Friday, May 30, 2014

Creatures of Askrlim

I've started fleshing out what would become my "Monster Manual" if The Tenth Rune were an RPG. I've posted the page over here, where I will be keeping it updated as I develop the world further, but I often find when writing that it helps to have a pool of cultures and creatures to reference. In stories set on present-day Earth that is all set already, but when you decide you need to make up a whole cosmos like I did this time, a bestiary can be handy!

On a similar note, have any of you noticed how hard it is to come up with magical creatures for a fantasy setting? Fantastical creatures tend to be either amalgams of mundane creatures (I'm looking at you, manticore, hippogriff, sphinx and chimera) or else big versions of everyday animals (giant spiders? dire wolves? oversized ladybugs?) Do any of you have any useful advice or resources for creating original monsters?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Tenth Rune and Faceless

If you've been to my Projects page, you may have noticed a novel-in-progress with the unfortunately bland title of Flight of the Valkyrie. I've decided to change the (working) title of that one to The Tenth Rune, which I believe to be more fitting to the story.

I've also posted a new short story that may or may not be part of that novel, but tells the origin of the female Loki-equivalent deity in the pantheon: Faceless. Go on and give it a read!

Hopefully I'll add some more of the cosmogony of Askrlim on here as I develop it further. I've done a lot of re-imagining of the Norse myth that the story draws from, and only a limited amount can fit in the story so I think this would be a neat place to display it.

I've also got a few other short stories in the works set on Askrlim, but I can't post them here since I've got some places in mind I'd like to submit them to. I found a call for anthology submissions at World Weaver Press for a few anthologies that I think would suit this world well. I'll keep you filled in on them as I go.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Here we belong, Fighting to survive,
In a world with the darkest powers,
And here we are, We're the princes of the universe

"I love Satan!" I told artist Kelley Williams when he showed my the first colors from the forthcoming comic in the Killer Queen Anthology.

As you can see, I was referring not to a newfound adoration for the Dark Lord, but rather to Kelley's fantastic realization of the Lord of Lies. Fear not, church friends, I still denounce Satan and all his works. Except those in dealing with Space Whales. But we will have to wait a few more months before we get the deets on that conflict!

In the mean time, prime yourself with this:

Friday, May 2, 2014

New Story Up!

Happy Friday everyone!

I've posted a new short story over on the Projects page. Here's the direct link.

This is an unusual story. The only way I see it ever seeing print is in one of those books that have a bunch of stories in the same universe with my "novel"(?)-in-progress Do Gyndroids Dream of Electric Dicks?, formerly known as Dreammaker. (There's something magical about the word dicks in italics. Especially in serif fonts... Dicks.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. It was an interesting experience.

Depending how busy work is, maybe I'll make these Friday short story posts a thing.

Then again, maybe I'll resume posting DGDoED again. I've got a few chapters written that I never got around to posting. Ideally one day I'll get the whole thing mirrored on this site as well to avoid Tumblr's crappy interface. Aaaand that's how a simple notification turns into a ramble. Jon James out.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Killer Queen

I am immortal, I have inside me blood of kings,
I have no rival, No man can be my equal,
Take me to the future of your world,

I am pleased to announce that a short comic I wrote will be appearing in Red Stylo Media's Killer Queen Anthology!

I won't give you too many details yet, but it's inspired by the song Princes of the Universe. The artist will be the talented Kelly Williams, and here's a sneak peak from the comic:

Be sure to follow the anthology at Red Stylo's site and the Killer Queen Anthology Facebook page. And of course I'll let you know on here when there's more to tell!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hetero, Christian Cis-Male Writer Seeking Critical Readers

Let me state first that this is not intended to be a whiny, woe-is-me rant about how anti-oppressive movements stifle writers' freedom of speech. That is bullshit, and if this comes out sounding like that, it's unintended and exactly what I'm writing this about.

The fact is, I'm privileged. I used to wear facial piercings and dreadlocks and women's clothes in an attempt to separate myself from that privilege, but the mere fact that I can describe that in the past tense demonstrates the difference between it and true disadvantage. Short of a facial tattoo, there is nothing I could do to effectively make myself part of an oppressed group (and even then, having a "white-sounding" name is an advantage in anything not face-to-face, and being hetero means I'll never have to fear holding hands with my spouse.)

As a Christian, and a human capable of empathy, my role in life is to demonstrate love to my fellow creatures. I'm not always great at it, but it's something I'm working on. And as a privileged Christian, I am called to demonstrate love to the oppressed.

