Friday, August 12, 2011

10,000 words

It's taken me a while but I finally just passed the 10,000 word mark on the book I'm presently writing (lets call it project DARKSKY).  It will end up being the first book that I've ever written and I'm excited to pass this initial landmark.  Previous to this I've mostly written short stories and such but nothing as big as what I'm currently planning.  When it's all said and done I'm expecting this to be just over 80k words, a little short maybe but I'll be stoked when I finally get there.

On just about everything up to this point I've been what some would call a seat of the pants writer, going in with an idea of what I want to make but largely flying blind and seeing where the story takes me.  I recently finished a 20k word novella this way and found that I got stuck at many points, not really sure where I was going to go next.  I wanted it to be different this time.  Easier.  So I decided to go with the snowflake method.

Overall I'm pretty happy with where it went.  If you've never read through the snowflake method it's worth a read.  Before I even sat down and wrote the first word of the story I had developed summaries of the story of various lengths (from one sentence to one page), character bios, location bios, and an entire outline of the story.  I feel like I really have a plan in place and it should help drive me towards finishing without ever getting stuck.

Now I'm just crunching my way through the outline, writing each item piece by piece, racing towards the finish line.  Have any of you out there ever written with the snowflake model? If so what were your experiences with it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rise of the Donkeycorns

Another week another Flash Fiction entry for Chuck Wendig's weekly challenge.  This time the topic is unicorns. I decided to talk about them and some of their lesser known progeny.  This one tops out at 966 words. I hope you enjoy it.
Rise of the Donkeycorns
The last unicorn was dead.  It was their horns that had done it in the end.  Somehow, somewhere, a rumor started that soon became fact to humans, that a ground up unicorn horn was an aphrodisiac. It hadn’t taken long for the end to come, and Phil weeped for them even though part of him thought they didn’t deserve his tears. He had tried to help save them, the dying wish of his mother, but as much as he tried he couldn’t stop the humans from their bloody work.
Phil and his mother were more or less ostracized by the other unicorns shortly after he was born.  She would smile and say things would be okay but Phil knew they wouldn’t be.  It was all because of his father.  Unlike all the other unicorns his dad was a donkey.  Phil’s mom always said that he was a brave and loving donkey, but Phil would never know that.  He was gone before Phil had ever gotten a chance to know him.  It was because of him that Phil was labeled and treated by the others, not as a fellow unicorn, but as word he would first hate but eventually come to love as it would save him from the fate that befell the others.  Donkeycorn.
Phil had a rough time when trying to fit in with other unicorns.  While all the other unicorns were snow white with shining manes, Phil’s coat was brown.  His ears were longer than theirs and while they neighed all he could do was bray.  He still sparkled like they did though and still had the same magic horn they did.  But it wasn’t enough for the other unicorns.  They teased, they fought, and they made his life hell for 15 years until he left and set out on his own to seek his own fate.  
And that Phil did until that terrible day that he found is own mother dying on the forest floor.  She had been hunted by the humans and taken down with a net.  They had knocked her out, removed her horn, and left her to die.  There was nothing that he could do to save her. No magic of his could prevent this after her horn was removed. He cried with her as she lay there, doing all he could to comfort her in her last moments.  That’s when she had tasked him with the quest that would occupy the next 10 years. To save the unicorns.  A quest that he would fail and succeed at depending on your point of view.
By the time his mother had died there weren’t many unicorns left.  Fifty or sixty at most.  The humans were a brutal tribe and had been hunting the unicorns for decades. He tried to warn them, tried to convince them to hide, but to no avail.  Why would they listen to the donkycorn? What did he know? He was still an outsider to them, not to be trusted. They were confident that their magic was enough to protect them from the humans, and that they wouldn’t have the same fate as the other unicorns. They said those that died were careless and foolish to go near human lands.  This went on for some time until the Dark Day happened.  Twenty-five of them at once, all gone, taken by a large hunting party. Half of the unicorns.  It was a massacre.
Slowly the unicorns started to listen and even come to Phil for help.  He tried relocating them to to safety, secreting them away and hiding them with magic.  But the humans were too smart.  All it took was one mistake by the unicorn in hiding, say a glance in the open of a clearing, and the humans would descend and do their bloody work. Phil also tried keeping them on the run, moving a unicorn from place to place always ahead of the attack.  This didn’t work either.  Eventually the unicorn would make the wrong move and get trapped.  Then it was only a matter of time till the unicorn was murdered.
In many of these cases Phil was there when it happened, trying to stop the murder.  He succeeded sometimes and was able to kill or drive off the humans, staining his opal horn red with blood, but most times he was overwhelmed and the unicorn woulds suffer the same evil fate as his mother.  The interesting thing was that the humans never came after him.  He had the same horn, sure, but it was obvious to them that he was a donkey, and they wanted unicorn horns not donkey horns. Phil was beaten, cut, and stabbed but never killed, and always able to escape.  On one level he was sad that still after all these years he still wasn’t good enough to be on equal footing with the unicorns, but on another he was glad that he was still alive and not of interest to the humans.
And so one day he found himself in a glade, weeping over the corpse of the last unicorn, with a deep sadness in knowing that there would be no more of their kind. But where one thing ends another begins.  Wiping the tears from his face he exited the glade and trotted into the sun.  Phil smiled at the sight of his jenny and foal.  He had met her in his travels and they had quick become friends and mates.  The foal followed soon after. His son brayed and jumped at the sight of his father.  The small horn on his foal’s head made Phil smile, and he swore to himself that he would never let what happened to unicorns happen to his progeny, no matter what the cost. The rise of the donkycorns had begun.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Photo Finish

Written for Chuck Wendig's flash fiction contest over at terrible minds (

Photo Finish

“Go on, I dare you!”

