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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Short Story - Cerberus Initiative


It is a great honor for me to share this snippet of my current work in progress. I decided to share parts of my story for each milestone I reach. The following is an extract from the backstory of a paranormal-military inspired group that will play a major role in my story. The initial incident is based on true events, then gradually has paranormal elements added in.

Backstory of the Cerberus Initiative.

Part 1: December 30th, 2015.

March 24th, 1878

While caught in a heavy snowstorm off the Isle of Wight, the HMS Eurydic capsized, causing the deaths of it’s 319 crew members. Many lost family members that day, including professor Matthieu Sylvestre, adventurer Paolo Speroni and priest Brigham Winters.

Unsatisfied with the Royal Navy’s explanation of the incident, the men decided to conduct their own investigation. Taking a craft through the English Channel, they went to the location where the Eurydice sank. To their surprise, they discovered an old hag was using strange creatures known as Kelpie, a shape-changing aquatic spirit, to sink ships and retrieve their contents.

Part 2: August 15th, 2016

Matthieu, Paolo and Brigham confronted the Witch, but were no match against her powers and Kelpie minions. The three hastily retreated to port, where they recounted the frightful events to the authorities. Their tale was met with ridicule and disbelief.

            However, a small number of townsfolk did believe them. After some careful preparations, Matthieu, Paolo and Brigham lead a group to the shores near the Isle of Wight. The troop arrived in time to interrupt the dastardly Witch from attacking another ship. Through great effort, they managed to subdue the hag and her monstrous pets, putting an end to her wicked ways.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

BOOTCAMP LESSON 9: Suspending Disbelief.

Welcome back!

    There is a lot going on at this time of year. Family reunions, friendly gatherings, office parties, gift exchanges, etc. It seems the older you get, the more Christmas becomes a social exercise rather than the magical phenomenon we saw when we were children. When exactly did this happen? Where is the point between believing and no longer believing? These questions lead us into today’s writing game!

Lesson 9: Suspending Disbelief

As writers of fiction, it is our job to make people believe what we are telling them is not only possible, but an established fact. This can be particularly difficult when dealing with a subject that is known to be fictitious. Writers must then find a way to explain these elements and make them sound plausible. This is a technique called hand waving.

    A Hand Wave is referred to as any clarification which is noteworthy for its lack of detail or coherence. By using minimal or even sketchy information, this plot device hopes to suspend the reader's disbelief long enough to continue past this point of the story without interrupting its momentum.

    In the spirit of the holiday season, the goal of today’s writing game will be to take the statements or situations mentioned below, and find a plausible explanation for them. Please keep your explanations to two or three paragraphs long, these are “hand waves”, not theses n how to scientifically explain these phenomenon.

So, here are today's guidelines!

  1. Below are five "phenomenons" to work with.
  2. Following each phenomenon, write two or three paragraphs plausibly explaining said situation.


Phenomenon 1: Flight.

Explain how Santa Claus achieves flight using eight reindeer pulling a sleigh.

Phenomenon 2: Fitting in small spaces.

Explain how Santa Claus, a man of considerable girth, succeeds in fitting his physical form down a small constricted space such as a chimney.

Phenomenon 3: Overcapacity.

Explain how Santa Claus can carry a large amount of merchandise, notably toys, to the entire children population of the globe.

Phenomenon 4: Private information.

Explain how Santa Claus has knowledge of every child on earth, most notably who has been naughty and who has been nice.

Phenomenon 5: Lack of evidence.

Explain how Santa Claus has avoided being discovered after so many years.

For those who aren’t afraid to share their entries, feel free to share them as a reply to this post, or send them to me privately. I may create a page for submissions in the future for those who are interested.

Hope you have fun giving this exercise a try. Until next time, and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Patrick Osborne

Friday, December 18, 2015

Inspiration Part 8 - Christmas decorations

Welcome back!

    With Christmas vacation just around the corner, this month’s inspiration post on will focus on the holiday season!

Fun in the snow!

    There are many different aspects to the holidays and not everyone celebrates this time of the year the same way. As I mentioned before, I am working with limited number of photographs after having lost most of them due to my laptop crashing. So instead of trying to cover every aspect of Christmas I could think of, I decided to focus on a few areas.

    To begin, I want to cover one of the tastier holiday traditions: gingerbread houses. This is a somewhat new custom for me, as I had never made any gingerbread anything before meeting my wife and her children (Linda would say this was due to my severely lacking cooking skills). Granted, we buy some of those ready-made gingerbread house sets where you only need to assemble the pieces, but this has become a yearly bonding exercise at our house that we greatly enjoy (not to mention the houses never survive till Christmas, LOL).

