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Writing Spaces

10 June 2014 | Comments Off | Brandon M Lindsay
A Capsule Hotel

A Capsule Hotel

When I moved to Tokyo late last year, I expected some things in my life were going to change.

Among the more obvious changes were the fact that I would look vastly different from everyone else, sometimes enough to warrant a long, uncomfortable stare, as well as being functionally illiterate. Then of course there was the living situation, the job, the food, the language, the lack of a car, the weather, the… well, pretty much everything.

One thing I thought wouldn’t change, however, was me. Particularly, my writing habits.

Yet after I had gotten settled in to my new life, I found that it was difficult to write. Part of this could be attributed to the change in job. For the past several years, I had worked in a call center, where the word “downtime” usually meant “do whatever you want as long as you stay at your desk.” For me, that meant a lot of reading (and thus inspiration to write) and, when I discovered the power of cloud storage, writing. My new job is rather different. I’m not sitting at a desk anymore, and there is never downtime, especially not the kind that I had before. But I had worked jobs like this in the past and still found the will to write quite easily. I figured it had to be something else.

Tokyo has a reputation for being crowded and cramped, and I suppose in a lot of ways it is. The word “megacity” conjures images of fantastically high skyscrapers clustered together from horizon to horizon, a la Judge Dredd. But Tokyo is pretty normal, especially in the more suburban areas. My apartment isn’t huge by any standard, and I have to get really creative with how I use the space in my kitchen, but I’ve seen smaller apartments in Seattle. Size wasn’t really the issue, but I figured that the root of my problem lay somewhere in my living space.

My apartment came furnished, but by more or less Japanese standards. There was no bed, only a futon (one very different from those you see at Ikea, no doubt) for sleeping on the floor. And there was a couch, a TV stand, and what I thought was a coffee table, but actually turned out to be a coffee table with a heater built into the bottom. This glorious invention, called a kotatsu, keeps your legs warm throughout the winter without blowing up your electricity bill. Provided, however, you are okay with sitting on the floor.

It turns that I wasn’t. I’ve enjoyed western comforts, such as chairs and desks, for most of my life. Sitting on the floor did not feel natural to me, and took a lot of adjusting. I mean, a lot. No, really, a lot (what I’m saying is I never fully adjusted). I thought I would tough it out and learn to adapt to my situation, as one should after moving halfway around the world, but eventually I said, “To hell with this.” And bought myself a desk/chair combo.

What a difference that has made. I immediately began cranking out chapters and outlines and ideas like I was still sitting in that call center, patiently waiting for some irrational customer to complain about the bill they never paid.

You may find yourself asking, “Why didn’t you just get a desk to begin with?” First of all, taking furniture on the train always involves logistical challenges, as well as the occasional dirty look. But more importantly, I didn’t realize how much of an effect my environment would have on my writing until I actually saw the difference in output.

If you ever find yourself suffering from writer’s block and having difficulty getting in the zone, it may not be you that’s the cause. It could be your writing space. After all, your butt is only half of the butt-in-chair equation.

Join Brandon on the blog tour for his recently-released novella, Spear Mother: A Tale of the Fourth World! Spear Mother is the third release taking place in his epic fantasy world. Details of the tour can be found on his website: http://brandonmlindsay.com

Metal Gear Solid, or How I Was Ruined for All Other Video Games

29 August 2013 | Comments Off | Brandon M Lindsay

The first moment I realized that I had expectations for what a game ought to be was the moment I first popped Metal Gear Solid into my Playstation. I had read the previews about the game in all the video game magazines I subscribed to (which was every one available) and I had played games similar to it—or at least I thought I had. Metal Gear Solid was, on the surface anyway, a third-person military shooter with emphasis on stealth elements. Pretty par-for-the-course, as far as video games go.

And then I discovered that everything I believed about the world was a lie.

MGSMetal Gear Solid was footage from the International Space Station for flat-earthers. It proved that one need not sacrifice story to gameplay, or vice versa, that not only could they coexist in harmony, but become fully integrated with one another. MGS even takes it one step further: it takes the player experience and makes it an essential aspect of both the gameplay and the story.

