Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Monday, June 19, 2017

BOOTCAMP LESSON part 18: Literary Motifs excercise

Welcome back!



In this latest edition of Boot Camp, we will explore the use of motifs in a literary setting. I hope to be able to demonstrate how it affects storytelling and how it can be applied to your work.



       
A recurring symbol.


Lesson 18: Using Motifs


            The literary device known as Motif refers to a recurring object or idea, which takes on a figurative meaning. It’s presence becomes noticeable through their constant repetition and placement, taking on an important role in the nature of a story. It can be created with the use of imagery, spoken or written phrases, structural or stylistic devices, and other narrative elements.


The purpose of Motifs is to contribute to the story by establishing a certain mood or portray a symbolic meaning while drawing attention to a specific concept (normally pointing to the story’s theme). A Motif is something from the physical world, and can be images, objects, people or events, taking center stage on several occasions throughout the story in order to help the audience to better comprehend the author's underlying messages, by reinforcing the literary works thematic statement.



Here are a few simple examples.



     
            Theme:Death                          Theme: Peace                          Theme: Pride
             Motif: Crow                             Motif: Dove                              Motif: Rooster


The goal of today’s game will be to create various Motifs to help represent the suggested themes, similar to the example above. There won’t be much actual writing in this lesson, more of a mental exercise on finding visual elements to help express ideas of invisible concepts.


Rules:
  1. Below are five different Themes, they are pretty broad to allow for more than one interpretation.
  2. Next are ten suggestions for visual elements.
  3. For all five themes, find three visual elements which could be associated to them.
  4. (Optional) Give a short explanation for your selection/association.  


Themes:
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Justice
  • Heartbreak
  • Parenthood


Visual elements:
  • An animal.
  • A form of vegetation.
  • A tool.
  • A vehicle.
  • An historical landmark or building.
  • An article of clothing.
  • A meal or type of food.
  • A person (real/historical).
  • A fictional character.
  • An action or event.


If anyone is interested in sharing their entries, feel free to post them as a reply to this article, or send them to me privately. I may create a page for submissions in the future for those who are willing to have their work shared.


Hope you have fun giving this exercise a try. Until next time!


Cheers,

            Patrick Osborne

Monday, June 12, 2017

By the Book: Nightshade

Welcome back,


This month’s book is a drama/mystery/thriller entitled Nightshade, by Canadian author Tom Henighan. I was a little disappointed in this book, but found it a worthwhile learning experience nonetheless. Read on to see my thoughts on why.


My reasons for choosing this particular book was simple; I was pressed for time. Both my personal and professional life have been keeping me busy, not to mention my schedule for book reviews required I read three books in one month in order to meet my deadline. Out of the books I had on hand, Nightshade met several requirements I was looking for; it was not Sci-fi/horror/fantasy, its title/cover/theme could be associated to spring, and it was short (less than three hundred pages).


The story is about private detective Sam Montcalm, and his investigation into the murder of a renowned scientist. The primary suspect is an artist and environmental activist, who also happens to be Sam’s friend. We follow Sam as he works to find the true killer, and prove his friend's innocence. In true noir detective style, we see Sam do everything from rough up sources for information to flirt with potential suspects.


Image result for nightshade tom henighan


Back of the book:
Deadly nightshade – the poison plant par excellence – and in historic Quebec City at an important scientific conference concerning the genetic manipulation of trees it means murder!
Police, RCMP, and a mysterious FBI agent from Washington converge on the scene. But the sharpest eye belongs to Sam Montcalm, a despised "bedroom snooper" from Ottawa whose primary concern is to clear a First Nations activist of the crime. Sam is middle-aged, tough, and sophisticated, yet he’s also a lone wolf who feels displaced nearly everywhere, and his relations with his colleagues, the police – and with women – are always complicated. "You’re a psychic wound without a health card," a friend comments
The story moves to its surprising climax as Montcalm follows the trail of murder back to Canada’s capital and into the Gatineau Hills, his deep sense of cynicism about human nature confirmed as he closes in on the killer and struggles to come to terms with himself.


