stories

I Published A Short Story!

Yes, it’s true, I’m finally a published author. It’s so exciting, and I can’t seem to hold it all in–oh, someone pinch me and tell me it’s not a dream. The story’s called “19Sixty3,” and it runs around 20 to 21 pages, in total.

Here’s the summary:

Time is a tricky variable.

It is 3057 A.D, and the Space is the New Frontier. The Milky Way bustles with traffic, advanced space shuttles traveling from planet to planet, galaxy to galaxy. Earth is home to the Brigadier Fleet, an intergalactic armada created to explore both the near and far reaches of Space. Made up of more than a thousand small ships, the Fleet sends out its members on various missions (trade, exploration, conflict, etc), and these ships are dotted across the entire galaxy, waiting for their next orders.

The Vanderbilt is one such ship. Its members, Captain Ian Douglass and John Thatcher are traveling from Earth to Saturn, practically stranded in the Outer Reaches, when they encounter Maintenance Ship 005-30E. It is flashing its hazard lights, and it appears deserted. Douglass wants to think there is nothing to it, but it becomes clearer and clearer that it was no accident the Vanderbilt came across this ship–so he moves to investigate the cause of its distress.

What he finds is more than he could have ever expected.

In a tale of tricks, twists, and shocking revelations, the unsuspecting crew of the Vanderbilt finds itself transcending time and space, face to face with an unexplainable evil, the likes of which Space has never been host to. They cannot understand it. They cannot know it. They cannot beat it. It is all that they never knew to fear, and it poses them an unanswerable question: What are the rules of time, and what classifies as proper and improper uses of them? To preserve a greater good? Or condemn a civilization to endure what has already long been forgotten?

And here’s the link, if you feel so inclined to click it:

“19Sixty3”

It’s one of my favorite stories, and I originally wrote it in 2015. So, to be honest, it’s a long time coming.

It’s going for $0.99 on Amazon Kindle, so go check it out. And I will ask that if you choose to read it, I would be extremely grateful if you leave an honest review on Amazon. This helps me understand where its strengths and weaknesses are, and it helps other people decide more easily if they’d like to read it, as well.

Thanks much.

Think daily,

A Southpaw 

Middle Schoolers Can Write! Seriously, People!

What’s up, my people?

Sorry, was that too out-of-the-gate?

Here, tell you what, I’ll call you folks from now on. Just folks. I promise.

All right, so, guys, I gotta tell you about this sweet class I got going at college. Yes, as you might have been able to divulge from the title, it does involve middle schoolers and stories. Good to practice those reading skills whenever you can.

Further information:

I am scheduled to teach a single sixth grade class, with a partner, for a whole hour. We’re required to construct a lesson plan, and, you know, all the other blah-de-bloo. It is to be presented on November 1st, the day after Halloween.

Lucky us…

Kids, hey, we need you to pay attention! Oh my God, I think–

No…

They’re psyched out on crap loads of candy! Run for cover! 

Well, barring any unforeseen candy psychoses, I think we’ll be all right…for a little while.

Anyways, back to the point of the post, which is sixth graders writing stories.

Personally, I’m in love with the concept, but maybe that’s just ’cause I’m a writer. I dunno.

Some of the more memorable bits of these students’ writings were:

  1. A story beginning with “It was a dark and snowy night.”
    • Golly, what a classic!
    • And they changed stormy to snowy.
  2. A story about Santa crashing through a kid’s bedroom wall, and not apologizing.
    • Christmas Genius at its best, my friends.
  3. A story about a witch going to the grocery store.
    • I mean…hey, a hag’s gotta eat.
    • Props for creativity.
  4. Not a story, but one student telling me all about how he loved playing Dungeons and Dragons with his uncle.
    • He was also quite polite and shook my hand; told me he was making his own board game with his best friend.

That is just the beginning–kidding, that’s actually the end.

Those four things are the only events that took place in the hour and a half I spent at this middle school. Other than that, I sat on the ground and stared at a wall and talked to myself about how Kraft Mac and Cheese is a disgusting choice of food.

Wait, you guys aren’t actually that gullible, right?

Right?

‘Cause I was totally lying about the Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

The Horrible Writing Experience Of Third Grade

If any of you are writers, or people looking to be writers, have any of you, after a certain amount of time, heard that old phrase: “Gee, you should really think of joining a writing group!”

Do you any of you barf a little in your mouth? ‘Cause I do.