From my position of advantage, it isn't always easy to see when I am taking part in oppression rather than liberation. That's why I'd like to open up this invitation to request of my readers: If you ever spot this in my writing, please, tell me. I want my work to be a liberating form of art, and if I make an off color joke or talk about dicks too often, and it is anything other than liberating for any group, I want to fix it. If I am failing the Bechdel Test or just being ethno-, Ameri-, hetero-, theo-, or chrono-centric, that's truly not who I want to be.

And lastly, if you point out to me that I am falling into any of the trappings of my privilege, and I decide to be an asshole about it and start getting all defensive and explaining to you how it's not oppressive and you just need to take it in context, please link me back to this post.

The following message is for future asshole me:
Stop being a hypocrite you moron! What you're doing is oppression! Don't make me a liar! Oh, and while you're here, when do we get robot eyes?

This post has been brought to you by Orson Scott Card's recent hateful drivel, because he tells the kind of stories I want to tell, but he is not the kind of writer I want to be.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Plot Freeballing: Writing Without an Outline

Conventional wisdom dictates that when you write, especially a longer work, thorough plot outlining is as necessary as water wings on a swimming toddler. Without, you will surely drown, flailing about and choking and turning blue. But here's what I have learned: Fuck conventional wisdom.

Now, I don't mean that you should just do everything the opposite of what your peers, mentors, advisers, and inspirations suggest. Obviously that's stupid and if you so much as thought it, then you're the same kind of asshole I am. However, I have learned that writing is an intensely personal experience and that the second you let conventional wisdom get in the way of your intuition, you're going to be abandoning yet another story 12 pages in with what you were sure was a novel's worth of plot.

Writing is different for everyone. Some people write barely coherent sentences, churning out thousands of words in an hour and rely on later edits to make it something people would want to read. Others pore over each word, slowly drizzling out first drafts that would make Shakespeare set down his quill and nod approvingly. Some people draft outlines that could themselves be published as short fiction, and others let their characters determine the next bit of action. (By the thesis of this article, I'm sure you've guessed that I fall into the latter camp.)

The key is to keep writing. If you are actively writing anything more substantial than a grocery list, congratulations! you're doing better than probably 90% of people who say they are writers. Too many times I've tried to take a conventional wisdom approach and once failure started to creep in, I abandoned the story altogether.

So here's a list of the top 5 things I've learned about writing without an outline:

1. No Outline Doesn't Mean No Idea

Just because you aren't formally plotting out your story shouldn't imply that you have no idea what's coming. It's still going to be helpful to at least have a sense of what challenges your protagonists are going to encounter, who the antagonists are (if there are any), and what's going on in the world at large. If your plot is going to be guided by the protagonists' action, give them something to react to, or they'll end up slouched back on the couch using their stomach as a mousepad to play Minecraft like me on a Saturday.

2. Roleplay

When you're freeballing your plot, you're counting on your characters to guide the action of the story. You're not going to end up with a Dan Simmons-esque masterpiece plot of Deep Blue precision, but you can come out with something that feels natural and doesn't leave your readers staring at your arm protruding from your character's ass. But the key to this is to understand the character. And there's no better way to understand your character than to be your character, for a little while. Whether it's an RPG like D&D or WoW, improv acting, or a roleplaying writing website, if you are having trouble letting your character guide his or her own actions, there is no better way.

3. Take Notes EVERYWHERE

Open plots can take inspiration ideas from pretty much anywhere. Movies, conversations, drug trips, you never know where something will cross your mind that would just fit perfectly into your story. That is why I have a Google Document I can access from my phone for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas to add to my stories, but if you're the Moleskine type that works just as well. Later, when I'm stuck for some action, I pop open the document and see "Sigourney Weaver Nazi Kitten Army" (<-- Actual note I actually wrote for my story DreamMaker.) Not everything is going to fit, but it sure beats staring at your screen trying to figure out if you can add the blinking cursor as a villain. (Note to self... Blinking cursor villain?)

4. Take Your Time

The more sparse your plot points, the more has to happen between them. Working with a barebones plot means that a lot has to happen between predetermined elements, so don't be in a rush to hit the next one. Let something go wrong between elements. Fuck, let everything go wrong between elements. Going to the store for milk is like Feivel Goes West to your characters.

5. Be Prepared to Second Draft

You can't expect to shit out gold without studying a little alchemy first (and even then there's all kinds of Equivalent Exchange bullshit you have to deal with). On your first write-through, there are going to be some things that don't make much sense, or are too slow (or fast), or just stick out for whatever reason. That's fine. You'll fix it in the second go.

And there you have a few things I've figured out the hard way. Now get off the internet and get back to your writing! Kids these days...