Miles Fisher

The guy is a genius. Seriously, check him out. [link]

He's got one spiffy website, and his music rocks too! (A fact made all the more awesome by the fact that he's put his EP up for free download in the music section of his site.) I highly recommend "This Must Be The Place"

Wednesday Writing Prompts XVI

1. Come up with an ingenious way to make the world a better place. Think about some of the unique ways that waste can be turned into usable material (consider piezoelectric floors in a subway terminal to generate electricity or some kind of inflatable automated facility that purifies water through natural forces and channels it to those in need) and then write a story that incorporates this brilliant idea. In truth, it doesn’t even have to be limited to our world or our problems (think “cloudy with a chance of meatballs” ) and as such, you could take the idea to some really incredible heights. Experiment, have fun, and see what comes to you.

2. Science is an ever-evolving machine of human intellect. Consider for a moment, how far we’ve come since the days when man thought the sun revolved around the earth, when doctors believed that health was governed by the four humours, and Einstein made the statement that nothing could travel faster than light. (We now know that radio waves, among other things, can be made to do so.) Consider a barrier, a theory, a “magic” or anything else that stands today with the staunch support of people with degrees or titles. Now, write a story about how that thing is either proved, reworked (as a new theory) or thrown out altogether. It can be dramatic, fun, or be played out in any other way. Feel free to name toss– Einstein, Sagan, Hawking, James Randi, Oral Roberts, the Pope– have fun, make it real, and topple some giants with possibilities that would leave the men in the know utterly speechless.

3. Usually when we say “mankind” or refer to the “men” that do something, we use it ambiguously. The people referred to as “the men” could be male, female, hermaphrodic, alien, or anything else other than “men.” Sometimes when people notice this, it irks them. Now, considering all this, write a story that addresses these points or at least incorporates them. How would, say, asexual amazon bodyguards of a diplomat from Alpha Centauri respond to being referred to as the diplomat’s “men”? Would they even care?

4. Growing up, you probably heard the saying “When I was a kid, we had to walk to school and it was uphill both ways!” or some other derivative of it. Sticking with the humorous nature of this statement, write the story of what it was like “back then.” What did you have to get along without? A great one of these I heard once was: “When I was a kid we didn’t have feet, we had to walk to school on our hands!” Even if you never show it to anyone, have fun with it. Use it as a chance to practice, relax, and most of all, have a blast. It might give you something to tell your grandkids someday.

5. Thinking about the previous prompt from a different angle, consider what life was really and truly like say... fifty years ago (or more.) What would happen to the average, hat-backwards, low hanging pants, rap-loving young adult of today if he or she were suddenly shifted backwards in time to that point? One great thing that comes to mind is the leniency of the school system today toward students (but not teachers). Fifty years ago, corporal punishment and pop essays were ways that order was kept in the schools, but in the education system of today, even teachers who do not stick 100% to their syllabus are fired and blacklisted the moment a student complains. The generation of today has been referred to as the “entitlement generation.” How would that sense of entitlement work out for them in say, the twenties?

6. Pick up a book. Any book. It could be a random book, the nearest book to you, you’re favorite book, or just a plain old dictionary. Now, open it up to about three quarters of the way through. Pick the eighth word (or the last word on the page) and write it down. Now work backwards by eyeballed tenths of the distance between that page and the start. Do the same thing (Write down the eighth word). Now, look at the words you’ve got on the page (for me, it was: “Things, velvet, horrors, seldom, less, significance, mankind, Brown’s, Dunwich, and putrid.”) and rearrange them until they speak to you, until you can see the seed of a story within them. Now, write that story.

7. Go out dancing, even if it’s only by yourself (especially if it’s only by yourself!) and do things you wouldn’t normally do (that aren’t against the law, etc.) If you’re normally quiet and shy, be someone else for the night, give a different name, and play the role of someone who is an extrovert in the extreme. On the other hand, if you’re normally an extrovert, take on the role of someone quiet and shy. Sit in the corner and truly experience what it is like to feel the grip of fear holding your feet to the floor like concrete and steel. Whatever happens, try being someone else. Make some memories. The next morning, take some time to write about it. Turn it into a story.

