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.

Friday, May 27, 2016

BOOTCAMP LESSON 13: Improvisation


Welcome back!



    I have a little something different planned for today’s Boot Camp exercise, as it  was inspired by last month’s writing article on comedy.


During my research, a point that was mentioned on multiple occasions was that a writer must be able to be spontaneous and improvise. Though this is an easy concept to understand, putting it into practice is another matter entirely.


In order to practice our ability to extemporize, I came up with an exercise that has several randomized components. Having to deal with elements we have no control over will force us to find a way to make these elements work together.



                                            


BOOTCAMP LESSON 13: Improvisation



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. When we write a story, it is our job to come up with these elements. In the following exercise, however, you will have to create a short story using various elements chosen at random.



You will need a six-sided dice for the purpose of this exercise. If you don’t have any handy, you can use an online dice program such as this one: http://www.roll-dice-online.com/


So, here are today's guidelines!


  1. Below are six main character candidates. Roll the dice and use the character with the number corresponding to your result.
  2. Next are six stylized worlds/environments. Roll the dice and use the setting with the number corresponding to your result
  3. Next are six sidekicks. Roll the dice and use the character with the number corresponding to your result
  4. Next are six obstacles. Roll the dice and use the obstacle with the number corresponding to your result
  5. Next are six goals. Roll the dice and use the goal with the number corresponding to your result
  6. Write a short story using all of the components you acquired. There is no limit to this exercise.
  7. Within the short story you will write, the components you acquired may be modified to fit each other, BUT must remain true to their original designs as much as possible.


Main Characters
  1. Sherlock Holmes
  2. Robin Hood
  3. The Tin Man
  4. Red Riding Hood
  5. King Arthur
  6. Cleopatra


Settings
  1. Post Apocalyptic Wasteland: For one reason or another, the world has gone through a terrible change. Civilization as we know it no longer exists, and those who managed to stay alive must now scavenge for supplies and fight other survivors for resources.
  2. Police crime scene: Detectives, SWAT teams, Bomb Squads, Computer Crimes Division, Police Precincts, Forensics, etc. Law enforcement attempts to put a stop to illegal activity or investigating mysteries by tracking down  various sources or suspects.
  3. Superhero battle in downtown metropolitan: Superheroes strive to uphold justice and bring balance to society. Unlike the normal police force, superheroes have strange powers to assist them in dealing with super criminals that are a threat on a global scale.
  4. Retro Sci-fi Spaceship: Retro Sci-fi can be described as the future as seen from the past, or the past as seen from the future. Influenced by the scientific, technological, and social awareness of the present, this world reflects the best humanity can hope for.
  5. Deserted Island: Being stranded on a deserted island, the character must to live off the land by finding food, water and shelter. Characters may also be forced to deal with isolation, or else face possible insanity.
  6. Coffee Shop: An everyday coffee shop, filled with people enjoying their drinks or working on their laptops.


Sidekicks
  1. A priest
  2. A mime
  3. A ''D-list'' Super Hero
  4. A bearded hipster
  5. A Cosplayer dressed as a random Anime Character
  6. An Alien


Obstacles
  1. A pack of ravenous badgers
  2. A zombie horde
  3. A flood
  4. A stampede of angry, Emo teenagers
  5. An axe wielding serial killer
  6. A flock of flying monkeys


Goals
  1. To save the world
  2. To save the girl/guy/significant other
  3. To save themselves
  4. To prevent corruption of society
  5. For the LOLz
  6. Profit!


For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to submit them in a private message to me via facebook, and I will post them here. Remember, this is a game, so no posting bad comments about other people's entries. Now pardon me while I go write a story about Sherlock Holmes and his Mime sidekick, as they try to survive a zombie apocalypse in a dystopian future… for the LOLZ.


Now go! Create! And most importantly, have fun!


Until Next time!


Cheers,


Patrick Osborne

Friday, May 20, 2016

Interview - Gint Aras


Welcome back!


This month we have an interview with published writer, Gint Aras. I met Mister Aras via Facebook, and he gladly volunteered to answer some of my questions.


After reading through this interview, I find that he is down to earth, open minded and philosophical. I found his perspective to be thought provoking, which he shares in the following interview.


Now on to the interview!


Short Bio: Gint Aras (Karolis Gintaras ┼Żukauskas) lives in Oak Park, Illinois with his family. He's a community college instructor, photographer, and has worked as an editor, columnist, interpreter and translator. His prose has appeared in such places as The St. Petersburg Review, Quarterly West, Antique Children, The Good Men Project and others.