An example of what I mean by that. (*SPOILER ALERT* for those who have not played it; shame on you, by the way!) At one point, a character named Psycho Mantis, one of the several villains you must defeat to save the world from nuclear devastation, decides to battle you. The problem is, nothing you do works—nor can it. With his psychic powers, Psycho Mantis is able to predict every action you take the moment you take it, rendering all your efforts to injure him useless. It is impossible to defeat him—until you realize that his psychic powers only extend to controller port 1. Plug your controller into port 2, and you may just have a chance. (*END SPOILER*)

One of the reasons this grinding-to-dust of the fourth wall is so effectively jarring is because the game strives for realism in so many ways. The environments are incredibly detailed, the characters are rich and deep beyond belief, yet even those things are not safe. When the protagonist, Solid Snake, returns to an old military base in Alaska (which is where the bulk of the action of the first game took place) in Metal Gear Solid 4, he also returns to the exact same 32-bit polygonal art style of the original Playstation game.

SolidSnake-600x372Kicking down the fourth wall and violating expectations was a part of the series before Metal Gear Solid was even released, though in a comparatively more subdued form. When a traitorous member of Solid Snake’s team tries get him to abandon his mission in 1987’s Metal Gear, he says, “Solid Snake! Stop the operation. Switch off your MSX at once.” (The MSX was the platform on which the game first appeared.)

What these games proved to me is that we need not be satisfied with our expectations, that suspense can be built when we shake the very foundation of our readers’ worldviews. There are times when I’m writing and I realize that my story has taken the expected path—the safer path. It’s at times like these where I wonder, “WWMGSD?” Metal Gear Solid would probably turn my novel into an ASCII flipbook animation, which is a little unconventional for even my tastes, but it can still serve as a guidepost for ways to keep readers from guessing what’s coming.

Not So Final, After All

31 May 2013 | 1 Comment » | Brandon M Lindsay

For those of us who had video game controllers in our hands at the time, the year 1997 will forever live in infamy. While nary a year goes by that doesn’t make a gamer go squee, that year was significant in that it made gamers feel so much more than mere excitement. They felt anger, sorrow, surprise, frustration, hate, love, and loss-all in the same moment. That moment can be encapsulated in two words.

Aeris Gainsborough.

AerisFor the uninitiated, Aeris (or Aerith in the Japanese version) was one of the playable characters in Final Fantasy VII, one who *SPOILER ALERT* met her tragic end *END SPOILER* in one of the most pivotal moments of gaming history. The reverberations of that scene can still be felt today. The reason it-and the rest of the game-was so significant was because it showed us the storytelling capabilities of video games in spectacular, blindsiding fashion.

Of course, games had stories before then. Earlier entries in the Final Fantasy series, especially VI, are known for depth of characters, but not to the level seen in VII. Until then, game stories for the most part seemed to be little more than window dressing, or at least a well-kept secret. FFVII made storytelling a mainstream expectation.

The impact on me was deep. I was astounded that the state of gaming proceeded from the emotionless and abstract intellectual challenges of games like Tetris to experiences that could move you. Not only had Final Fantasy VII taken me to a world where magic was possible, but a world where the depths of human emotion were plumbed. I have no problem invoking a cliche, because there is no other way to say it: that game was life-changing.

I remember watching the credits roll at the end of that game and setting down my controller, and when I recovered from my several-minutes-long daze, I thought, “Gee whiz, I should write a video game script!”

So that’s exactly what I did.

I knew, then and there, that I would be a video game writer. I was resolved, even as I researched the job and discovered how difficult it was to Aerith Gainsboroughbreak in as games became more cinematic. After finishing what I then deemed my masterpiece, the fabled “Final Fantasy-killer” that gamers have been waiting for without even knowing it, I realized I needed a game plan (sorry – I had to). After all, the game industry doesn’t work quite like movies-writers do not submit scripts that then get turned into games. More often, all the writing gets done while the game is in development by writers who have already proven their mettle. I had to gain some sort of writing credit that would elevate my name into consideration for that unicorn of a job, called game writer.

Hey, why not write a novel?

That was years ago, and prose has since stolen my heart-most of it, anyway. Part of me still yearns to get involved with the medium that set me down this path in the first place. Indeed, I recently signed on to an indie game startup as the writer, though that project has since been put on hiatus. For now, I’ll have to satisfy my creative impulses with writing novels and stories, even though I’ll never forget the love of writing that the Final Fantasy series instilled in me, nor will I forget the flower girl named Aeris who lived in a abandoned church.

The Fictorians Have Been Busy!

4 April 2013 | Comments Off | Evan Braun

Contributing to the Fictorian Era represents a very small portion of my continued efforts to further my writing career, albeit it’s an effort I can get pretty passionate about. Like the rest of our regular bloggers, I am committed to growing that career and getting my work out into the world-and of course, the market.