***(POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT BEYOND THIS POINT)***


What I learned from this book:
  • Commitment/Pay Off ratio: One of the lessons I took to heart in the last few years is when you have an audience stick through 200+ pages of a story, there better be a payoff at the end. On a few occasions I have felt cheated at the end of a book; having invested time and interest on a story only to feel disappointed at the end. In this case, the protagonist, a Private Investigator, sees a friend die, another friend blames them for the death and he loses his job. On top of that, the crime is solved by tertiary character, and the antagonists escapes custody.
  • Drama-Mystery: After completing this book, it came across more as a Drama than a Mystery. The story seemed to focus more on passion, disappointment and treachery rather than investigation. There was very little action, which made the entire story feel more like an exploration of the suspects motives rather than actual researching for clues.
  • Location research: Imagine my surprise when I found out this story takes place in my backyard! The setting happens between Quebec city, Ottawa, and my hometown of Gatineau. It was great to see the author lived near my area, detailing locations I was very familiar with. However, I discovered that research will only take you so far. The physical descriptions of the area were fairly accurate, but the author’s rendering of the local population and social setting seemed off.


Tom Henighan was born in Manhattan, and grew up in Westchester County. He came to Canada in 1965, where he got married to his second wife in 1970. He also had his second son in 1979. He lives in Ottawa, and teaches at Carleton University. Tom’s works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry include The Maclean's Companion to Canadian Arts and Culture, The Well of Time, and the YA novel Viking Quest (2001).


For those interested in reading more books from Tom Henighan, please check out his website at https://tomhenighanjournal.wordpress.com/about/


In closing, I would like to thank you all for dropping by and following my blog. Your patronage and encouragement is truly appreciated.


Until next time!


Cheers,

            Patrick Osborne

Monday, June 5, 2017

Interview - Druscilla Morgan


Welcome back!

I am very excited about this month's writer interview. She has published material in various genres, and has contributed to several different anthologies (see images below for a few examples). So it is my great pleasure to introduce you, the versatile writer, catt dahman.

Like some of my previous writer showcases, I was lucky to meet Ms. Morgan via the Facebook page called The Better Writer’s Group, and was kind enough to volunteer for my writer interviews.


Blood of Nyx by [Morgan, Druscilla, Booth, Roy C.]
(w/ Roy C. Booth)

altered states cover
Altered States: a cyberpunk sci-fi anthology
‘The Walk’ – Druscilla Morgan

A Forest of Dreams ebook cover
A FOREST OF DREAMS fantasy anthology edited by Roy C Booth
“The Last Unicorn” – Druscilla Morgan


Short Bio: I am a Sydney born writer and artist who loves cats, horses and vampires. I write short stories and novels in the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres. I enjoy weaving a narrative that both entertains and challenges my readers.
My short stories have been published in several anthologies and magazines. My debut novel, BLOOD OF NYX, co-authored with Roy C Booth, was published in 2016 by Indie Authors Press.

Published Works:
  • Blood of Nyx (Horror novel, 2016)
  • The Dragon Whisperer (Into the Mist anthology, 2016)
  • Blood Bond (Corpus Deluxe, Tales of the Undead anthology, 2015)
  • The Flower Seller (Like a Girl Anthology for PLAN, 2015)
  • The Walk (Altered States: A Cyberpunk Sci-fi Anthology, 2014
  • Bella Vista (Tied in Pink: A Romance Anthology Supporting Breast Cancer Research)
  • Raising Rudi (In Shambles: A Scarlett Nightmare II horror anthology, 2014)
  • The Last Unicorn (A Forest of Dreams fantasy anthology, 2014)

Current Projects: I am currently working on a stand-alone horror novel, along with the sequel to BLOOD OF NYX.

Website

When did you begin writing?

My love for writing began in my early school years. I eagerly devoured as many books as I could, immersing myself into worlds that inspired and fed my passion for the written word. However, I did not seriously start writing until four years ago, when I began working on the vampire novel which was to become Blood of Nyx.


Did you receive any special training or attend a school?

No, not particularly, although I did complete an online writing course which was very helpful.
Most of my skills have been gathered through writing websites and groups, along with invaluable input and insight from other writers and mentors, including my co-author Roy C Booth. I cut my writer’s teeth on several short stories which I submitted to anthologies. I can highly recommend this as a pathway into publishing, as there is a steady stream of independent publishers seeking submissions for anthologies and magazines.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I find inspiration in many, different ways. Often, reading beautifully written prose by other authors can inspire me creatively. I find much of my inspiration for storylines comes from real life. For example, I wrote Raising Rudi after watching a documentary on women who visit Rudolph Valentino’s grave with unswerving love and dedication, year after year.
Human nature is also a source of fascination for me. I studied psychology whilst gaining my qualifications in welfare work, and that interest has always stayed with me, manifesting in my characters as they emerge and claim their place in my imagination.