    As you can see, my family tends to not hold back with the frosting. Another thing we like to do is use whatever is leftover from Halloween candy to use as decoration supplies. The end result is usually a diabetics worst nightmare.

Each family member has their own decorating styles; Linda is more traditional, making her house actually look like something out of a magazine. Kayla is heavy on the decorations, trying to cover every square inch with candy. Shawn will go all “Walking Dead” on his house, breaking down doors, adding red bits of candy everywhere and placing zombified gummy bears. As for me, I usually end up with a sloppy looking house, adding a ton of frosting in a vain attempt to prevent the house from falling apart.  

Next is what can be considered a key element in many households that celebrate Christmas: a Tannenbaum. I remember spending entire evenings as a child just staring at the family Christmas tree, both in amazement and excitement.

    There is something I have learned in the recent years, and that is to simply stand back and let Linda decorate the tree (HAHAHA!). My wife has a very specific manner of putting on the decorations, which border on military style precision. Some ornaments go in the front, others go in the back, and there is only enough lights once the tree is visible from space.

    One thing that might not be obvious by simply looking at these pictures, is how much of a symbol the tree has become in our household. It represents family, both from my side of the family and Linda’s, as the tree holds baubles and doodads from holidays past, uniting them all into one giant center piece.

    The final holiday tradition I want to cover is one that was made famous by “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation”. Of course I’m talking about Christmas lights. My family hasn’t set up lights (mostly to save on hydro bills), but every year we like to drive around the neighborhood and look at other people’s set-ups. One block in particular likes to have competitions, seeing who can out do the rest.

We can see how all of this could be useful for authors working on stories taking place during the Christmas holidays. These images can be used to help describe everything from the setting (food, decorations, etc.), to characters (family, friends, etc.), to motivations (traditions, celebration, etc.).

    Writing this makes me realise just how far I’ve come over the recent years. I hope it has served as inspiration to some of you as well.

    Until next time. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


    Patrick Osborne.

Monday, December 14, 2015

By the Book: Invincible Compendium

Welcome back!

    As I mentioned earlier this month, this “By the Book” installment will be very different from any of the other book reviews I have done so far. It will be based on a graphic novel rather than a standard novel. It was a gift I got during the holidays last year (and the closest to a Christmas theme I could do under the circumstances). The book in question is entitled Invincible, a story about a teenager and his slow ascent into super-hero-hood. These two books are anthologies, collecting the first 96 issues of the series.

    Those who know me are aware of my long existing fondness for The Walking Dead series (both printed and televised) from Robert Kirkman. I have been following the series from the very beginning, having fallen for Kirkman’s merciless and unforgiving storytelling style. This is when I discovered Kirkman had other series in the works, such as the superhero tale Invincible.

The plotline and characters is what got my attention. The story revolves around Mark Grayson, a normal teenager who discovers at a young age that his father is a world famous super hero. Mark spent most of his life waiting (and hoping) for the day his own super powers would kick in. The series starts at the very moment Mark gets his powers, and becomes a virtual rollercoaster from that point on. Kirkman takes Mark through every possible bad situation you can think of, and then drags his protagonist through the mud for good measure. Mark has to deal with a seemingly endless laundry list of problems; from everyday teenage angst to world conquering alien invasions. The action and drama rarely slow down and just when Mark thinks he can catch his breath, Kirkman tosses him a curveball! Either [SPOILER] dies a gruesome death or [SPOILER] turns traitor! Furthermore, Kirkman hasn’t forgotten the gore fans from the Walking Dead, since some character always seem to find themselves torn to pieces in some violent manner every other issue.

Back of the book 1:

“Collects issues 0-47 of the Eisner award nominated series
plus the Invincible story from the image comics summer special

Mark Grayson is just like most everyone else his age.

He’s a senior at a normal American High school. He has a crappy part time job after school and on weekends. He likes girls quite a bit, but doesn’t quite understand them. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and sleeping late on Saturdays (at least until the good cartoons come on). The only difference between Mark and everyone else his age is that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, and as of late, he seems to be inheriting his father's powers.

But that’s only the beginning of his problems…”

Back of the book 2:
Collects issues 48-96 of the Eisner award nominated series
plus the Invincible Returns 1 & Astounding Wolf-Man 11  

The Best Superhero Comic Book in the Universe!