I see writing as a personal game, like playing a match of Uno by yourself–and, yes, I realize that analogy sucks, but it’s the best I could come up with, so there. You sit at a desk, or lie on a couch, all alone while doing the craft, anyways, so why would you need other sitting experts to feed you their opinions on the matter?

Now, before you accuse me of having not attended any writing groups whatsoever, let me tell ya, I have. I will also tell you, it was not that fun; granted, my first experience of being in a group was when I was a third grader in Montana, but…

Yeah. Montana. The Big Sky State; although, personally, I don’t see the difference between their sky and the rest of the friggin’ sky. I don’t know, maybe the gravity’s a little off there. I was eight years old, for crying out loud; I wasn’t that observant.

I attended an elementary school right beside my mom’s resident home…where she worked–she didn’t live there. It was a nice school where I made a lot of friends; however, when I wasn’t making great friends, I was reading books and writing short, short stories. These things were a page and a half, two, if I had a brilliant idea.

‘Course, I got into trouble more than a few times with the teacher, since, apparently, I should have been working on the assignment instead of writing about this kid named Jim, who traveled to the Bermuda Triangle and blew it up.

Yeah, good going there, Jim.

My friends, on the other hand, thought the stories were spectacular, and the ones sitting at the same table as me asked if they could help write the stories. Yes, folks, I had my first collaborative writing session in the third grade. Cheers for me.

The months passed while we were writing these stories, and get this: a total of three students, including me, got to be working on stories together. Jim gained the friends, John, and Jean, I think, because, I guess, my friends felt they had to name their characters  “J” somethings, too. Again, I don’t why. I was eight years old, people.

In November, maybe, our teacher called our class together to inform us of a visiting author to the school. This author was going to teach a writing course for an hour, and he was going to do it for a select amount of students from each class.

In our class’s case, it was three students.

So, the big day arrived, at last. The author was scheduled for that afternoon, and our teacher had yet to choose her special students.

The tension was thick as she paced around the classroom, hand on her chin in that I’m-an-adult-and-I’m-thinking manner, and she ended up picking me–I was genuinely surprised at this–a couple of my collaborative writing friends, and another guy who occasionally wrote sci-fi detective stories, which, I believe, he only wrote to get picked.

I remember, after I was chosen, this one rude girl in the class said, “He’s only getting to go because he writes stories.”

Well, I mean, duh. Did you think I was gonna get picked if I had spent the year working on a bust of the Wright Brothers?

When the time came, the lot of us filed down to the library to see this writer dude; by the way, he was a children’s author–and, so, on getting there, I sat down in the furthest seat from this humming projector screen and watched the other kids find their seats and pull out their handy-dandy notebooks.

Then the writer dude entered.

I can’t remember all of it too clearly, but I know he had a satchel of papers and more papers that he set on the desk; and then he told us how excited he was to see us–yeah, sure, dude, excited to see a bunch of spaced-out third graders.

I was prepared to learn the most helpful writing tips in the world, had my pen ready and everything; and the first thing this writer dude did was to tell us to draw a picture. He didn’t say a word about punctuation, or showing and not telling, but a picture.

I sketched my favorite character at the time, a little dude with a Jack-O-Lantern for a head who I called Super Mask, then I prepared myself, again, for writing advice.

Once more, Writer Dude told us to draw a picture.

For christ’s sake, man, I hadn’t come down there to sketch comic book characters! I had come down there to learn how to perfect my craft–and these funny drawings were not cutting it.

The course ended, thankfully, and I left with two thoughts: one, how pointless that had been; and, two, I wondered what kind of stories were coming out of the girl who had sketched mutated unicorns.

There’s an idea.

So, that one writing course in third grade, in a way, formed my future perceptions of groups, in general. You can call that generalizing, or just plain stupid; but I like to call it thinking smart.

And here at Thoughts of A Southpaw, that is what we do.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Brain Vomit: Creating and Editing Stories

There comes to me to be two great parts of writing. The Creating and the Editing.

Creating is fun because–well, why is it fun? Is it that we’re bringing to life these splendid, and sometimes not so splendid, characters who, in a way, are foggy representations of ourselves and those around us? Is it that we can meet people without even leaving our office? They are real, really! Or is it that we have a drive–an insatiable hunger–to produce   stories to change the world and spread global peace and cure the hunger epidemic and hand out Nobel Prizes like Hershey chocolate bars?

I think that applies to all but the latter.

