Saying No to Fun Things; Saying Yes to Writing

Who doesn’t love weekends? I mean, I sure do. They’re great. You get to go out with friends, watch TV, play videogames, do sports type things, go on dates, and so on and so forth. What about weeknights? Isn’t it great to kick back after a long day at work and read a book, play some videogames, or watch some TV? You bet it is! Of course there’s one problem with all the activities I just listed: where’s the time for writing?

I feel like this a trap a lot of writers (including myself) can easily fall into. We all have friends, social lives, and significant others. We tend to have other hobbies and interests other than just writing. All of those activities, people, and hobbies take up time. So how do you balance all of them and still find time to write? You have to learn to say no.

It’s tough; nobody wants to say no to their friends when they invite you somewhere fun. Nobody wants to force themselves to write on a night after work, when the words just aren’t flowing. But sometimes you have to.

I fell into the bad habit of putting off writing. If it was a weekday I’d tell myself, “Oh I’ll write extra tomorrow” or “Well I can always write a ton on the weekend, so go ahead, watch that episode of Top Chef.” But then it’d be Saturday and I’d get invited to go hang out with friends. I’d tell myself that I had all day Sunday to write, so once again writing would take a backseat to everything else.

Writing is a craft, and it takes practice and dedication to get better at it. I desperately want to get better because I want to get more pieces published, and eventually support myself by writing full-time. I had to take a hard look at how much (or little) time I was devoting to my craft. It was painful to finally acknowledge that I was doing myself a disservice. But in the end, it’s been worth it. Since I realized what I had to do to get better, I’ve been able to make progress on a novel WIP that had been sitting dormant for months as well as begin rough plotting for a new novel.

How do I do it? I say no to fun things. When my coworkers go out to lunch: I say no thanks (Pro tip: always be polite when you decline doing fun things). I spend many of my lunch breaks writing. (Pro tip #2: Dropbox is a lifesaver because I don’t have to take a flashdrive with my most recent WIP to and from work) When I get home I only let myself watch a limited amount of TV and I don’t let myself go to bed before I’ve hit my word count. I write more even if I’ve already hit my word count goal during my lunch break. When it comes to weekends, I try to get my writing done during the day while I’m doing laundry or something rather than just playing videogames.

It isn’t always easy. Laziness is an extremely alluring option. But if I can learn to say no to fun things and activities, you can too. It’s the only way I’m going to improve, hone my craft, and one day get to do the thing I love full time.

New Acceptance! The Exile’s Violin Contracted by Hydra Publications

Good news, bad news time. Bad news is I got a flat tire on my way to work this morning (Mondays…amirite?) and have to buy some new tire(s). But the good news definitely outweighs that: I get to officially announce that my steampunk, fantasy novel The Exile’s Violin has been accepted by Hydra Publications! Here’s a little description about the novel:

The Exile’s Violin is a steampunk novel set in the fictional world of Tethys. Jacquie Renairre’s life is ordinary up until the night her parents are murdered and two of their prized possessions are stolen: a pair of black and white revolvers and a black key. After spending six years trying to track down the murderers, all she uncovers is a mystery that will take her around the globe in order to stop a war from breaking out. The Exile’s Violin is a story of loss, action, airships, gunfights, and long-buried magic.

So I’ve known about this acceptance for a couple of weeks, but I got the official green light to announce it today. I had to wait until the ink was dry on the publishing contract and all that. Right now The Exile’s Violin is slated for a Summer/Fall 2012 release in electronic and paperback formats. It’s funny up until now I didn’t feel like this was really happening…but it is!

That’s all the information I have for now, but I’ll post updates on the revisions, samples (if I can), cover art (when I see it), and a firm release date (when it’s set). I’m also going to blog about my experiences getting a novel published for the first time. I have a feeling it’s a whole different ballgame than being included in an anthology.

Please contact me if you have more questions or want to set up an author interview or guest post or something! Now I have to go celebrate! (aka get back to my day job)

Five Sci-Fi & Fantasy Wallpapers

I love customizing my desktop background. I have a folder on my computer dedicated to cool wallpapers. Some of my favorites have to be sci-fi, fantasy, or abstract themed. Here’s some of the awesome ones I’ve found this weekend. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe one of these will inspire a new short story, poem, or novel! Click on the pics to be taken to where you can download the full-sized versions.

sun outer space explosion wallpaper

I like this one’s yellow color palette. Plus explosions in space are cool. Ask anyone.

outer space planets wallpaper

Another space-y planet-y type wallpaper. A nice blue contrast to the yellow one up above.

outer space stars planets wallpaper

This one’s called “Rusted” and I think it fits perfectly. So there you have it: space wallpapers based roughly on the primary colors. Now onto a couple of fantasy desktop backgrounds.

fantasy woman warrior with spear wallpaper

I like this one because she’s a fantasy female warrior of some kind, but she’s wearing sensible armor, not a chainmail bikini.

fantasy art landscape wallpaper

This one caught my eye because it could be interpreted as either fantasy or sci-fi. Either way, it’s cool looking.

