    • "A Turn-screw tlhImqaH": This story is completed and already appears in the 8th Actuarial Speculative Fiction Collection.  It was well received on the foremost actuarial forum.  I'm going to try submitting this to a Star Trek audience and see how it's received.
    • "Actuarial Weeding": I might as well continue with my plans to enter the 9th Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest.  I have one month to write and submit the story.  Perhaps this time I'll win a prize.
    • "When Time Flows West": Already completed, I just need to start submitting this story (and build up my rejection letter stack).
    • "The Depths of Inner Space": 1st draft complete.  After a 3rd draft, I can start submitting it.
    • "Descendant History": An idea I hope to pursue this year.
    • Other short stories as time permits.  I may consider writing a non-sci-fi short story targeted toward a specific publication.
  •  Attend another writer's conference - especially if a sci-fi agent is in attendance.
  • Pursue any other opportunities that arise...
Good luck on your own writing goals, and may you have a successful year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mel-o-rama's Year in Review: 2010

Here ends another year.  Come with me as we journey through that year that was called 2010.  What did I accomplish?

  • I finished the 3rd draft of Escape from the Planet Justice.
  • I researched publishers, sent out query packages for "Escape from the Planet Justice," and got several rejection letters.
  • I completed 10% of the 3rd draft of The Silver Lining.
  • I submitted my already completed short story "A Turn-screw tlhImqaH" once and got my first rejection letter from a magazine.
  • I wrote the short story "When Time Flows West," but I have yet to submit to a magazine.
  • I completed the first draft of the short story "The Depths of Inner Space." (It's nowhere near ready for submission.)
  • I subscribed to my first sci-fi magazine and started building up my (written) sci-fi input.  Of course, the magazine I chose was Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show.
  • I won NaNoWriMo this year while typing out the first 50,348 words of my newest unfinished novel Time Sleuths.  (If you would like to read these hilarious adventures - what I have so far - let me know and I can send you an epub file.)
  • I started this blog - a small step in increasing my online presence (which I hope balloons into something more in the near future).  This includes the following original vignettes:
  • I joined my first writer's network: the North Carolina Writers' Network.
  • I attended my first writer's conference.
It was a fun year.  I'd do it all again!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

What I Got For Christmas

Merry Christmas!

This year, my wife went with the aspiring author theme.  She gave me a moleskine notebook for writing down notes, a copy of the 2011 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market guide, and a copy of the software Scrivener for Mac.

I'm especially excited about that last item.  I had never heard of it before, but it looks like a lot of fun.  In the least, it looks like a better word processor than Word, and it allows you to organize separate files in one big binder (like chapters in a book).  You can also get easy access to your research (not sure how that works yet).  And when you have a finished product, you can export the whole thing (or pieces) into most any useful type of file (doc, pdf, epub, etc.).

Once I use it for awhile, I'll tell you more about it.

Aren't wives great?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, Santa Claus

For Christmas, I'll present this party game / family tradition (my aunt taught us this).  I have no idea where this story comes from, but it makes for a fun time.

Everyone starts with an exchange gift and gets in a circle. Whenever the words "Merry Christmas" are read, pass the gifts to the right. Whenever the words "Santa Claus" are read, pass the gifts to the left. When the story is finished, everyone in the circle opens their gifts. Have fun!

Merry Christmas, Santa Claus

My name is Merry Christmas. Once upon a Merry Christmas time, old Santa Claus set out to see about his Merry Christmas arrival. So I set out to find him, calling “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas” to everyone I met and asking people if they had seen Santa Claus.

“Seen Santa Claus? Have we seen Santa Claus?” they would ask. “No, we haven’t seen Santa Claus,” but I went on looking for Santa Claus.

Then all at once, there was Santa Claus down the block. “Hi, Santa Claus! Hey, Santa Claus! Santa Claus, wait for me. I’m Merry Christmas.”

Santa Claus turned around and shouted, “Hey, Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho! And Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!”

Soon Santa Claus and I hurried off together, but before we could get very far, a child who was standing in a window called, “Is that you, Santa Claus?”

Santa Claus nodded, “Yes”.

Then with a happy look the child said, “Who is that with you, Santa Claus?”

“This is Merry Christmas,” said Santa Claus. “You never have Santa Claus unless Merry Christmas is there too”.

“Well, hello! Merry Christmas!” said the child. “I didn’t know Merry Christmas was a person.”

“I tell you,” said Santa Claus, “It takes people to be Merry Christmas. People are what make Merry Christmas and Santa Claus too.”