8. The study of the world of the atomic and the subatomic has led some scientists and writers to joke about how each atom is like a universe, and how our own universe might be like some atom in some greater universe. Think about that for a moment, consider this idea of universes within universes, of the great and impossible distances between stars, between galaxies, between galaxy clusters... and now think of the gulfs of energy and void between the atoms that make up something like, say, the computer you’re sitting at right now. If you’re not brainstorming a story already, consider your place within that world of atoms and universes, how small and yet how large you are, how close, and yet so far. Even if your tale has no characters and no plot, speak to this fact anyway. Breathe life into it and see where it goes.

9. Write a story about a person who is neither really good nor evil, but whose many minions act as an independent entity perpetrating crime after heinous crime in the name of him or her. You can go a number of ways with this. Is the central theme of the story that the person whose image is being connected with ceaseless horrors finally sees what is going on and aims to stop it, or is it something else? You could even bring it down to the level of just a few individuals, with the “crimes” being things such as gossip or smaller acts of violence and thievery. Be creative– see where the story takes you.

10. Write something truly sappy, like the story of the birth (or rebirth) of a people or a world heralded by the birth of a child or– aging gracefully into inescapable death as a metaphor for life and living. Make it happy, make it sad, give it life and smiles, tears and the lamentations of women. Use emotion as the primary driving force behind the story, and most importantly, give it life, if only through the images and ideas that have come from profound moments in your own life interposed with beautiful and magical flights of fantasy.

Wednesday Writing Prompts XV

1. Write a story about some fantastic piece of technology that has lain undisturbed and undiscovered for millenia in some place that still maintains some of its mystery. Consider the sands of Egypt, the moon, Mars, or even somewhere else altogether. What does this piece of technology do? Who built and used it? Is it truly ancient, or did it end up in the distant past some other way? Is it the only one, or are there more? Is there a whole trove of “ancient” technology buried somewhere that only your story dares to tread? If the device(s) are discovered, what happens to those who begin to tinker with them? Is the discovery merely the start of their adventure?

2. What do you think of when you see garden gnomes? In classes I’ve taught, I’ve heard everything from “They’re just dumb” to “I bet they walk around at night and knife people!” Come up with something creative, something fun, but something definitely about the secret lives of garden gnomes.

3. There are few things more powerful that an individual can do for the greater good than to willingly sacrifice him or herself in order to save or protect others (At least, story-wise.) Write a story about a person who chooses to sacrifice himself or herself, but be creative as to what exactly that sacrifice means. What will the sacrificee be like afterwards? Dead? Comatose? Ethereal? What causes this change? What is the sacrifice ultimately meant to save? A people? An ideal? A way of life? There are about a thousand different ways to go with this– modern day, drama, fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, magic realism, etc.

4. Make a list of things that frighten, disgust or terrify you. They can be things as simple as spiders, rats and disease or as far out there as werewolves, Nazis and Cthulhu. Whatever they are, put them down on paper and then consider them both individually and how they could be combined to create the driving element of horror for a story. (Like a furry spiderbeast that makes a noise like a thousand angry rats and has fangs which drip contagion.) Now, write your story. Put pen to paper and create a horror masterpiece that addresses all that you truly fear.

5. Pick up the closest book and flip through it until you find a word that strikes you as “cool” (Try a shorter one– you’ll see why in a moment) Now, consider what that word might stand for if it were being used as the acronym for a project, device, or organization. Consider an example from my own Pink Carbide series– FLAIL (Fellowship for the Liberation of Artificially Intelligent Lifeforms.) Now, take your own completed acronym and write a story that features it. Be creative, really think about what you could do with your word before you settle on any one idea.

6. Write a story about something mysterious that a character finds while poking around somewhere (like at a yardsale or in an unused attic, etc.) It could be anything, a bottle of wine, an old antique, a subtle knife or something even more mysterious or interesting. Whatever it is, give it a certain significance that makes it interesting, if not downright magical.

7. Read one (1) piece of short fiction by each of the following authors (in this order) Jorge Luis Borges, Storm Constantine, Rikki Ducornet, Brian Evenson, and Kate Braverman. Now, write about your life. Let yourself be inspired by the material you’ve just read, see where the experience of reading these previous five authors takes you.

