The Contest Winner Is …

Beast 1

In my last post, I had started a contest at Freelancer.com for ideas for a specific chapter of the book I am writing. I got 13 entries, but only seven are visible at the link unless you log in to Freelancer.com.

I loved most of the ideas I got and it was a tough choice choosing the one official winner. I chose the entry from Faith I to be the main winner and to get my $100 prize. But then I decided to buy the ideas of three others as runner-up winners (at a lower price they agreed to).

The picture if of one of the beasts pulling the carriage.

The whole chapter is rather long so I divided the chapter writing into four parts:

  1. Entering the Wilderness
  2. Creature Attack
  3. Bandit Attack
  4. Approaching the Destination

Then I set up to write each part individually to keep my mind focused. I seem to do better when I focus on one scene at a time, especially when I am trying to combine ideas from five authors (including myself).

This post will focus on Chapter part 1: Entering the Wilderness.

First here are the four winners:

Faith I

Faith was the grand prize winner. In the contest I had asked for a synopsis of the proposed chapter, and an excerpt of the hypothetical chapter. Faith wrote the whole chapter. She wrote a new part for the previous chapter also, which I added (reworded) to the previous chapter.

Here is an excerpt of her suggested chapter, only the chapter part for Entering the Wilderness, otherwise this blog would be too long. It will already be too long as it is.

By the time we approached the wilderness, the day had already changed to dusk, the forest breeze was rather unwelcoming, and it seemed as though there were no other life forms present save for the trees and bushes. As soon as the wilderness was in full view, the buffalos came to a sudden halt causing the carriage to jolt slightly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked my alternate self aloud as I peered through the carriage window.

I don’t know, maybe the buffalos decided they’ve had enough and stopped for the night. This was followed by a wild laughter and I somehow found myself laughing along.

Meanwhile the others in the carriage stared at me like I was some kind of loon.

After a moment of blank silence, Hunger-tar spoke, “the buffalos are frightened of the wilderness, it gives off bad vibes and the beasts can sense it”.

Again, I wondered what could be so scary to such great beasts, before I could get a chance to ask, I heard the driver and one of the guards outside trying to get the buffalos to move. After several thunderous roars from the beast and yelling from the stage coach operators, our carriage was back in motion.

We proceeded through the narrow pathway of the dark, thick forest at a significantly slower pace than we had been moving earlier. As we went, there was nothing but dead silence, the guards had advised us to keep it quiet so as not to attract

any dangers. Still it seemed to me that everyone was unduly agitated, after all, there was not a single soul in sight nor any sounds except the snapping of twigs and branches as we passed through.

I found myself dozing off after a little while and soon, I was fast asleep. When I woke up, it felt like I had been asleep for years, a feeling that felt all too familiar.

“Oh, he’s finally up!” Ink-san said, and the rest of the crew chuckled. I slowly sat up, blinking my eyes to see all of them staring at me.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you can sleep through this, I mean, doesn’t this place creep you out.” Said Copper-san as she flew over and landed on my shoulder.

Looking out the window, I noticed that it was now nearly pitch dark outside, save for a faint beam of blue light coming from the front of the carriage, I imagined it was what the stagecoach driver used as he guided the carriage. It was at this point that I noticed how ominous the forest was, nonetheless, I decided to put up a brave front. To distract myself, I focused on eating the food we had gotten at the marketplace, the others joined me and for a good while we were all able to ignore the sinister nature of the dark wilderness.

I used many of her ideas in the first part (and second part) of my chapter.

Sasha S

The next runner-up is Sasha S. I use many of his ideas but I didn’t use them for this first part of the chapter.

Ravi N

The next runner-up was Ravi N. I used a few of his ideas. For the first part of this chapter I mainly used the idea of the pink color for the strange forest leaves. This particular wilderness is strange even for the planet Sonik.

Robert, copper san, Ink san, and Hunger tar along with the coach guards and driver departed for the national archives. The national archives was a place that was situated in the middle of the vast forest, filled with unspeakable dangers, but Robert and his group were mostly unaware of this. After travelling for half a day through their carts, the group reached the outskirts of a vast forest. The forest was an entire world of its own, its trees were tall reaching almost the sky, and the peculiar thing about the forest was that it wasn’t green in color but rather had a dark pink hue to it. It looked absolutely beautiful. Everyone was dumbstruck on seeing it, even the people who’ve heard about it before were no exception.