Published Works:
  • Finding the Moon in Sugar, novel (Infinity, 2009);
  • The Fugue, novel (Tortoise Books, 2016)


Current Projects: I’m currently marketing my novel, The Fugue, while working on a book of non-fiction that deals with income inequality and perceptions of ethnic and racial identity.






When did you begin writing?


Before I could. My grandfather told me I used to write him stories long before I knew the alphabet or even had the motor skills to shape letters. I have a vivid memory of sitting on the top stair of the back stairway and “writing” a series of squiggles and lines I called “stories”. I’d bring them to my grandfather and he would “read” them to me. I must be three years old in the memory. I was in grammar school when I knew for certain I wanted to write books —novels— and tell stories. From that time on, there was never anything else that I wanted with as much passion or energy. I still have a 200-page manuscript typed when I was 12 and 13 years old, and I wrote two other manuscripts in high school. Obviously, they’re not fit for public display. But they helped me learn craft and cultivate the necessary patience.


Did you receive any special training or attend a school?


I had a Catholic education. It had its drawbacks, but one strength of that traditional form of schooling was an emphasis on literacy and—at least by comparison to what’s happening in schools today—an effective approach to reading. By that I mean developing historical and cultural context, bringing it to the reading material, and then looking at novels as attempts to affect the reader, even to make it impossible for the reader to think the way s/he used to before reading the book. I did not consider that special training until I started teaching college classes myself, but now I feel enormous gratitude to those teachers. I loved college and got a lot out of it. I was fortunate to have people who taught me to connect the dots, to see how a writer doesn’t study writing to be a writer. A writer studies everything to be a writer, remains mindful of perceptions, learns to listen, to see the interrelations between all subjects, all people. I also have an MFA from Columbia University. I owe so much to that program. It accelerated my development, especially in craft and attention to language, and I learned to trust ideas and judge their value. It really matured me.


Where do you get your inspiration from?


I honestly think inspiration is a myth, at best a romantic story. I believe Marcel Proust when he writes, “My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing.” To gain a story, you need to work at pointing your attention, waking up and seeing. I’m an abuse survivor, and I grew up in an alcoholic community. That experience creates a lot of confusion and doubt. I used to hide in my room and write to escape my reality while I could create a fictitious one where I had complete control. Now I write for a different reason. It’s hard to articulate, but I feel I’m creating characters to express the tragedy we become when we desire control and try to escape. I write to release energy, to share, but also to provoke. I know most people these days want to escape the world we’ve built for ourselves, and they feel trapped because there’s no alternative world, nowhere else to go. Of course, we’re the ones creating it. I’ve learned that my job is to acquire new ways of seeing. So I consume a lot of art. I listen to conversations on the train. I read books written by people outside my culture, outside the languages I speak. I travel. I practice Zen and meditate. When it comes to subject matter or topics, I try to write the thing I would really like to be reading. Words and ideas don’t come in a flash. I also often hear sentences crafting themselves in my mind. I’ll be riding the bus, and I’ll be thinking of an opening line to something,
reworking it in my head. Great writing can happen when all you’re doing is observing what someone else might consider ordinary. So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. I believe that. It’s more important to say clearly what you see than it is to find inspiration. Another way of saying it: inspiration isn’t lofty. Great writing can be about a common farm tool.


Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)

This is not to undermine the question. I understand it’s about technology, but my process is really decluttered. I have a set of handmade mugs…they were made by pottery students studying at the college where I work. I like to have a cup of strong black coffee and some electronica, trip hop or really flowing classical music playing softly in the background. I like indirect light. I’ll often light incense, and in the winter I’ll have candles. I use paper dictionaries. A lot. I have four different ones in my office at home. They’re old, stained with coffee, dog-eared. I still journal in a bound notebook. And I love using fountain pens.


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


You need to take care of yourself. You need to love and respect yourself, be good to yourself, get exercise, eat well, have good sex, surround yourself with beauty and find some way to support yourself. Writers are fed this narrative that they need to be masochists, endure all this “tough life” crap. People say we need to feel sorry for ourselves because we’ve chosen this writing identity that will never lead to the kinds of riches enjoyed by hedge fund managers or college presidents. If you’re writing, you’re going to be rejected. A lot. I don’t care who you are—rejection takes its toll. It can really get you to stop caring for yourself properly, and then it’ll affect your health. Do something nice for yourself every day.