8. Sit down and take some time to create a map of a world that doesn’t really exist. Give it detail, consider the level of technology, how long the people have lived there, etc. It doesn’t have to be an entire globe– it can be as small of a “world” as a town or a city. Now, once you’ve finished, set a story there. Use the map as a reference while you write, and use it to inspire new ideas you might not have otherwise come up with if you hadn’t made the map.

9. Write a story that encapsulates the experience of a generation or a decade. Think about the changes that have occurred over time, the hairstyles, the music tastes, the mannerisms, what stays cool or uncool and what changes as time goes on, or just root your story firmly in the soil of a time that has long since passed. Be creative, and feel free to work beyond the lines laid out by this prompt. Combine stuff, do what feels awesome. There are about a million ways you can take this.

10. Everybody hates scammers, cheats, and people with no moral backbone. Write a story about an especially nasty trickster with no qualms at all about screwing people over, no matter how bad off they may be, and then have that trickster caught and punished in whatever way you think is ultimately appropriate. (Feel free to go as far with this as feels right.)

Wednesday Writing Prompts XIV

1. Think about the line: “You are the greatest story that has ever been told.” What does it mean to you? How does it make you feel? Do you believe it? Do you agree? What makes it more real for you? Spend some time mulling it over in your brain, jot down some notes, and then write the greatest story ever told by drawing directly from the events of your own life. Don’t doubt for an instant that you can do it. Just put pen to paper and make it real.

2. Think about a time when magic found its way into your life, when you believed, even just for a moment, that there was something more, something profound, something sublime. Even if there have been many of these moments or even if you live that way as a constant state, think about one especially profound time that still rings with a certain clarity, no matter how long it has been. Now, write about it. Encapsulate that memory, that moment into a story. Give it emphasis and life, breathe into it and create something wholly new from it.

3. Compose a letter to someone that you would never normally write to. It could be someone who is long dead, someone who doesn’t exist, a character from a previous story you or anyone else has written, or even someone alive today who you would not write to for any number of reasons. Make it real, hold nothing back. Now, go back over it– rewrite it as the dialog, the outpouring of someone’s heart to another person in a wholly different setting.

4. What do the words “Winding River” make you think of? Do they set a scene in your mind? Paint a picture in your imagination? Is there a sound, a concept, a moment, a person, and/or any other mentally associated thing that goes with it? Wade in amongst it all, breathe it in, and then use it to kick off a story. (Consider– why are you where you are? Who else might be with you?)

5. Think about a time when you were most in love. It could be a smitten kind of admiration that just can’t be suppressed, a torrid and passionate lust, or anything else that you really felt deeply enough, clearly enough that it has left its mark on you ever since. What was it like? Put poetic metaphor to it. Explain it in the abstract language of feeling and flowers. Be creative, but don’t lose touch with the feelings inside of you.

6. Take a moment to consider your life and all that you have achieved while living it. Think about the achievements that matter most to you, no matter how silly others might think they are (like that song you memorized, or that game you beat six ways to Sunday) Now, pick one that you feel especially proud about, that feels particularly monumentous, and write about it. What part of this achievement brings you the most joy? No matter how small or personal the achievement, make the reader feel the pride, the epic glory of it all.

7. Have you ever seen a ghost? Ever experienced anything that could be classified as paranormal or supernatural? Take a moment to consider a one (or all) of these moments, and then use the “best parts” to create a story. If you need ideas, spend some time researching Reiki healings, ghost photography, and even just stories of the supernatural in general. Be creative. Don't just decide that it's all fake and therefore pointless to write about.

8. Think about what some heavy hitting words like REDEMPTION or JUSTICE mean to you. What kind of images, scenarios, stories, ideas, or even just abstract random thoughts pop into your brain when you hear the word VINDICATION? When you read the word TRANSCEND? TERMINATED? GENOCIDE? EUGENICS?

9. Just for fun, create a crossover. It doesn’t have to be serious or something that you plan on selling or even showing to anyone. Just think of it as a chance to practice using someone else’s tools. Or, get really creative and create a crossover of your own original material using characters that haven’t appeared anywhere else before. (Is it still a crossover if it’s the first story?) It’s up to you to figure out where you want to go with all of it.