What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?

It’s difficult for me to nail down one important thing, but if I were to choose, it would be to learn the craft of writing and keep learning! Learn by reading books you love by authors you admire. Learn by taking a writing course, or participating in a writers’ group or workshop. Writing is so much more than throwing a few words onto paper and, while talent is important, it is rarely enough in itself to produce a skilfully written story.

What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?

For me, the discipline involved in writing regularly and prolifically is the greatest challenge. I’m a bit of a free spirit when it comes to most things, including sitting my butt down in a chair and writing a story. Writing with another, more experienced writer helped when working on Blood of Nyx. In the end, however, there’s no other way to overcome procrastination than to just sit down and write!       
    
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)

No, I approached publishers myself, submitting to anthologies initially. Roy saw some of my early writing and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating. I was thrilled and found the experience rewarding. Our publisher, Jorge Salgado-Reyes at Indie Authors Press, is great to work with. I find most independent publishers are happy to give new authors a go if they can see merit in their work. I did try to pitch to agents at one point, but it is a competitive process and not for the faint-hearted.

Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
          
I usually go through around five edits before I think a story is ready to submit. From that point onwards, I work with the publisher and their editor to tweak and polish the finished manuscript.

How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).

All my work has been published through independent publishers and magazines. I have never used Vanity Press.

Do you handle your own marketing?

I do take on much of my own marketing, but it is a shared task with my publisher and my co-author. Most publishers today, including the Big Guys, expect authors to pull their weight with marketing.


What is your best marketing tip?

Build a marketing platform, including a webpage, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog. Network on social sites and most importantly, get reviews for your book. Seriously. Reviews raise your rankings and reviews sell books!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Again, learn the craft! Accept critiques gracefully and recognize them as an opportunity to further develop your writing skills. Develop a thick skin, you’re going to need it.
If you are planning to self-publish, please, PLEASE get a professional editor before you hit the publish button. No writer has such an unbiased eye that they can pick up every plot-hole, unnecessary adverb or poorly constructed sentence.
Along similar lines, unless you are a graphic artist and know your way around Photoshop, please entrust your cover to a professional cover artist. An amateur cover will not do your novel justice.
Last but certainly not least, admire and be inspired by other authors but find your own, distinctive writing voice.

Some good points have been brought up in this interview, and hopefully everyone found it as helpful and informative as I did. It made me realise just how important it is to get yourself out there, and start networking early.

I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to Druscilla Morgan for taking the time to take this interview. Her participation and insight was truly appreciated.

Until Next time.

Cheers,

            Patrick Osborne

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Current Projects part 29

Welcome back,
 
Here I am again, cutting it down to the wire. I am currently writing this last article planned for June, with only a few days left in May. Work has been crazy, so my workload has been keeping me really busy. We’ve had everything from technical issues with programs to people leaving for classes.
 
Not to mention the massive flood this region has had which forced us out of the work place for a few days. Entire neighborhoods had to be evacuated, and main roads had to be shut down. It was a stressful time for sure, and it’s not over yet, as more rain is coming before the floods have had a chance to fully recede. Despite all the chaos, it was inspiring to see the community come together to help those in need.
 
Untitled4.png
 
Regardless of all the extra work, I still managed to make progress and have content prepared for June. However, I plan on reading shorter books and concentrating on less time consuming articles for the next few months, only so that i can catch up on my own work.
 
This month does not have an overall theme, but I still hope you will all find something useful in my work. Among the articles I have prepared are an author interview with Druscilla Morgan, a book review of a Tom Henighan novel, and a long overdue writing prompt.
 
I managed to make some decent progress on my characters in the last few weeks. Evan Holt, another of my story’s secondary characters is completed! He will play a major role in the emotional development of the protagonist. I have now moved on to my first tertiary character, Elsa Eisenberg, who will play a minor role in the plot. Even though she will not be in the story for long, her presence will help establish just how evil the villains will be. Other than character bios, I have also added a few more details to my  timeline sheet.
 