Ever since Mark Grayson got superpowers, life has never been the same. As Invincible, he’s fought the universe’s most dangerous villains, graduated high school, got a girlfriend (two of them!)... and his father, the world’s greatest superhero Omni-Man, revealed himself to be an alien conqueror bent on taking over Earth. Since then, Invincible’s been working for the Global Defense Agency, fighting their fights and saving the world in their name. Until now.

Invincible can no longer follow their orders unquestioned. Now he finds himself up against the very organization he’s been working for! And war looms on the horizon…”

What I learned:

  • Knowing when to pull the plug: One thing that Robert Kirkman is not afraid of, is killing off characters. He has a talent for writing characters the audience love, and for knowing when and how to write them off for the most dramatic impact. Not getting emotionally attached to one's work is a lesson all writers need to learn; be it to kill off a character, rewrite a draft or make major changes to a story.  
  • Mix matching: Not entirely sure this point was A) intentional on Robert’s part B) just his Walking Dead style bleeding into this series or C) me imagining things. The point is, this series is one of the few occasions I’ve seen superhero stories mixed with gore (an element usually used in horror stories). This fact may just stick out to me since I plan on doing something similar with my book. So having the opportunity of seeing someone else do it well was really interesting.
  • Subtle parody: Invincible may touch some serious issues within its storyline, but Kirkman isn’t afraid to include the occasional Easter Egg or jab at other properties. Without revealing too much (for those interested in reading this series), one example is the character “the Elephant”, an obvious parody of Spider-man’s popular villain, “the Rhino”.

    Invincible is hands down my current favorite in terms of superhero fiction. I am patiently waiting for the next Compedium to come out sometime in 2017. While I wait, I keep myself busy reading other works from Robert Kirkman, most notably the Walker Dead and Guardians of the Globe. Other titles I’m looking forward to reading as well are Haunt and Wolfman. Visit the links below if you are interested in learning more about:

I consider this series to be one of my guilty pleasures, and I'm glad for having had the opportunity to read it. Always looking forward to reading more of Robert Kirkman’s work in the future.

Until next time!


Patrick Osborne

Monday, December 7, 2015

Magic as a storytelling tool.

Welcome back!

While thinking of a subject for December, I tried to come up with an idea that could reflect one of the happiest, most magical times of the year. Then it hit me, why not cover one of the most controversial ideas when writing fiction: Magic. If you do not understand how magic can be controversial, then try sitting through a heated debate during a Pen and Paper game like Dungeons and Dragons.

Is this your card?

Magic (also referred to as sorcery, witchcraft, wizardry and many other terms) can be defined as the manipulation of perception, beings, environments, events or objects through the use of supernatural forces. It can be performed in various ways, such as special gestures, specific words, archaic rituals or symbolic writings.

In fiction, sorcery has been used in many different genres, most notable of which are fantasy, superhero fiction and some variations of horror. Magic can be a great storytelling tool, giving writers options not normally found in fiction that is deeply rooted in reality. What makes it such a debatable topic, however, is it’s unpredictable nature. When used properly, magic can unquestioningly suspend disbelief, enhancing the narrative by bringing a sense of mystery, awe and wonderment. If used improperly, it can be seen as a lazy way out of a difficult situation (see Deus Ex Machina) or might create inconsistencies in the story, which will frustrate the audience.

In order to work well in fiction, magic doesn’t need to be plausible, but it does need to be regulated. If the powers of magic were left unchecked, then a protagonist could simply snap their fingers to resolve the conflict, negating any need to have a story in the first place. Writers also need to pay close attention to their characters use of magic, or they might risk creating inconsistencies. For example, in Lord of the Rings, if Gandalf could summon giant birds to escape captivity, then why not get those birds to fly all the way to their destination and save themselves a lot of grief?

Since I plan on using magic in my own story, I did a lot of research on the subject and gathered a lot of interesting information. Here are some important points that would be important to keep in mind.

1. Establish rules.
Before creating a setting that includes the supernatural, be sure to establish what magic can and can’t do. This doesn’t mean that the rules must make sense; if you want to create a world with spell casting slugs, undead accountants, or devil worshipping cat girls, be my guest. The important part is that whatever rule is decided on must be respected, play out their full consequences. Breaking those boundaries later will create inconsistencies and destroy the writer's credibility in the eyes of the reader.

It is also a good idea to keep the rules clear, simple and to have a narrative reason for whatever requirement you put into place. Creating rules that are overly complicated can end up being more trouble than they're worth and may cause issues later in the story. It will also make things easier in case the laws of magic need to be explained to the audience.

2. Create limitations.
    Having sorcery in a story is pointless if it is powerful enough to resolve the conflict with a single spell. The goal is to find balance; to make magic interesting enough to captivate the reader, but limited enough as to not make the plotline seem trivial.