10. Spend some time thinking about people you consider to be nuts or crazy (It could be an ex-girlfriend, an ex-president, the current president, me, yourself, your mother... anyone) and then delve into that madness. How is that person crazy? What changes have occurred in that person’s life to make them “nuts”? Were they at one time normal and only changed after they were “damaged” somehow, or were they born nuts? At what point in the descent into madness is a person considered truly crazy? Is anyone truly sane? Explore these concepts in a story, and most of all, be creative! Don't feel like you're confined to only causes that exist it reality.

Just Go Play WoW Already

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Wednesday Writing Prompts XIII

1. Think about something that makes you sad. It can be anything, a memory, a person, an object, an ideal, an unrealized goal in your own life that seems impossible to achieve– now write about it. Explore why it makes you sad, why it effects you as strongly as it does, and then set it down for a moment and rethink it. How can you fix the situation and turn something unhappy into something happy? Is there something else out there in the world that is happy that you should be focusing on instead? Something wonderful in your life that others might look at and wish they could experience too?

2. Think about some change in your life that, when it happened, not only shocked you, but made you feel like you were getting older. It could be friends moving away, getting married, having children, etc. or anything else you can think of. Now, write about how you felt, delve into the emotions, explore them, name names, reach out into the world and wrap your hand around the core of what’s going on, and what the most profound truth of it all really is.

3. Take on the role of a cryptozoologist for a day and write a paper on your latest theory or find. It doesn’t have to be the tale of a crackpot logger who swears he saw Sasquatch shaking hands with Jesus, but could just as easily be a formal, “eyes only” report on something the military found and isn’t willing to let the public know about yet. Be creative, have fun, try something new, and see where it takes you.

4. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Write a story that proves once again that this old adage is true. The “Trash” could be anything, or any number of things. The first man could even be metaphorical. Consider the roles of the antiques collector who makes weekly visits to an entire circuit of thriftstores, the man or woman who swoops in to draw the discarded lover of another into his or her arms, or even the transactions that go on at any given yard sale.

5. Write a story where a great and epic hero is brought low. It doesn’t have to be the story of a person whose arrogance or overconfidence becomes their downfall– it could be a story where the great defender of a land finally succumbs to the ravages of time, disease, or the steady chipping and scheming of another. Where the story goes from there is up to you. Is the hero redeemed? Does another take his or her place? Does darkness envelop the land? Does something else altogether unexpected happen?

6. Sit down and think for a moment about a place where you would really love to live. It doesn’t have to be any specific place– it doesn’t even have to be real. Write a little about the place, give metaphor and literary life to it– then, set a scene there (or write about how you get/got there!)

7. Write a story that casts the human body as some massive facility or transport vessel. Consider the different dramas or crises or jobs that might unfold in any part of the human body if it were run by fully cognizant little lifeforms. (Like sentient cells, I suppose.) What kind of people would work in the brain? The blood vessels? The intestinal tract?

8. Write a story that messes with the reader, (like a story about a story of the same name that pulls its readers in and sends them to another dimension or a story about a person sitting at their computer or on a bench, reading a story of the same title until someone comes up behind them... etc.) Go over it a couple of times, consider the impact it might have, and streamline it. Make it feel as real as possible.

9. Tell the tale of an epic battle between two great nations of incredible power. It could be two nations from history, two nations of today, two nations of a fantasy world, or even two star-faring meganations of the future. Fill the story with powerful, awe-inspiring detail, make the base and bloody business of warfare distant, obscured under a phalanx of golden shields and shining polearms or lost in a sea of sweeping laserfire that vaporizes everything it touches.

10. Do the previous writing prompt, and then take it a step further– What is the human cost here? How does it all look to the one man or woman standing on the sidelines, the soldier dodging arrows or missiles and doing his or her damnedest to survive? What are the human dramas here? What are the social issues and points of contention that only overshadow the entire war for one or two people? Is there some form of resolution among all this conflict?

It's Time For A Change

You're Gonna Love This

Recently, while exploring the wonderful world of Stumbleupon, I ran across the author blog of one of my favorite authors-- S.L. Viehl.