My best friend, Tim, and I had just exited our favorite after school hangout, a pizza joint after finishing up our last day of 6th grade.  Giant cups of soda and our backpacks in tow we were walking down the main street in town towards our houses.  As usual we cut through the parking lot of what used to be the local hardware store.  It had been forced out of business by a big chain and we were eagerly awaiting to see what would replace it.

A large sign above the front window simply said ‘Books’ but it was the smaller signs in the window that caught our eye.  Signs saying “Occult”, “Black Magic”, “Potions & Spells” and the like surrounded a large pentagram made out of white and red Christmas lights.  I wondered what the reverend back at school would say about that.  Probably something about blasphemy and hell and how the folks inside were evil Satanists.

In any case Tim and I found ourselves at the storefront ogling all the crazy shit that was put there and he had just dared me to go inside.  Never one to back down on a dare I tossed my now empty cup into the nearby trash and strutted right inside.  Tim didn’t follow. The inside of the shop wasn’t at all what I expected.  Sure there were the crystals and crucibles, but it was bright and friendly, inviting even.  Behind the counter was a girl who couldn’t be much older than my brother who was in the 12th grade.  She was pretty, with long blond hair, and showed me a perfectly straight and white smile.

“Hi.  Welcome to our shop.  Can I help you find anything today?” She said this in the cheeriest of voices, bubbly with a hint of valley girl.  

All I could muster was, “Uh. No, thanks.  I’m just browsing.”

She smiled again, “Ok then.  Let me know if you need any help.” She turned back to the magazine she was reading.

I wandered around the store a bit and glanced at some books.  Most seemed ridiculous.  With titles like “Love Potions for Dummies” and “DIY Voodoo Doll” I wasn’t very impressed.  I wondered if this store was a joke or something.  But then a book caught my eye as I passed by it.  It was in a corner in a section labeled “Dark Magic.”  Unlike the other books around it it was jet black. No titles or marking of any kind on the spine so I pulled it out and examined the cover.

Much like the spine the cover was wordless, embossed with an upside down pentagram covered with gold leaf.  I ran my fingers across it and flipped open the pages.  The words inside were unreadable, written in some language unknown to me.

“Find anything interesting?” The girl was glancing at me over her magazine.

“How much is this book,” I said holding it up in the air for her to see.

“Oh, everything in that section is $100, but you have to be 18 to buy anything there.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know, I’ll put it back.”

I nodded and turned my attention back to the book.  Turning so she couldn’t see I took my cellphone out of my pocket and used it’s camera to snap a couple shots of the pages so I could show Tim. Plus, the writing just looked so interesting and I wanted to take a longer look at it. I put the book on the shelf and waved to the girl as I walked out the door. She smiled and said to come again.  Ya right, like I would ever be caught dead in that goth trap again. 

When I got outside Tim was on the phone with his Mom asking if I could stay over for dinner that night.  We left the parking lot and while he was talking I pulled out my phone again to look at the writing.  The words looked so weird I had to try to mouth them out loud.

“Fha oynpx, enva fbnxrq rnegu.”

Tim was off the phone. “What the heck are you saying?”

“Oh, just trying to make out these crazy words from a book in the store.”

He leaned over to me and looked at the cell phone screen. “Is that really a good idea?”

“Give me a break.  None of that crap is real.  Besides, you didn’t see how ridiculous the inside of the store was.”

A drip of water landed on my head.  I looked up and the sky had clouded over and was beginning to shower.  Not unusual for this time of year but definitely not in the forecast.  Stupid weatherman.
We continued walking and I handed the cell phone to Tim, “Here, you try to make sense of this.”

“Bcra gur tngrjnl bs gur qnex ybeq, Evpx Nfgyrl,” Tim said.  He waved his free hand around as if casting a spell.

We both laughed and talked about our plans for the summer. It must have been the rain because it was getting dark and being June it was way to early for that. Tim joked that the spirits of the underworld wouldn’t be happy till I finished the spell.

Laughing I took out my cell phone and opened it up to the last picture.  Not to be topped by Tim’s earlier performance I quickly memorized the line as best I could, turned my head to the sky and threw my arms open wide.  Spinning, I shouted what I had just read.

“Naq fnvq lbhe zbivat jvgu lbhe Nhagvr naq Hapyr va Ory-Nve!”

Laughing I looked at Tim who had his hands out in front of him, letting the rain hit them.  I don’t know how but it looked red, almost the color of rust.  It began pouring. I looked up just in time to see the sky open up and my death race out.

“Oh Shi…”