Image result for missing worlds media
 
Game updates from Missing Worlds Media have been slow this month, as the company must work around the schedule of its volunteers during the beginning of the summer season. One story related update was released however, and you can read it here:
 
 
For those reading this, if you are (or know) a published author that would want to volunteer to be interviewed for this blog, feel free to contact me. I can be reached via instant message on my Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts. Replying to this post will also get my attention, and I will be able to reach you from there.
 
On that note, I wanted to thank you all for dropping by, your support is truly appreciated. I will see you all at next month's progress update.

   
            Until then.
 
Cheers,


Patrick Osborne
 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Science Fiction

Welcome back!


In honor of Star Wars Day (May the 4th), I thought it would be a good idea to have the theme for this month’s article be about writing Science Fiction. Some people may disagree about this popular franchise being Sci-Fi and think it is more of a fantasy or drama. To be honest, after doing the research I am inclined to agree. Let us explore the details of what makes a story Science Fiction further.


Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction
Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction


The basics of a story is a plotline which follows the exploits of the main characters as they attempt to resolve a conflict while making their way to their intended goal. So how exactly does Sci-Fi differ from other genres? Science Fiction (also referred to as ‘’speculative fiction’’) is just that, fiction about science. At its core, science fiction is about people dealing with situations that are out of the ordinary for the audience. The protagonist will experience encounters or events that focus on scientific discovery and human innovations. Its stories contains elements which are based on modern scientific facts or ideals, but that are expanded to unforeseen or even improbable levels.


While writing science fiction, the goal is to create the worlds and societies of tomorrow by exaggerating the facts of the present day. To explore possibilities and human nature through exposure to subjects, situations or scenarios that are otherwise impossible or unlikely to happen. This can be incredibly tricky, but luckily, there are some simple guidelines to help authors along.


RULE 1: DO SOME RESEARCH
There are as many different types of Sci-Fi as there are scientific fields; political, psychological, social, technological, etc. Details are what sell science fiction, so the more research you do into a selected field, the more confident you will feel and the more ideas will come to you.


It is not necessary to study to a point where you earn a Phd, but it would be helpful to acquire an understanding of scientific elements, a grasp of scientifically established facts and knowledge of how to feed this information to the audience (for more details on how to control the flow of information, see my post showing and telling).


RULE 2: FORM AN IDEA
The basics of creating science fiction stories revolve around addressing a modern day scientific aspect, then asking the ever popular ‘what if..?’. There are two different approaches to this query: prediction or speculation.


Prediction is when fiction is created by extrapolation. By taking what is currently known to science, the author then guesses as to how it will change over time. This can focus on anything from various technologies, to social trends or even climate changes. When trying to predict the evolution of a science, event or practice, look for documentation on a similar situation from the past, as it could help extrapolate results. For example, for writing a story about aliens colonising on earth, maybe read books on how the Europeans colonized America.


Speculation is when an author adds elements based on theories or concepts that have no firm evidence of their probability or their existence. Intelligent alien life, faster than light travel or teleportation are classic examples of speculation in science fiction. Researching for this approach can be tricky, as it requires some level of ingenuity. For example, no clear documentation exists on intelligent alien lifeforms, so for creating an imaginary race from scratch, research other lifeforms that are documented and have uncommon attributes; natural camouflage, regenerative abilities, extra limbs, etc.


Here are a few popular examples for ideas using these approaches:
  • What if artificial intelligence became sentient?
  • What if intelligent alien life landed on earth?
  • What if social media eliminated all need for physical interaction?
  • What if pollution caused an unforeseen global natural disaster?
  • What if dinosaurs still existed?


RULE 3: PUSH
Once you have your central idea, it’s time to ignore the limitations of modern day science and push said idea past any known boundaries, achieving the characteristic feel of Sci-Fi. Imagine how your concept would impact your society and setting, and what changes occur because of them say five, ten, even a hundred years down the road.


The challenge with science fiction, however, is to keep the science plausible, and not push it so far as it becomes unrealistic (even by fiction standards). It is best to keep your ideas clear and straightforward. Of course stories often contain several plots and themes unfolding simultaneously, so try to link most details from the setting or characters back to your central idea, this will help minimize inconsistencies and long winded explanations (also known as the dreaded ‘’infodumps’’).


In closing, the most important thing I learned today, is that science fiction requires the writer to look at things differently, to think outside the box and not to be afraid to push the limits. Research is also very important, as it will make your stories more compelling.


Until next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne

Image result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fictionImage result for public domain science fiction**All images in this post are considered public domain under the Creative Commons law (CC0)**