I clearly remember the day when I found her first Stardoc Novel-- something like five years ago, a well-read and well-loved copy wedged into some forgotten and dusty corner of a used bookstore somewhere on the northwest coast. Once you pick up one of her books, you realize almost immediately that you just have to love it. Within a few short days, I had sucked down that first book and was scouring Amazon for more-- and each book has only gotten better. Even now, I can't help but be so in love with her writing, her characters and the interesting storylines she weaves that practically pre-order every new book in the series as it comes out.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of getting to read her work before, S.L. Viehl's Star Doc series chronicles the adventures of Doctor Cherijo Grey Viel Torin, the most interesting and incredibly awesome gen-engineered superdoc to fill the pages of a paperback since... anyone. This "Star doc" is literally on-par with "Bones" McCoy-- if not cooler (and I say that despite my trekkie-ness.)

So get out there and give her Star Doc series a read. It's definitely worth the price of the two mochas you might by otherwise. :)

Her author blog:

Writing Prompts XII

1. Write a story which is a collection of homages. Make the homages as thick as possible, and try to use mostly the bits that mean the most to you personally. Mix these bits together, make them meld and mesh in a way that is still fluid, combining in such a way that, even though they are mingling, each individual piece, each individual component can still be spotted and recognized by the discerning eye.

2. Write a story where the characters are all Gods or Goddesses. It can either be canon mythological (Orpheus’ trip into the underworld) told in a new way that either makes it more flashy or completely recasts it into the modern era (or a more futuristic time). Or, you can go all Stargate with it and make the Gods into something else entirely, the tales of their exploits little more than garbled fables that reflect only a glint of truth. Creativity is encouraged– you don’t even have to stick to these options!

3. Write a rejection letter. The recipient could be an existing (or fictional) author whose work you (as the editor) have received. But this is no ordinary rejection letter– Be creative. What was the story that was rejected and why? Did it come too close to the truth? Did the author make mistakes that were bizarre and ultimately funny (like taking out his aggressions on a particular character in a gratuitous fashion that makes the reader pull back and go “woah... uh...”) You don’t have to go as far as the author’s response or communication between editor and author through successive revisions, though it has been done before (with hilarious results!)

4. Create a story where one person who doesn’t think they could possibly make a difference in the grander scheme of things manages to change the face of the world altogether. Make the change drastic, but the actions taken don’t necessarily have to be so. Maybe this person instigates a chain of events that play out like a massive game of dominos, effecting the lives of millions of people who all move in response as a single entity to effect this massive change.

5. Create a pulp detective story. Think Dick Tracy– the kind of cop stories that are full of action and echo with the lamplit loneliness of a man who stalks and foils crime for a living. Pull out your broad brim hat and get creative. Create an arch nemesis, a master of crime with a name like “The face” or “Stitches Tyrone" and bring him down to make the city a safer place for everyone.

6. Design something fast. It could be a boat, an airplane, a motorcycle, a car, a jet, a rocket-powered racer, or anything else. Pick something that really appeals to you and go with it. Now, dream up the character who had the resolve, the dream and the tenacity to design this sleek machine. What is he or she like? What’s their story?

7. Tell the story of a character who wakes up one morning to find that they have some bizarre and/or interesting new “super power.” What is that power? The ability to spontaneously turn purple? The ability to control the gliding angle of flying fish? Super strength in one pinky? Now, continue the story with the tale of how this new “hero” saves the day using his or her newfound power. What kind of superhero name does he or she get out of it? The Pinky? The Purple Avenger?

8. Write a story about a character who finds a book in an unusual place. What book is it? Why is it there? Is your story about what’s inside the book itself, what it means to the person who left it there and the meeting of these two different people, or something else altogether? There are about a thousand ways you can go with this, and they all start with one person finding a strange book in a strange place.

9. Think about someone who really irritates you and let them have it in a story– Dante’s Inferno style. You can change names to protect the innocent, but leave enough there to make the person recognizable, if only to you. Let your frustrations out, tell them how you really feel and smash their face the way only a writer can. Show them that the pen really is mightier than the sword.

10. Billy Mays just recently died. Write something that either includes him, one of his products, or an homage to him. You don’t have to go as far as professing your undying love for him, but no one will fault you if you do.

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