Some of us have been serious about this pursuit for many years, while others have begun the endeavor more recently, but we’ve all made tremendous progress. Today’s post is dedicated to showcasing the work we have collectively sold or published in the last two years.

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Evan Braun. I’ll BookofCreationstart with me. In May 2012, my debut novel was published through a small press in Canada. Called The Book of Creation, it is the first in a three-volume adventure series in the vein of Indiana Jones, with a bit of Da Vinci Code mysticism thrown in for good measure. I wrote a piece about the release of the book last year.

The Book of Creation can be purchased here. The Kindle version is currently on sale for just 99 cents! It is also available on the Nook as well as the book’s official website. The second volume in the series, The City of Darkness, is coming out later this year. Details will be announced right here at the Fictorian Era, so stayed tuned.

David Carrico. In the last few years, David has sold four short stories and one non-fiction piece to The Grantville Gazette, an online magazine featuring stories and articles about the inhabitants of the world of 1632, the first novel in a long-running series by bestselling author Eric Flint. The first of the stories is “Evening of the Day,” followed by three stories co-written with Enrico Toro-”Euterpe, Part 5,” “Cadence,” and “The Duelist.” He also wrote the non-fiction “After the Ring.”

In addition, anotherTheDevilsOpera of his stories, “Suite for Four Hands,” appeared in Grantville Gazette VI, an anthology published by Eric Flint and published by Baen Books.

Most importantly, David has recently teamed up with Eric Flint to co-write one of the official entries in the 1632 series. This new novel, coming out in October 2013, is entitled 1636: The Devil’s Opera. In case you missed it, David recently wrote a post about his opportunity to work directly with one of the most talented writers in the industry. Another post on this collaboration is coming later this month.

1632: The Devil’s Opera can he preordered here.

Colette Black. Colette specializes in young adult fantasy, and has also made several sales. Credited as C.M. Vernon, her short story “Beneath the Skin” appeared in Women Writing the Weird. More recently, she received an honorable mention in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest for her 4th Quarter 2012 entry. She also won the CopperCon 32 short story contest with “Kairo’s Opportunity.”

Finally, Colette’s short story “Demon River” is forthcoming this month in White Cat Publishing’s biannual anthology magazine, Denizens of Darkness. It will be available to purchase here.

Nancy DiMauroApolloRising. Nancy’s debut novella, Apollo Rising, was released by Musa Publishing last September. The story combines romance with Greek mythology. It can be purchased here. She has also released a couple of short story collections, including Paths Less Traveled and Shots at Redemption, both of which are available as $2.99 ebooks. She also contributed to an anthology called Jack Gorman Got Cut by a Girl. These are Amazon links, but note that the books are also available through Musa Publishing’s online store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Book Store.

Nancy also contributed to Doghorn Publishing’s Women Writing the Weird, along with fellow Fictorian Colette Black.

Mary Pletsch. Mary is still just getting started, but she recently sold her first short story to a forthcoming anthology. Unfortunately, the details of the anthology haven’t yet been released from the publisher. Rest assured, Mary will be writing a post later this year with all the info. Stay tuned!

Joshua Essoe. Joshua’s foray into publishing began a few years ago when he began working with acclaimed fantasy author David Farland on his award-winning novel, Nightingale. For more information about his successful editing business, check out his website. You’ll find an impressive gallery there of all his edited works which have gone on to be published.

In addition to his editing, Joshua has pulled in two honorable mentions for stories submitted to the Writers of the Future contest. His writing has also appeared on Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Brandon MDarkTree. Lindsay. Brandon has been actively self-publishing short stories leading up the released of his forthcoming debut novel, The Born Sword. So far the stories include Dark Tree and an anthology entitled The Clans. The provided links take you to the Kindle Store, but Brandon’s works are available across multiple platforms, including Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Kobo. Links can be found at his website.

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This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other books that are coming out soon, as a number of our contributors are working closely with well-respected agents. We are coming out with new material all the time, so make sure to check back here often, as you will see publishing announcements and articles about our writing processes.

Well, readers, now that you know what we are up to, do you have any exciting projects of your own you’d like to share with us? Feel free to discuss them in the comments section.

Tune in tomorrow, when we kick off our third year with a month of posts from true professionals. Throughout April, we’ll be getting people from different fields, from editors to illustrators, to talk about the process of collaborating with authors on manuscripts.

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