Setting restrictions to magic will insure it is both interesting and believable. Here is a short list of commonly seen limitations to sorcery in narrative fiction:
  • Source: Where magic originates from. It can from a wand, talisman, ley lines or some other source. The point is the spell caster cannot use magic without it.  
  • Quantity: The casters access to magic is linked to a finite amount of a resource, such as a substance (like a potion) or a power source (solar energy). Once the quantity has been depleted, the caster must acquire new resources in order to access magic again.
  • Casting: In order to use magic, the caster must perform certain actions in a specific manner. Popular examples are reciting a spell vocally, in writing with runes, or with hand gestures. If the caster is interrupted during the performance, the spell is cancelled and the magic will either not work or backfire.
  • Range: For the sorcerer to be able to magically affect a target, said target must be within the range of their powers. A popular example of this is line of sight; a caster cannot affect something they do not see. It is important to note that in this instance, range could be on any scale: distance, time, weight, matter, etc.
  • Time: This could relate to either the time needed to perform magic (example: spell must be performed under X amount of time to be successful) or a specific time frame (can only be done on a certain date, during the night, etc).

3. Have consequences.
    Nothing comes from nothing. Everything in life has a cost; this is true for physics, art, economics, biology, sociology and so on. The same principle can be applied to the mystic arts. By giving the arcane consequences, it gains depth and credibility, whereas actions that seem effortless or without repercussions will lose value. So when characters use magic, be sure to have them experience the consequences of their actions.

The consequences to using magic can vary depending on the needs of the storyline. For tales where magic needs to be accessible to a large portion of the population, consequences must be kept low. If the story requires magic to be a rare commodity, then a higher price should be established.

A good example would be vampires; they have immortality and eternal youth, but to maintain those luxuries they need to feed off the lifeforce of others. Or how many times have we seen a movie where a cultist offers a human sacrifice in order to gain the favor of their dark deity.

4. Make a connection.
If magic is present in a story, then it needs to be an integral part of the setting. How the existence of the supernatural will affect the environment is another important aspect which needs to be taken into consideration and be clearly defined. Ask how magic would transform people, society, economy, religion and so on.

If magic is viewed as a mainstream occurrence, then it should logically have an impact on everything and everyone within the setting. The inhabitants of the world should be using magic to make their everyday lives easier; from making toast in the morning to creating large scale buildings. The consequences of this widespread use of magic would be disastrous, as it would mean magic would also be present in criminal activity or even war.

If magic is a known yet infrequent occurrence, then it should be confined to certain people or elements. Spell casting would be accessible to a small percentage of individuals, who would use magic for specific reasons. Depending on the setting, the inhabitants of the world could see sorcerers/witches as anything from outcasts to prophets. This situation will require explaining why the population either hates or adores those who use magic and why their numbers are limited.

If magic is considered to be a rare occurrence, then it should be seen as superstition or make-believe by the general population. The supernatural would be accessible by an even smaller amount of people as the example stated above, and most likely in a secretive manner. The setting in this scenario will have the least changes, as magic would have little to no known influence. However, people within this setting who witness sorcery should be awed, shocked, react dramatically or attempt to explain it scientifically.

5. Offer an explanation.
Explaining a phenomenon that does not exist in real life can be quite a challenging. In such circumstances, writers must be creative in describing how their magic feels, manifests itself or how one acquires it.

A good way to do so is by comparison. One can create a fictional image or sensation by comparing it to tangible life experiences. Visual manifestations of magic in fiction have often been compared to electricity or oddly colored flames. Many have also described the physical sensation of magic has burning or freezing. In terms of studying the arcane, fiction has seen every approach; from spiritual journeys through martial arts, science experiments through alchemy, even schools for the gifted. The point is; there is no wrong answer. Magic can be as colorful or plain as you want it to be. Come up with something new, or build on one of the classics, the options are limitless (just be sure to apply all the points listed above).
Keep in mind that in order for magic to keep its sense of surrealism, it should be shrouded in mystery. Attempting to overly explain the arcane will destroy the sense of disbelief and its appeal. In this situation, writers use hand-waving to disguise just how little is actually being revealed.

In closing, always remember that the characters should be the main focus of the story, not the magic. Despite being impressed by the supernatural and the mysterious, it is the underlying human element which will captivate the interest of the readers.

I hope this lesson has proven to be useful to you, I know I had fun researching it. Magic can be a complicated thing if you lose control of it, so be sure to keep it simple and think things through.

Until next time,


Patrick Osborne