Seeing the peculiar dark pink hue of the forest, Robert asked copper tar if she knew anything about it, but to his surprise, she had no idea about it. After some moments, their carts entered the forest, the instant they entered the forest, they felt a chill which made their hairs stand on back. Every one of them had an idea that this forest was more than just beautiful. The buffaloes of the carts were hesitant to pull the cart inside the forest, but they were helpless against their masters. The group kept travelling but at a considerably lower speed. The forest had different trees, and some peculiar plants, one plant which looked like a sunflower devoured a small leopard like an animal. Seeing that, nothing came out of their mouth. Soon the day was about to set, it wasn’t the time for the sun to set, but the thick canopy of the forest was preventing the sunlight from entering, which led to early sunset. The group decided to camp for the night but at that instant, they heard a roar that sounded very angry, all of them heard it and everyone felt the fear in their hearts at that moment. Hunger tar asked Robert what was it? But Robert was also at a loss, even his other half was a bit terrified. Copper san and Ink san were so scared that both of them were holding Robert’s head standing on either side of his shoulders, the scene despite the situation was looking pretty comical. The buffaloes were all kneeling on the ground, the sound was there only for an instant and wasn’t heard after that. But the buffaloes refused to get up for a long time. The night came and the forest looked even more mystical, the scene felt like it was straight out of a dream. They made supper from their ration, ate and went to sleep. When Robert was sleeping, he could hear the sound of a small child who was sobbing and talking in broken sentences. Initially, Robert thought that it was his other half, but it soon became clear when his other half complained about the same thing. They heard it for a few minutes then the sound disappeared.

Nicolas C

The last runner-up was Nicholas C. His ideas were valuable, and I use a few of them later, but not in this first part of the chapter.

Jimm Grogan

So, here is the first part of the wilderness travel chapter as an example for this post. This is the official first draft of my version of the chapter part. I merged in many of Faith’s ideas and a few of Ivan’s with many alterations of my own.

By the time the wilderness was in the distant view, the day had already changed to dusk.

There were no farms, agriculture or homes in sight, so technically we were in a wilderness already. But the normal wilderness had sparse trees, grass and visibility into the distance. I saw occasional furry creatures scamper away from the road, resembling pikas on Earth.

But up ahead, there was what appeared to be a distinct boundary. On one side was normal wilderness. On the other were dense tall trees raising a canopy of pink leaves, sloping steeply upward from the boundary. It was a wall of trees and brush, with no visibility to what might be behind or inside that wall.

The road led to a dark hole in that wall.

I was appreciating the humor of the wilderness’ name less and less; the ‘Wilderness of No Return’.

As we neared the hole into the dense forest, the chill breeze wafting from the entrance felt unwelcoming. The sky was partly dark already, but as we entered the hole it quickly felt like midnight. The buffalos came to a sudden halt causing the carriage to jolt slightly.

“What’s the matter?” I asked as I opened the carriage to lean out.

Hunger-tar spoke. “The buffalos are frightened of this wilderness, it gives off bad vibes and the beasts can sense it.”

One of the carriage guards turned on one of those ‘ultra-bright’ fairy-sized flashlights I had been giving away as a bonus to fairy’s who bought my tablets. I looked up at him as he climbed down from the carriage roof to the ground.

“We’ll be fine,” he whispered. “I got one of these magic lights some human has been giving away. The beasts will follow the light. Just stay quiet so we don’t attract attention.”

Hey, aren’t those lights reserved for fairy customers? My twin personality complained.

As long as the fairy buys a tablet, she can do whatever she wants with the light as far as I was concerned. I was actually flattered that it found a use in some profession.

The guard walked out in front of the beasts, lighting the way. With the driver’s slapping the reins on them, the beasts started forward again, but slower.

Ahead, I could only see the road and tree trunks and gloom. The ultra-bright light didn’t seem so ultra-bright here, but it worked. We could see.

I closed the door. “Why do we need to be quiet?” I whispered to my fellow passengers. “Whose attention is available in this place?”

“There are evil predators from this forest,” Ink-san said. “Some are attracted to noise.”

I laid back and closed my eyes. “Maybe things will look more interesting in the morning,” I said.

“Really? You’re going to sleep?” Hunger-tar asked.

Oh yes, though my other self.

“Oh yes,” I muttered aloud. My previous worries about Garth finding me had kept awake last night. This was an excellent time to get caught up on my sleep.

A jolt of the carriage awoke me. I opened my eyes tentatively.

“Oh, he’s finally up!” Ink-san said. The rest of the crew chuckled. I slowly sat up, blinking my eyes to see all of them staring at me.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you can sleep through this. I mean doesn’t this place creep you out,” said Copper-san as she flew over and landed on my shoulder.

Looking out of the window, I noticed it was still dark. “It’s not even morning yet?”

“It’s morning,” Ink-san said.

I opened the door and leaned out while Copper-san clung to my ear. I could see the pink canopy overhead. All direct sunlight was blocked by it. But is was light in a pink gloomy way. I could see the road and the tree trunks. The species of tree was different in this wilderness. Besides having pink leaves and being outrageously tall the trunk bark was a deeply textured black.