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


I think the rejection is the hardest. It’s harder to face rejection than the confusion peers have about a writer’s life choices. Rejection is just part of writing, like a mechanic’s greasy hands or a teacher’s anxiety. I don’t know if you overcome it. You either live with it or you stop writing, and you keep writing not because you want to overcome rejection but because you have something to say. In the end, hearing that someone doesn’t want my stories is easier than learning a colleague has been shot, as police do, or to know there’s no cure for someone, as doctors do. Honestly, being a writer is easier than being a teacher, father and husband, and I’m all three. You have to keep things in perspective.


Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)


Not for The Fugue, my most recent novel. The story of how that book got published is long and complicated; people can read about it here if they're interested. I had given up on that book after trying to sell it for years, so I honestly didn’t think any agent wanted it. I have an agent now and I hope to have success with a proposal I’m working on.


Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?


The Fugue has had two different publishers in less than four months. Both publishers had their editing process. Everyone needs an editor. You’re not going to be able to clean up your own writing without a second or third set of eyes. And a skilled editor knows the difference between managing a text and polishing it, letting it be itself in the sun. The best ones polish. The worst ones manage. I’m fortunate to have a great editor at Tortoise Books.


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


I’m with an indie press, Tortoise Books. They picked up The Fugue after CCLaP (the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography) suffered a setback and let it go. Thankfully, I had been on Tortoise’s radar for a while, and they were able to offer me a deal I’m really happy with. I’m fortunate to have such good people behind me.


Do you handle your own marketing?


I’m very pleased with the staff and resources available at Tortoise. They’re really savvy about marketing. Of course, I do a lot of my own marketing, send out press releases, set up readings, maintain an online presence.


What is your best marketing tip?


Be thankful to the people who are interested in your stuff. Do you have any advice for other writers? Only that it’s important to read a wide variety of books. I think a lot of people end up in echo chambers these days, and you need to take steps to make sure you’re not in one. The best way is to read.


In closing, I would like to thank Gint Aras for taking the time out of his busy schedule to take this interview, his knowledge, experience and insight are truly appreciated. Hoping everyone found it as helpful and informative as I did. I wish him well in his future endeavors.


Until Next time,


Cheers,

            Patrick Osborne

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Inspiration part 12 - Parents


Welcome back!


I had no overall theme planned for May, so while trying to think of what to discuss in this inspiration post, I got an idea from one of  this month's holidays; Mother’s Day. So I decided to share with you all the source of my artistic talents and interests, my parents.


Parents play an important role in all of our lives. They supply us with the building blocks from which we assemble ourselves, be it from a mental, emotional or genetic standpoint. We are defined by their actions, choices and lifestyles. Your origin is the result of their encounter, and whether you get along with them or not, you are part of them as much as they are part of you.


 
My parents and me.


    So what role can parents play in terms of storytelling? There are two ways to answer this question; the first is as being part of the story, the second is as influencing the story.


    As being part of the story, parents can have a direct or indirect role. What I mean by indirectly, is that parents may affect the story by not even taking part in it. Parents are such a big part of our lives, than their absence can be just as influential as their presence. Without them, characters suffer a loss, and are forced to take responsibility and continue on their own. We see this often in Disney movies, where the loss of a parent (mostly the mother) motivates the main character to move on or react in some way.


As for directly, parents have often been seen playing important roles in storylines. As main protagonists, parents (or parental like figures)  can make good heroes, as trying to perform their parental duties can be good character motivation. Here are a few good examples:
  • Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, whose main objective was to protect her son and prevent a future holocaust.
  • Ripley from the original Aliens movie, who risks her life to save the young girl, Newt.
  • The unnamed father from the book The Road, who spends the length of the story protecting his son in a post-apocalyptic world.




In some stories, the Protagonist needs some form of assistance in order to achieve their goal. In these situations, parents can come in various incarnations, such as mentor, protector or emotional support. Here are a few good examples:
  • Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther from The Jungle Book, who act as adoptive parents to the human child, Mowgli, and teach him how to survive in the wild.
  • Mr. Levenstein from the American Pie movies, who tries to give his son, Jim, helpful advice, though often in an awkward and comedic manner.
  • The Weasley’s from the Harry Potter series, who take in Harry after he leaves the residence of his abusive aunt and uncle.


Parents playing the role of the antagonist can have a particularly strong impact on a story. Placing the protagonist in a confrontation with a parental figure creates a scenario that can be highly volatile and emotional scarring. Here are a few popular examples:
  • In the classic tale of Cinderella, the evil stepmother forces Cinderella to work and prevents her from leaving the house.
  • Doctor Crane, a serial killer posing as a dentist and loving father in the novel Deeper than the Dead.
  • Darth Vader, the tragic villain from the Star Wars franchise, attempts to convert his son, Luke Skywalker, to the dark side of the Force.