 

Naming Your Characters

Naming the characters in your short stories and novels can be fun or it can be a huge nightmare. Sometimes you’ll write a character and you’ll already have the perfect name for them. And then sometimes this happens: you finish a chapter or story and it’s filled with characters with placeholder names. It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. I’ve lost count of how many characters I’ve had to call Guy1, Person McPerson, or Girl3 until I can find more proper names for them. I’m sure it happens to even the most famous writers. Imagine Stephen King writing all of something like The Shining but with placeholder names for Jack, Danny, and Wendy.

But luckily there are tons of resources out there for writers who’ve hit a roadblock when it comes to naming their characters. Here are some of my favorites. Some of them are geared more toward science fiction and fantasy, but others can work for any kind of story.

Seventh Sanctum — This website has a huge collection of name generators. It’s definitely one of my favorite sites. Some of the generators are more humorous than others, but overall it’s usually the first place I turn to.

Squid.org — This website’s random name generator is geared more towards fantasy, but still some of the options are really useful. It can only generate so many names at a time, but its options more than make up for that.

Behind the Name — This website’s name generator is made up of “real” names from around the world. You’re able to choose what countries and cultures you want it to generate names from. Also most of the names have descriptions associated with them so you can find out alternate spellings and meanings.

Ever Changing Book of Names — This isn’t a web-based generator. Instead it’s a program where you can download a free trial version. It contains thousands of different names from all around the world. You can even download different “chapters” that can generate names based on other fantasy works and universes. It’s a great resource for when you’re looking for a very specific type of name.

There are other resources out there, but these are some of my favorites. They’ve definitely saved me from submitting a manuscript full of placeholder characters.

Sci-Fi Space Battles and Submarine Warfare

Want to know one of my favorite sci-fi space battle scenes of all time? Definitely in my top five is the space portion of the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Even if you’ve seen it dozens of times (and if you haven’t seen it shame on you) go watch it on YouTube real quick and get reacquainted with it.

Still awesome, right? Nothing like that CGI mess at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. Despite the Battle of Endor being one of my all time favorite space battles, there’s one thing wrong with it: space combat will never be like that. In fact, I have a feeling space combat will be more like submarine warfare.

It’s no secret that George Lucas based a lot of his space battles off old gun camera footage from WWII aerial battles, and it shows. X-Wings and TIE Fighters behave more like airplanes than ships fighting in a vacuum. In fact it’s not until Empire Strikes Back that you actually see a ship do something “spacey”. While trying to escape from Hoth, the Millennium Falcon is being chased by a Star Destroyer and two more are moving to cut it off from the front. This is a good move…if they were on an ocean. In space you have three dimensions to work with, and finally it seems like Han realizes that. He dives the Falcon straight “down” at a 90 degree angle. Because of the Star Destroyers’ mass and inertia they’re unable to make the same maneuver in time and end up crashing into each other.

But that scene still isn’t a very “realistic” depiction of a space battle either. (Yes I know “realistic” isn’t quite the word because to this day there hasn’t been an actual space battle. Just bear with me.)

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series gets it a little better. The Galactica resembles a submarine more than anything else. Its bridge isn’t exposed on the top or front of the ship. It’s buried in the middle under layers of armor. The crew has to rely on a vast array of sensors and projections to keep track of enemy positions. Still because it’s a TV show, the space battles have to be exciting, so most of them take place at very close ranges where the Galactica and Cylon Basestars. This allows the viewer to see the two ships firing conventional kinetic weapons at each other along with barrages of missiles. Still some aspects of the combat feel more like naval vessels fighting each other than space ships.

However, given the vastness of space, it’s unlikely that two ships engaging each other would ever get close enough to establish visual contact–especially given that light can only travel so fast. If you were far enough away, any visual you’d receive would already be outdated. Therefore space combat will probably take place at great distances and based around highly sophisticated guess work.

Instead it’ll be like two submarines trying to outmaneuver and outguess each other. Submarines have to rely on sonar and other instruments to figure out where their enemies are. My guess is that space combat will be more like that. More like a chess match than two heavy brawlers punching each other in the face. Still that kind of fight doesn’t make for very entertaining movies and TV episodes, doesn’t it? So while my head knows that space battles will happen one way, my heart will still be fascinated by swooping fighters, flashing lasers, and big explosions. I think I’m going to go watch that Endor clip one more time.