The guard was no longer walking in front of the buffalo or using his light. We were traveling faster now though approaching a speed bump crossing the road. The dirt was broken in a straight, two-meter wide line straight across the road. I braced myself as the carriage jolted over it.

I closed the door. Everyone inside seemed depressed or worried. To distract ourselves, I focused on unpacking the food we had gotten at the marketplace. The others joined me and for a good while we were all able to ignore the sinister nature of the dark wilderness.

 

 

Experimented with Twine.fm

ProcyonB

I commissioned an illustration from an illustrator at Twine for a short story I am planning to self-publish. The guy I hired made me the beautiful piece above.

The Twine experience was a little different than the freelancer sites I have used before. I am still trying to figure out if I will use it more.

Fiverr.com is great for quick typical needs, but if you want something a little more custom or special, they don’t seem adaptable. You would often need to change your project to better match the definition of the job the creator advertises as his/her specialty. You cannot post a job and have creators give you bids.

Freelancer.com is great because you can post exactly what the job is that you want to have done, and the creators will search you out and give a bid, sometimes too many bids to review. This is perfect for me because most of the illustrations or other art I need are custom situations. However, this process can be a little burdensome if you just want a quick little thing. Also, Freelancer pesters you with several small fees during the process so you never know exactly how much the project will cost in advance.

Twine.fm is more similar to Freelancer.com. You post a job, and the creators submit bids. Twine seems more casual and the personnel seems more eager to give you their personal attention to help you through the project. Besides the bid price you agree to with the artist you choose, to pay exactly 20% extra to Twine. I think that is better than a bunch of little fees, but it does seem a little more than I expected. On Freelancer.com they charge the hired artists fees also. As far as I can tell, Twine does not charge the artists any fee, except an annual subscription if they want to enjoy premium perks. Also, Twine specializes in visual arts like videos and illustration, not in writing or other tasks.

I will probably give Twine some more business. I still expect to revert to Freelancer and Fiverr on occasions.

My Illustrator’s Daughter Gets Involved

My latest book ‘Claymore’ has been on Amzon.com for a few weeks in all three formats now (ebook, black & white paperback, and color paperback). Besides my day job as an engineer, I have been a bit lazy since then, playing games and watching shows on Netflix. Soon I will need to start my next project in earnest.

Meanwhile I have had some exposure and sales for the new book, especially with friends and relatives. My illustrator bought an expensive version of the book (the version with color interior illustrations) for her daughter. As you can see in the attached picture, she is really happy to have my story in her hands. (Okay, she is happy to have the illustrations in her hands.) I appreciate her positive response.

TizianaDaughter

I am indecisive about my next project. I have two more books planned and outlined for the Tomek series that I want to complete, but I also want to do a ‘hard science fantasy’ story that I have in my head.

I’ve never heard that term (hard science fantasy) before and I may have made it up. The general concept is a world similar to the one Tolkien created (not too similar, but with magic, magical beasts, and wizards). Earthling astronauts land there and try to make sense of it. I have specific ideas in mind (about the science behind the magic and about plots and characters) but haven’t outlined them in any document yet. I would want the plots and characters to dominate and not have it all about the science. It would be, at some stage, a battle of science against magic where science is losing. Later as they ally with the good guys they learn to meld the two technologies together.

I am sure something like that has been done before somewhere, but I want to do my idea with it.

Writing Obstacles into the Story

For my latest manuscript the editing is done and all the interior illustrations. This illustration featured today is for chapter thirty-one. This chapter has Claymore finding exactly where prisoners are being kept.

When I wrote my first book, my editor complained that I had my character solve problems almost instantly. I learned challenging obstacles are important in a story, something everyone seems to know, but I didn’t back then. Obstacles that are quickly overcome are not really obstacles.

Now I am on my third book, and in this particular case, the character Claymore has spent over half the book trying to find where the prisoners of the evil covert organization are. Here he finally gets a peek into the bad guy’s surveillance room and recognizes video feed of one of the prisoners. Now he can switch to planning the rescues.

I am still an amateur writer, but here I have the produced the most serious struggles for the protagonist. I just wonder if I went too far. Nah. It was a struggle for me personally though. I have a tendency to want my character to be masterful or expert. And I still do that to a degree by making the opposition stronger.

I try to have the character to be strong in some things, but also have some significant flaws that cause him or her problems. In Claymore’s case as an example, he is a bit snobby and overconfident. He is a wealthy and clever lawyer. That is one of his weaknesses that make his problems worse. At a point before this illustration, he is living homeless and broke. While he never gets his wealth back, he does become successful again and makes a difference in the lives of the victims.