Finally, we have parents that affect literature by inspiring the writer. As mentioned above, parents play a large role in who we are since they raised us to act and think like them. Their views and opinions will affect who you are, and will inevitably be translated in how you write as well. In my case, my mother was the loving, artistic type, whereas my father was the down-to-earth, opinionated type. The end result (me) was someone who was passionate about his views, which becomes apparent in my conversations or my writing.


My tastes for literature may differ greatly from my Mom and Dad’s, but in the end, I can still see them in everything I do. They played a big part in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.    


    Thank you all for stopping by, your continued support is truly appreciated. I hope this article has helped you in some way.


    Until next time.


    Cheers,


    Patrick Osborne

**In loving memory of Henriette (Lamoureux) Osborne -- 1948-2006**

Friday, May 6, 2016

By the Book - Star Wars: The new Jedi Order - Hero's Trial


Welcome back!



In honor of Star Wars day (May the 4th), I decided to read another novel inspired by the popular science fiction universe. I have always been a fan of the franchise, so ready stories about the characters I grew up with always brings back good memories; running around the backyard with water-pistols, pretending to be Han Solo and Chewbacca.


The “Star Wars, the new Jedi Order” series was inspired by the Star Wars mythos, and though the storyline takes place after the events of episode VI, it was written way before “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was even conceived. Therefore the events that take place in this literary series do not line up the storyline from the latest movie. This was a bit jarring for me, especially after seeing the episode VII, but this book was a great read nonetheless.


In this book, an alien menace known as the Yuuzhan Vong are presented as a growing threat, as they continue to advance toward the heart of the New Republic; Corusant. The story sees the classic protagonists (Luke, Leia and Han) dealing with this scenario from three different approaches. The book however focuses on Han Solo who, after suffering the loss of Chewbacca, goes out on his own. Shortly thereafter, Han runs into an old ally of his, who hires him for a retrieval mission. However, Han soon finds himself in deadly danger, as this job has him tangled up in a Yuuzhan Vong plot.




Back of the book:
“Merciless attacks by an invincible alien force have left the New Republic reeling. Dozens of worlds have succumbed to occupation or annihilation, and even the Jedi Knights have tasted defeat. In these darkest of times, the noble Chewbacca is laid to rest, having died as heroically as he lived--and a grief-stricken Han Solo is left to fit the pieces of his shattered soul back together before he loses everything: friends, family, and faith.


Refusing help from Leia or Luke, Han becomes the loner he once was, seeking to escape the pain of his partner's death in adventure . . . and revenge. When he learns that an old friend from his smuggling days is operating as a mercenary for the enemy, he sets out to expose the traitor. But Han's investigation uncovers an even greater evil: a sinister conspiracy aimed at the very heart of the New Republic's will and ability to fight--the Jedi.


Now Han must face down his inner demons and, with the help of a new and unexpected ally, honor Chewbacca's sacrifice in the only way that matters--by being worthy of it.”


What I learned
  • Source material: James Luceno must have watched Star Wars episodes IV to VI until his eyes bled. He has grasped the character of Han Solo so well, that he could have substituted for Harrison Ford in the movie. The author masterfully brought out every aspect of the character, from the way Han talks, to his particular facial expressions. Luceno has shown an excellent talent for observation and how to translate that observation into writing.
  • Background knowledge: An important difference I noticed between this novel and the other Star Wars book I read, Hard Contact, is that the author does not assume his readers are hardcore connoisseurs of the franchise. Despite writing about alien races that have been established in the franchise for years, Luceno still takes the time to physically describe these characters, allowing new readers the opportunity to visualize them. This is really important, as my previous experience with a Star Wars book had me looking up Wookipedia on more than one occasion to figure out what they were talking about.
  • Continuity: As I previously mentioned, as entertaining as this series is, it follows the franchise only to a certain point. An author must keep the source material in mind, because if it gets updated, then their work risks becoming outdated in the eyes of the fans. As a writer, I find this lesson particularly important, as I would want my work to endure and not become obsolete.


James Luceno is a  is a New York Times bestselling science fiction author who has written content for several novels and a dictionary about the Star Wars universe. He has also written other novels, film adaptations, web series and television cartoon series. For those interested in learning more about the author, James Luceno, please check out his websites here:




For those of you who might be interested, here are links to the websites of the cover artist, Rick Berry:




In closing, I would like to thank my step-son Shawn for lending me this book. I would also like to thank my wife, family and followers for all the encouragement and support you keep giving me during my journey.


Until next time!


Cheers,

           Patrick Osborne