Monday Mashup: Godzilla vs. Titanic

Godzilla vs. Titanic

OK, yes, I know, it’s probably not politically correct. But it was a long time ago. This picture purports to show the true cause behind the sinking of the Titanic way back in 1912. Clearly, the tragedy resulted from a collision between the Titanic and Godzilla.

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Writing Tips: Sprints vs. Marathons

Marathon RunnerI’ve been in two writing groups for the last four years, both of which are open to new writers. At this point, I can’t tell you the number of times a new writer has arrived and said something like…

  • “I’m writing a dystopian YA novel…”
  • “I’m writing a werewolf urban fantasy police procedural novel…”
  • “I’m struggling with an SF thriller conspiracy novel…”
  • “I’m working on a post-apocalyptic novel…”

The common element here is “novel” and, more specifically, their first novel. Ever.

Folks, writing a novel is like a marathon. For those who aren’t overly familiar with marathons, it’s 26.2 miles long. I’ll come back to this momentarily…

In the last four years, none of these new writers have published any of these novels.

Let me repeat this. None of these new writers have published any of these novels.

None. Nada. Zilch.

Because writing a novel is hard. In order to reach the finish line for a good novel, a writer has to do a lot of things right. The story concept has to sustain a novel-length work, the characters need to be well constructed, the plotting needs to be crisp, the scenes have to move the story forward effectively, etc.

Only a few of these novels were ever finished. Even when they were finished, I haven’t seen any of the writers do the kind of ruthless editing and rewriting that would be necessary to bring the novels I saw up to what I would consider a professional level.

Admittedly, my writing groups are a relatively small sample of the overall writing pool, but all of the beginning writers had the same thing in common. The novel they were writing was the first significant work they were seriously trying to get done.

On the other hand, the writers who have achieved some degree of success seem to have a few things in common, too. They’d honed their craft by working on a bunch of different works over time before they successful completed a (publishable) novel. In the case of one author, he had a string of novels he’d either 1) abandoned part-way through, or 2) finished but had decided that they were unpublishable first drafts (that he didn’t know how to fix). Other authors honed their craft on short stories and novelettes before embarking successfully on longer works.

Now, obviously, there are people out there who have been successful with their first novel (although we don’t know how many drafts they went through to get the novel to where it needed to be). There are people who write very fast and finish novels in two weeks. But, based on what I’ve seen, that’s not the way I’d place my bets.

Runners typically train for marathons by participating in shorter races before moving up to marathons. So, if you’re a new writer, I want you to consider honing your craft on shorter works before trying to write that masterpiece of a novel that you have in your head.

And if you do choose to develop your craft with some short stories and novelettes, go for some diversity. Write that emotional story that doesn’t have much action in it. Write the origin story for the character that’s going to be the hero in your eventual masterpiece. Do an urban fantasy mystery short story. Do a…well, you get the picture. Stretch your boundaries so you’ll be ready for that novel when the time comes.

OK, your mileage may vary. I understand this. Starting with shorter works might not be the right path for everybody. But…at least consider it. I’m getting tired of critiquing trunk novels.

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Monday Mashup: Arya vs. Brienne, with Light Sabers

Sometimes the most interesting things come from mixing together two other “ingredients” that might otherwise seem an unlikely combination. So, here’s the fight between Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones…with light sabers.

Mashup: Arya vs. Brienne

The entire scene is also available on YouTube. Search for it…you won’t be sorry.

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I’m Reading…the Black Tide Rising Series

Black Tide Rising - A Zombie Series by John Ringo

Since I’m working on a zombie story of my own for Martin Wilsey’s upcoming anthology, Whispers of the Apoc, I’ve been reading a LOT of zombie fiction lately. In this case, I’ve just re-read the Black Tide Rising series by John Ringo.

The premise is simple. There’s a zombie apocalypse and a family of disaster preppers manages to escape to sea in a boat with lots of weapons, ammunition and food. When civilization is inevitably smashed to pieces by the man-made virus, they begin collecting survivors from boats and ships in the Atlantic ocean and gradually try to bootstrap a successful recovery effort.