I can create for who knows how long. One novel took me nearly six months to complete–and that was the first draft, currently it is in its second draft. My other novel took me four months; and, truth be told, it was harder to write. So, it depends. A single short story may take you a month. A single novel may take you five years, make it six if you want to beat Tolstoy and Hugo.

Then–[lightning sounds and a hissing cat]

IT IS TIME FOR…

EDITING!

Yes, scream, scream and bang your heads against the wall! The dreaded editing monster has returned to wreak havoc on your precious little writing brains and hands–and, worst of all, your time!

But I don’t have an hour and a half to spare! 

Wipe up those tears, crybaby, and make it ten minutes a day! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Side note: I was having fun just inserting those laughs, had to force myself to stop.

Editing was a hated task of mine…when I was fourteen. I’d finish a story, usually between fifteen or twenty pages; read it to my family, who sometimes fell asleep during those times; and stuff it inside a binder or send it off to a publishing company.

Random House, here I come! What? A piece of shit? Excuse me? 

Now, quite obviously, I have seen the error of my ways and am editing constantly. Seriously, dude, it’s an eight hour grind, totally not tubular or radical at all. I finish a short story and start the editing process the night after. For me, the whole set of writing and editing one of those takes near to nine days; some of you may be different, and that is A-okay.

What works for you, works for you.

Yeah. I can feel the inspiration surging through us. Go Writers. Blow the trumpets.

You can be a Creator or an Editor, or you can be both. But those guys are nerds, am I right? Eh? Anyone want to laugh? Who honestly edits and creates? It’s too much of a chore. Everybody knows the surefire way to becoming an excellent writer is by watching crap loads of television, pouring grape juice on your manuscripts, and shouting at your computer because it won’t invent the story of the century at your command.

Sure, I know that club. It’s called Dead End.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

Note: We made it to eighty posts! Let them eat cake! Thank you for staying with me so long!

And I don’t really have cake. That was a joke. Sorry.

The Blockbuster: A Casual Sketch

Currently I am reading Timeline by Michael Crichton, the author of Jurassic Park and the Lost World; and as of today I have read most of the book in enjoyment and distress. Enjoyment, because I’m a sucker for a fast thriller and action sequences get my adrenaline pumping; and distress, because I savor thoughtful character development and scene description, such as in my recent reading of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. While reading Timeline, however I have realized a blockbuster has its place in literature–they are difficult books to write–and they acquire so much popularity among readers because of these specially chosen factors:

Formula

  • The definition of a blockbuster is “something notably effective or successful,” and when I hear the words “effective” my mind springs to formulaic thinking, which is how most blockbusters and consistently adrenaline-fueled thrillers are constructed. It usually starts with a simple plot sketch of the rising conflicts–these are tense scenes for the purpose of hooking the reader without divulging deeply into character motivation and backstory–then throughout the first chapters characters are hastily introduced as defined outlines of their personalities (sometimes these can be stereotypical personalities but more on that later…). And soon the story comes to an explosive conclusion in the final chapters–this is the release of the carefully balanced tension throughout the novel.

Characters

  • In blockbusters characters are mere outlines of themselves–what they lack in psychological development they contribute to with repetition of names, like “Hank climbed the tree” and “Hank waved to Judy and Jack at Steven’s house,” and quirky traits which they repeat constantly in the story: say the protagonist is a fireman who hates touching water and is always carrying a pair of gloves with him– maybe he says “got to get ’em dry” before tugging them on at the hydrant. His actions will be repetitive and predictable; and likely you will feel comforted by the repetition…perhaps annoyed as well.

Sentences

  • This is a blockbuster sentence. Short and to the point; and ridding a paragraph of all unnecessary descriptions and words. Blockbuster sentences focus on the action at hand–if the antagonist rifleman is preparing to fire a shot at the heroine cowering in the house, then by God the next few paragraphs will center around his aim and his fingers and his mind; how each of them result in his squeezing the trigger on that sweet 22′ caliber. The impact sentences–“The bullet shot from the barrel, whistling. It pegged Katelyn in the forehead, and blood flecked her shining hair. She stiffened and tumbled sideways down the stairs.” By the way that is not an exceptional blockbuster paragraph in any form, merely an amateur writing.

Those three elements are key to a blockbuster…but if you want a successful story, then you need to have an intriguing premise that knows how to scoop up the action on a hot platter and maintain the heat while serving slices of itself to the readers on consistently sized plates. Then it is all up to you on how you personally spice the dish.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw