Back From the Dead

OK, its been three and a half years since I’ve posted here. I guess I should let you know what’s been going on.

I’ve transferred from the local community college to San Jose State, and have one semester left (assuming all goes well) and should graduate in May. YAY!!! I have made two New Year’s resolutions:

  • get healthy
  • finish my church’s “late vocations” program

I have started up on the Ketogenic Diet in order to loose weight and get healthy. I’ve been on it for four days now, and the results are pretty good so far. The key to the Ketogenic diet is to limit carbohydrates (bread, grains, potatoes, sugar, etc), and eat most of my calories in fat, with a fair amount of protein. According to the Ketogenic calculator I’ve used, I need to limit myself to 1875 total calories to loose weight, with 155 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and 90 grams of proteins. I want to loose 50 pounds by the end of the year.

I’ve been starting my day at 4:30 to drive for Uber. I eat a fatty breakfast – keto coffee (coffee with coconut oil, butter, cream and vanilla) and a hard boiled egg. Believe it or not, this will last me until the early afternoon. I’m only eating two meals because I am just not that hungry anymore. If I do get hungry, I’ll eat a large salad. By large, I mean an entire bag of salad. Dinner is whatever I want. Last night I had corned beef and cabbage, a couple of nights ago I made crack chicken.

I am an Orthodox Christian, and for some time, I have felt the need to serve. I have been working on this for years, and am now at a place in my life where I can work on it. The Orthodox Church in America has a late vocations program that is supposed to take about 2 years to finish. I started at the end of 2017, and while I doubt I can finish the whole thing, a resolution should be a challenge. I am also transitioning from the choir to serving in the altar as an alter server/acolyte. Once I have that learned, I will see about being tonsured a reader (the lowest level of clergy) in the church.

You will notice that this blog is not one of my resolutions. Nor is my writing. I fully intend on doing more of both. I want to focus on just the two big goals right now, and devote time to my last semester at SJSU. After that, I will (hopefully) land a nice job and be able to start paying off my school debts. I think that the blog will help me to keep track of where I am, and keep me on task. We’ll see. Hopefully my next post won’t be in 2021!

School’s In Session

So, the first week of school is over! I got into most of the classes I wanted to. Unfortunately, my Astronomy class was canceled last minute, and I had to take an online computer information class instead. So here is a breakdown of what I am taking:
Cardio Cross Training
Argumentation and Debate
Business Law
Statistics
Computer Information Systems
English Composition “B”

I spoke to a transfer councilor, and my grades are good enough that, assuming I keep them up, I can pretty much write my ticket into any Cal State school, and any of the U of Cal schools, except Berkley (They require an extra 4 semesters of math!). I’m at a California community college, and my GPA for transferable classes will be in the high 3s, around 3.6 or 7. I am very excited about all that. Three of my classes are online, and I finished the last of this week’s homework five minutes ago, so I am sitting in the coolness of my in-law’s back yard enjoying a very fine cigar my wife bought me.

Naturally, school forces my writing to the back burner, but I am still managing to do some. I am working on an old story I’d abandoned called Charlotte and Caldor, after the two main characters. For some reason, my writing process involves starting, stopping, and restarting a story line before I get to the point where I actually get something finished. I also think I like to write an essay about what I want to happen, before I outline. I am still not sure if I want/need to do a formal outline or not. I did for the Bastard Prince, but somehow it just does not feel right to me. We will see how this goes. I am trying to take just a few minutes a day to expand the plot essay, and when its done, we’ll go from there. I am also working on the Undying, set in yet another universe.

While ‘Bastard’ is set in a low-fantasy world, the others are high-fantasy and are more in line with classic sword-and-sorcery. I am thinking of reopening a science fiction story about a cold-sleep ship that lands on a planet already colonized by humans from a collapsed FTL civilization. My unknowing mentor, Sarah Hoyt, recommends having at least three universes going, just to stave off the boredom.

Lastly, tomorrow is Labor Day in America. I will be off with my family and friends for an annual BBQ. I hope your day is as fun and carefree as mine will be.

The Bastard Prince

I finished the fourth revision of my short story, A Bastard’s Choice. As promised, I’m going to post both the first and final versions of the story to show how much the editing process has changed things. After that, I’m going to set it aside for a bit and come back to it with a fresh brain in a month or so.

A Bastard’s Choice and

A Bastard’s Choice v 4

Feel free to make any comments or suggestions to make it more enjoyable.

School Looms on the Horizon

My internet died on Thursday. So today, I am at my in-laws to give you a post. AT&T is shipping us a new modem and is supposed to be here within a week. I spent most of Friday in meetings and/or at the doctor’s office.

School is coming up soon. My job at the elementary school starts on the 18th, and classes at the college begin on the 25th, so I am trying to savor these last couple of weeks of relative sanity. I have my schedule finalized. I just added a PE class to try to address my gut. The good news is that all but one of my classes are in the morning. I’ll be done with my day by 1:30 every day, except for Wednesday, when I have my Astronomy lab.

I’m taking 17 units this semester, which is close to the maximum the school will let anyone take. Only two look like they’ll be hard — Business Law, and Elementary Statistics. The others look to be more fun. Astronomy, Argument & Debate, and English Composition. Then there is the PE class, which will be mindless, but physically exhausting. Assuming I have enough energy and time, I will be continuing semi-regular updates for this blog.

I haven’t had the time to write for the last couple of days either. I still need to go and rewrite my short story “Bastard Prince” That’s a working title, but may end up being the title, at least of the series. I’m pretty excited about it, because it is really the first story I have taken so far into the process. When I am done with it, I think I’ll post the first and final draft just for a before and after comparison.

Life Update

Aw, crud. I’m sitting here watching the Giants (my wife Maria’s team) beat the Brewers, after my Mariners got the season sweep of the Braves. Then I realize that today is Wednesday. I owe you a post.

I did not sleep well last night. My wife and I were working on school related stuff until one in the morning, and I decided to wake up at 5 in the morning. When I wake up, I almost never can go back to sleep, and today was no exception. We had church at nine for the Transfiguration, and after that I spent the day running errands with my mother-in-law. I literally sat down about five minutes ago.

We also found out that Maria and I are getting our jobs at the elementary school back when the year starts. It’s not much, but it is fun and easy work. Every little bit helps. I’m getting ready for the new semester, which starts on the 25th. I decided to add one more class, a PE class to help with my weight. I’m looking at one called “Total Fitness – Men” but haven’t made up my mind yet.

Not much else to report from the home front, and I didn’t get any writing done. I’ll go work on it now.

Writing Lessons

Sorry to have left you in the lurch for over a week. I promised you three posts a week. I feel a bit guilty for not posting when I should. I need more discipline.

I am learning that good writing is good rewriting. I’ve read that somewhere, but don’t know where. I have gone over A Bastard’s Choice dozens of times since I wrote it, and shown three versions to a writing group of mine. Just after I posted the third version, though, I realized one glaring omission. I did not have any descriptions of what the characters looked like, or the scenery, or the setting! Its all conversation and a little action.

Objectively speaking, it is good, even close to publishable. My group has helped me to see things in a different way, and shown me the flaws in my work. I tend to tell what happens instead of showing. I put in too much unnecessary detail, but do not give enough detail to set the scenery. I need to work on word pictures.

I need to keep working on other story lines. The advice I’ve gotten is to work in two or three unrelated worlds to prevent burnout. So I am resurrecting The Undying, set in a world where the royal family has bodyguards who cannot be killed, and do not age, so long as the person they are linked to is alive. The second is called Charlotte and Caldor, about a young couple who must take charge suddenly as their nation is under attack from the forces of evil. I am also thinking of working in a science fiction setting, set on a world that humans with faster than light drives colonized. Then interstellar civilization collapses. A thousand years later, the cold sleep ship sent a hundred years before the planet is colonized arrives.

And the troubling thing is, as I am researching, I keep getting more ideas. A dhampir and a zhudac team up to solve supernatural riddles. Someone goes back in time to prevent the Russian Revolution. A story based loosely on the life of WW1 Canadian general Sir Arthur Currie. I just need the discipline to sit at my computer for a couple of hours a day and write.

Details, Details

Its a Monday, and I’m actually putting up a post when I said I would! Yay me! One in a row.

I’ve finished my summer classes and got a C and an A. I’m a little upset about the C, as I was less than a point from a B, and the professor had lessons that were due on Sundays and the Fourth of July. I missed the first Sunday due date, because no reasonable person gives Sunday due dates, or due dates on Federal holidays. My fault that I missed the fine print, and assumed a Monday due date. But I got a 0 on the one test, and that was the difference.

This is a valuable life lesson. Pay attention to the details. Its the small stuff that will come back to bite you. The big picture is valuable, to be sure. But make sure the ground beneath your feet is solid before admiring the view.

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

The Silence Broken / Lessons on the Short Story

Oh, boy. What a week I’ve had. On Monday, my wife, my in-laws and I drove down to Mexico. We came down to help out an orphanage my church runs and to help build houses for the needy. Well, my father-in-law was part of a lecture series for the workers, and I had the homework. My wife helped build, though Internet has been spotty, and I’ve used most of it for working on my homework. Montezuma’s Revenge made it difficult for me to do a lot of things as well. That’s my excuse for not posting for a week, and I’m sticking to it.

Right now, one of the biggest influences is Sara Hoyt, who blogs at http://www.accordingtohoyt.com and http://www.madgeniusclub.com (the last with several other authors). If you are interested in reading some good human wave fiction, please check her out. She has been holding an online workshop on how to write a short story which I’ve been participating in. She has her stuff on Amazon, and usually has at least one free story there so you can sample her work.

Even in just a few lessons, I have learned a lot. I submitted a short story I had started, and the feedback I’ve gotten from the others helped me to improve it greatly. I need to learn to show, and not explain things, and to keep out extra information that isn’t necessary for the story at hand. This last is a balancing act if you are planing a series, however, and want to foreshadow future events.

It is important to do a little plotting, even if you don’t normally plot. For the first ‘Bastard Prince’ story (It’s a working title.) I had written it, and deleted it, and rewritten it about four times before I wrote the final first draft that I submitted. I finally made myself a detailed outline like the ones we did in high school:

1. The First Story
1. TBP’s older brother, the new king, is not trusting TBP.
1. Ambitious advisers have convinced him that TBP is plotting a coup.
2. This is not true
2. Enemies are circling the kingdom, intent on using the discord to gain an advantage, possibly overrun the kingdom.
1. TBP cannot allow this to happen
1. The lack of trust and the emergencies are forcing his hand
2. He must act, for the good of the kingdom.
etc.

Then I read about the W plot. It starts by introducing the character at a high point, giving him an obvious problem, and a less obvious one to drag him down, (try/fail one) raising him up (but not as high as at the start) and then back down (try/fail two, facing the problem), and finally reaching a triumphant conclusion. The plot would look like a capitol W. So, here is the W plot for my second story. There are obvious variations but for a short story, this format works 90% of the time.

Character: The Bastard Prince, Rowan Barnard Suroni MhacEdric.

The obvious problem: An imperial duke has arrived to arrange a treaty to marry one of the emperor’s nieces to the king, Edmund. Parties in the empire, as well as Ilkadumia (the name of the kingdom), oppose the proposed marriage.

The hidden problem: Someone murders the duke! Not only is the treaty in jeopardy, but if the murder is not solved, the Empire will likely declare war against Ilkadumia, which will probably loose.

Try/fail one: negotiations are going well, until the duke is murdered. His second in command, his son, refuses to negotiate further until the murder is solved. He gives a one week ultimatum.

Try/fail two: Jal and Rowan believe they know who the murderer is: the duke’s son. He has motive and opportunity, and his opposition to his father’s plans are well known. The two have displayed hostility before the murder. But he proves his innocence when confronted.

Facing the problem: After reexamining the evidence, Rowan nearly gives up hope.

Try three/Triumph: A new discovery shows who the real killer is. Rowan tricks him into confessing. He attacks Rowan, hoping to escape his just punishment. At Rowan’s urging, the murderer is given to the duke’s son to be taken to the Emperor for justice. The son concludes a treaty with Ilkadumia.

I’m not sure if I prefer to do the outline method, or the W method. I may well end up using the W to inform the outline, and write from both. I’m currently writing the second story, and continuing to edit the first. I have a new goal of having at least 10 Bastard Prince stories by the end of the year. Wish me luck!