“Thank you, Santa Claus,” said the child. “I’ll remember that.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spock's Space Flare

All you Star Trek enthusiasts have seen this episode.  Spock's in charge of this away team of 7.  Well, now it's down to 5, since two redshirts (actually, they wore yellow - but it might as well have been red) got killed by some ape creatures.  Now the 5 of them are trapped on this planet.  They can't be beamed up and they can't communicate with the Enterprise because of some green stuff in the atmosphere.  They've spent too much fuel in their shuttlecraft fighting off the ape creatures.  Some bureaucrat tells Capt. Kirk on the Enterprise that he needs to end his search so they can hurry on to jury duty (or whatever they have to do on Markus III).

In other words, things are looking bleak for Spock and his crew.  This is where the video clip below begins.

Since the ape men are coming, Spock has no choice but to launch the shuttle.  They don't have enough fuel to break orbit.  Spock tells them they have about an hour left.  They still can't contact the Enterprise.  They're going to die unless they do something.

Spock makes the irrational decision to jettison and ignite their fuel.

Scotty says, "What did you do that for?"  Now it'll take six minutes for the fuel to exhaust, and then they'll immediate begin their descent into the atmosphere.  Spock has sped up their demise, but to what end?  Just to send up a flare?

Back to the Enterprise: Sulu - while demonstrating his awesome ability at pushing buttons - looks up to the view-screen and says, "Look, Captain!"  Now they know exactly where to continue their search.  Guess who's about to be saved!

Now why would I bring up this classic blast from the past?

Because all you ever need to know you can learn from Star Trek.  ;)

Spock had no idea what was going to happen when he jettisoned the fuel.  There was a high probability that the Enterprise was long gone.  As Spock said, "There was no one there to see it."  But he got lucky.  Sulu saw it, and they got rescued.  In hindsight, Spock's only "bad" decision would have been to not send up a flare.  Had he taken that inaction, the shuttlecraft would have been in orbit much longer than six minutes, but they wouldn't have been noticed, and they would have died.

Sometimes I feel like I need to send up my own space flare.  I'm an aspiring writer.  Nobody knows who I am.  It takes a lot of talent and energy to get noticed (mostly energy).  But I don't have a lot of time to work with.  The day job gets a large portion of my life force.  My family gets another portion.  Other obligations take up most of the rest, and there's not much left over to put into writing.

Two years ago, I had made the decision to set aside actuarial exams in order to give myself more time to push forward my writing career.  To delay these exams is to delay the corresponding raises that come from passing each exam.  It is also to delay my progress in attaining full actuarial credentials.  Yes, I set aside some of my professional development so I could put up a space flare and hope that someone would see it.

I've made a lot of progress in the last couple of years.  I now have two finished novels, a few short stories, and I've started a blog and have attended my first writer's conference.

However, my time has elapsed and now I must return to the actuarial exams.  I am starting to descend back into the planet's atmosphere.  My space flare is running out, and no one has seen it.  Or rather - some have seen it and thought it was just a meteorite.  Now I must meet my fate among the green stuff.  Choke choke gag!  Burn!  Ugh!

Then again, life isn't that bad.  Even though I won't be writing as much, I can still submit my stuff to publishers and agents.  In a best case scenario, I'll be a full fledged actuary in two years, and I can go back to writing again and get a third book finished.  Should an agent or publisher see the remains of my space flare during that time, I'll gladly set aside these actuarial exams again to pursue the opportunity.

We'll see what happens.

Well, good luck to you - all who are putting up their space flares.  May you be seen and rescued!  In another couple of years, I'll put up another space flare and I'll come to join you.

Happy writing and ... *crackle* *buzz* *choke*

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Shopping

It looks like I'll have to take at least a week off of writing (including blogging) in order to get Christmas shopping done.  I guess that's one drawback from doing NaNoWriMo.  During the month of November, every free moment went towards one of two things: writing or relaxing.  I left no time for shopping!

Now here we are in December.  I've been working the last few days on my next blog entry, and it's eating into my Christmas research time (and I haven't even finished it).  So, for my own sanity, I must give up a few things temporarily.

This is a little frustrating, as I'd rather be giving up other stuff.  It shows that writing is a relatively low priority in my life.  It doesn't pay the bills.  It doesn't make my family happy.  It doesn't help me meet my other obligations.  Right now, writing is nothing but a hobby - the cold reality.  My life is just plain busy.

It's so easy to throw up my arms and give up the whole thing and say, "The world doesn't need another writer, anyway."  It would definitely make my life easier.  But then again, I should chill.  I've been working hard this year trying to push forward my non-existent writing career.  I've made great strides.  I can take one week off, and it's not the end of the world.  At least, I think it's not.  :)

Catch you next week!