Chapter 31 final

When the Writing is Finished

I’m excited to be finished writing and editing my science fiction novel titled ‘Claymore’. I have both of the appendix short stories completed by my guest authors, Siriano Lambert and Gavin Parish. I am waiting for the last one of the ten illustrations then I can send all the interior to createspace.com for them to format into the 6″ x 9″ page size. I will then put my illustrator to work on the cover. In the meantime I can take a break and do something with my spare time other than write.

Siriano

My guest authors each wrote a short story about a different minor character. Siriano chose the minor character Jak, a police officer caught selling confidential police information to an alleged journalist. Siriano is my nephew, and as far as I know, this will be his first work published in a book. He does have writing samples available on different web sites. Here the first paragraph of his short story for Claymore:

Rain tapped softly on the hood of the air car. Jak sat motionless in the driver’s seat, eyes glued to the dash-screen video feed. It had taken so long to get approval for this stakeout that he was afraid the suspect would have moved on before he could get the cam-bot installed. Of course, he’d had to pay for the cam-bot out of his own pocket. That had been difficult to get Melysa to understand, but in the end they had agreed the risk would be worth it.

I was excited to involve Siriano and he came through with a nice story that I feel will enhance my book. Siriano focuses successfully on emotions and relationships. There is action here also. After reading Siriano’s story about Jak and his family, you understand why Jak felt justified in his later actions, even though Claymore wasn’t sympathetic.

Gavin

I had hired Gavin Parish in the past with my novel ‘Baktu’ and enjoyed his results. He chose the minor character ‘Lucy’, a person of a race known for their intellect but physically comparable to cephalopods (octopuses). He went the extra mile and read my other novels for more background information. Here is his first paragraph:

Lucy was in deep water, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. The plajoni home world was mostly ocean, but here on Regalia she had grown accustomed to spending much of her time on dry ground of late. Even so, it felt good to get her tentacles properly wet once in a while, though the level of toxicity in the water was an ever-present concern. Strict antipollution laws had long been in place across the planet, but busy traffic around a major spaceport posed a heightened risk she would be foolish to ignore. Nevertheless, she would only use the breathing filter Scod had given her as a last resort. It went against her instincts to swim with any kind of aid, and she had not liked the fit and feel of the thing when she tried it on for a test run before setting out.

He made blatant and subtle references to several other characters in the Claymore novel and my other novels (in the same universe), including the Baskin Shipping Yards, Death Ray, and others. At the end the amnesia that he gave Lucy subtly explains how she ended up a homeless tramp when she first appears in the main novel. It’s Interesting story of suspense and action.

Tiziana

The featured picture this week is the one Tiziana made for chapter 29. Here Claymore is poses as a customer in a hanger for spaceships. He is actually spying on the bad guy’s ships. Claymore ends up leasing a spot even though he has no space ship. The picture shows the environment, the open ceiling, and the general busyness of the place.

Chapter29final

Why I became a writer

For decades I have enjoyed reading science fiction. For decades I imagined different plots and situations in science fiction worlds. I started five different novels, only getting one to four chapters done before getting distracted with life. I drew maps, imagined alien cultures, and investigated the scientific plausibility of different technologies and worlds.

Finally, in May 2013, I decided I needed to write a real book. I made it a goal to complete one in a year. It was fun. I did have to discipline myself to write at least three times a week for a couple hours each, instead of watching Netflix.

Actually my progress was discouraging. I have made a huge complex plan for my story, about 50 chapters, and I was not keeping up with the two chapters each month. Then I decided to break it up into a trilogy. After planning again so that book 1 would be a good stand alone novel, and fit into a trilogy, I was ahead of schedule. A new wave of enthusiasm hit me, and in January 2014, I was done.

Except then I found out there was more work than just getting the first draft done. I hired Anjanette Oborn as my editor, and she convinced me I needed to make some changes to the plots and rewrite several chapters, adding material to important events that I had just summarized in the draft. After considerable more effort, and starting to worry if I would ever get it done, and running out of energy, she coaxed me on. And we finished.

She suggested that I try to get it published through a traditional publisher, but I did not have enough confidence to try that. Maybe I should of followed her suggestion, but self publishing was a lot of fun, if less profitable. I got to make all the decisions about illustrations, price, book size, and everything.

I am happy with my first book. The second edition (of the same book) will be available in a few days with different illustrations. Also, I have made some progress on the sequel.

I still have my full time day job as a computer engineer, and I have not made even close to the money I spend on the book, but it was cheaper than a vacation to Hawaii and the fun lasted longer.

Introducing my new website

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my new blog!

I am a new author of science fiction and I wanted a place where I could introduce myself and share my science fiction adventures and other thoughts.

I have one (self) published book, ‘Negative Zero’, and am working on the sequel ‘Baktu’. I also like to write short stories which I hope to be sharing here.

That’s it for now! If you’d like to be kept updated with my posts “Like” this post or subscribe to my blog.