The four-book series is a lot of fun, which isn’t something you often hear about zombie books. It’s got humor, lots of action and a pretty high degree of logic to the recovery efforts. It’s also one of the few zombie stories in which the various US military organizations play a substantial part in assisting with the recovery process.

Recommended for the military and action-oriented readers out there.

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Mission Statement

Mission StatementI’ve been reading books on the craft and business of writing lately. One of the authors I’ve been reading is Susan Kaye Quinn, a successful, indie-published writer who creates YA fiction (and also writes a few craft-related books on the side). In particular, in her book, 10 Step Self-Publishing Boot Camp, she suggests that writers create a Mission Statement.

The basic idea is that the act of crafting a Mission Statement forces you to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing. It’s something you can revisit each year and modify as needed if your goals change. But it also becomes a metric by which activities can be measured: Does this task that I’m contemplating further my mission?

So, here’s my Mission Statement.


As a writer, I want…

  • To create compelling heroes who, through no fault of their own, are underdogs and are forced to evolve, because these are the types of heroes that inspire me.

  • To create stories about crimes, because people will always be people and somewhere, whether it’s a fantasy realm or a far-off planet, there will be evildoers who need to be brought to justice.

  • To craft genre-bending mash-ups with twists and turns that defy expectations, liberally infused with humor but still deeply rooted in the realm of drama, not outright comedy.

  • To continually seek out new ways to improve my craft.

  • To be a leader and member of a supportive writing community.

  • To create a body of works that reaches a large number of readers and explores the reaches of my creativity.


That’s it. Six bullets.

The first three are focused on what I want to write. I like mash-ups. I like mystery/crime stories set in exotic SF or Fantasy settings. I like stories with humor, twists, surprises, as well as sudden violence tempered with emotional moments.

This tells me that I’m going to have a harder time really establishing my brand than other writers who may just stick to one narrowly focused niche. Because my brand is “hard to define, cross-genre mash-up crime stories.” So be it. But it also means that my stories won’t be just like everybody else’s stories.

I’m OK with that. It seems to have worked well for people like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and others.

The fourth bullet is about always striving to improve my craft. Yes, absolutely. I want to write stories that move people, not just solely entertain them. To do that, I need to keep pushing my limits as a writer.

The fifth bullet is about being part of a supportive writer community. The way I see it, a rising tide lifts all boats. Help others if you want help yourself. In giving to others, I receive far more. And it’s fun, too.

The sixth bullet is about a writing career. I don’t want to be that “one and done” writer, the one who only ever writes one novel… I want to create a body of works that are worth people’s time.

Now you’ve seen my Mission Statement. I hope it makes sense. It does to me. I think Susan Kaye Quinn was right—it is a good exercise to find out exactly what you’re striving to do as a writer.

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The Kindness of Strangers

Potbelly Sandwich Shop I’m at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, where I’ve ordered a salad for myself, a sandwich for my wife and a few accessories. I get up to the cash register, they ring up my order and I reach into my back for my wallet…which isn’t there.

I apologize, make my excuses and head out to the car to see if I’ve left it there.

Nope. I head back in and tell the cashier to just set my order to the side. I’ll run home and get my wallet.

A tall man with salt and pepper hair is standing near the cash register, waiting for part of his own order to be completed. He says, “You forgot your wallet?”

“Yeah.” I’m shaking my head, because I’m still annoyed with myself. “I’m just gonna go home and get it.”

“Ah, don’t do that. How big’s your order?”

“Just lunch for me and my wife,” I say.

He grimaces and then gives a shrug. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll just pick it up for you. I’ve been in this situation before, myself.”

“Thanks. Uh, if you give me your name and number, I can pay you back…”

He waves me off. “Don’t worry about it. Just pay it forward.”

He calls out to the cashier. “I’ll pay for this guy’s order.”

The cashier looks over at us. “The order’s already paid for.” He points past us at a slim, red-haired lady who’d been behind me in line. Without saying anything to us, she’s walking out of the shop. “She’s already paid for it.”

I ended up getting my lunch for free because of the kindness of strangers.

Sometimes it’s easy to be down on humanity, thinking that people are stupid, ignorant, callous, easily fooled, etc. Pick your particular gripe at any given moment. But really, most folks are just regular, decent people. And sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded of that.

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