Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Free story idea – “Evil” gem

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This is a pretty unique Free story idea.  From the time I got this idea until the publication of this blog was … four days.  The reason this happened was because the free idea I was working on – A new mythology – was taking longer than I expected, and I was seriously thinking of delaying it but then I had this idea and figured I could put out this quick, short one and have more time to finish the mythology one. 

This idea began as a dream.  In this dream, some guy in a lab coat went into this radar station on the edge of an airport.  He went into a secret hallway where a guard watched as he unlocked a box to get a key to open a door.  In this room there was this glowing gem.  The guy went around and turned on all these monitors, and then a blindfolded subject was brought in in a wheelchair.  The subject – even though they were blindfolded – were to describe what they saw when they watched a movie.  Because of the gem, the ending of the movie would be changed to an “evil” ending.  Like, you put in the DVD of Toy Story and now it ends in a blood bath as the toys kill all the humans.  That’s when I, more or less, woke up.  This is a more coherent version of the dream since the actual dream was more … dreamy-weamy.  I liked the idea, and over the next twenty or so minutes as I fully woke up, I worked with the idea and came up with the following.

I think this idea would work best as a short, computer animated movie.  It starts with the super clean, futuristic city.  Everyone is happy and healthy, but everything does seem a tad … sterile.  The main character goes into a lab where the gem is.  In my dream, it was just your standard glowing, bright blue, but I figure why not make it where there are dozens of colors all swirling around and brightening and dimming in a random manner.  Something to really show off the visual effects.  What the gem is, is somehow they managed to collect all the hatred, greed, and all the “negative” emotions from all over the planet and crystallize it in this gem.  But now they can’t get rid of it.  They wanted to put it in a rocket and send it out into deep space, but the gem won’t move.  If they built a rocket under it and launched it, the rocket would be destroyed as it rammed into this unmovable object. 

Subjects brought close to the gem will have some reaction, which the main character is studying.  I guess the point of the story would be them wondering if they should destroy the gem.  Yes, locking all the “negative” emotions up sounds like a good idea, but surely there would be some unforeseen consequences that they need to work through.  What those are I leave to whoever writes the script.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Don’t take it personally

Years ago, I dated a woman who was a painter, but she wanted to try her hand at writing.  I tried to help her out, even pointing out a small magazine that had published a couple of my stories which I thought would be a good place for her to submit her first story.  I can’t remember what this magazine paid, maybe $5, and they published six issues a year, and before she even submitted something she was budgeting in $30 a year from them.  I tried to caution her that her stories would need to be accepted first, but I think her response was along the lines of “Why wouldn’t they accept this?  This is the best story I ever wrote.”

On one hand, I hoped her story would be accepted because it would have been good for her.  On the other hand, I think if a writer’s first submission gets accepted that could lead to unrealistic expectations.  Her story wasn’t accepted, and while I tried to explain that that was normal and lots of my stories had been rejected, she took it personally.  She ranted and raved and was offended that her story wasn’t accepted.  She was probably even angry at me because my stories had been accepted there.

At the time, there was a writing group I went to that had monthly speakers on writing, either authors or editors or whatever.  A day or two after she got her rejection, I took her to one of these meetings where an author talked about their experiences.  Things were going fine, until they opened up for questions, and my girlfriend got up.  I believe the gist of her question was what to do when a magazine is wrong for rejecting your story.  I don’t know if the author managed to calm things down, or my girlfriend was just tired, but she eventually sat down.  I don’t remember what all was said, because I was too busy worrying I’d have to throw myself on a grenade. 

Some people just write for fun, and that’s all they do with it.  But others want to make some money out of it.  And what too few people – like my ex – realize, is that nothing is guaranteed in business.  History is full of stories and novels that were rejected dozens of times before finally being published and making millions and winning awards.  All because those authors didn’t take those rejections personally and kept on doing the business of submitting stories.  My girlfriend and I broke up a few months after all of this, and I haven’t talked to her in years, but I’d be surprised if she ever submitted another story anywhere else.  And that’s kind of sad.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Random Writing Tips – Mystery for mystery sake


There was a show I watched where I was debating giving up on it, but then it was cancelled, so problem solved.  It did end on a bit of a cliff hanger, so on one hand that sucked, but on the other hand the show wasn’t that great.  My main issue with the show was it was poorly written.  Probably the biggest issue I had was how they had several opportunities to explain things, but instead would give out little dribs and drabs.

Basically, the main character gets dropped into this weird mystery.  They dig around, and they eventually figure out about 10% of the mystery.  And then they meet someone who, doesn’t know the whole story, but does know about 70% of the mystery.  For some time there is the question on if the main character can trust this new person, but eventually they do.  Now, in the real world, the main character would then take an afternoon to sit down with this person and have them fill them in on everything.  But that wasn’t what the show did.

Instead of the main character learning more than they wanted to know, coming to grips with it, and then going on to solve the rest of the mystery, the new person gave them some crumbs which lead to a shocking reveal.  And then the following week they’d give out another crumb which lead to another shocking reveal.  The next week, another crumb and another shocking reveal.  And all the while there was a super basic question the main character never asked; for a real person in this situation it would probably have been their first question.  I don’t know if the scene was cut for time, or what, but its lack left me somewhat dumbfounded. 

Now, there are a few ways this could have been done better.  Maybe the new person only knew 30% so most of the mystery is still unknown, maybe they only have ten minutes and can’t tell the full story, or maybe they could have written more interesting characters so “How will X react to this shocking reveal?” doesn’t need to be used every week to get people to come back.

If you hold too much information back, you audience may get bored because nothing seems to be happening.  But if you flood them with information right at the start, they can get overwhelmed and give up.  So you need to find a compromise.  This, usually, is just giving as much information as is needed right now.  How else do you do you multiple seasons of a show?  But, if there isn’t some in-universe reason for the dribs and drabs of information, your audience may notice the manipulation and not be surprised, or care, if your show is cancelled.


Image from Pixabay.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The never ending To Do list

I’m a bit of a procrastinator, especially when it comes to writing.  Like, I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a couple weeks, at least.  It’s gotten kind of bad over the last few years, so I’ve been trying to get around it.  One thing I’ve tried is a To Do list, which has and hasn’t worked.

The Version I To Do list is something I’ve done for years, which is where I basically make a list of all the things I need to do, usually broken up between writing stuff and everything else.  The problem with this is that you end up with a sheet with like fifty items on it which becomes extremely disheartening because you feel like you have to do it all by tomorrow.  And when I don’t get it all done, it feels like it’s just hanging there above my desk mocking me.

For the Version II list, I tried to solve the problem of too much stuff by scheduling only a few things each day.  I have a part time job where I, usually, only work Saturdays and Sundays.  So I started making a list of things to do on each of my five days off.  Mondays I’m a little tired from work, so I usually only had simple things like water the houseplants, make sure all my bills are paid, stuff like that.  And then for Tuesday I’d schedule myself to finish some blogs and work on a story, and so on.  But what seemed to happen a lot is that I’d spend Mondays doing the simple stuff and then relaxing by binge watching some show on Netflix.  I’d go to bed planning to spend all of Tuesday writing, only to wake up with a toothache which made me not feel like doing anything but binge watching Netflix.  And then I’d spend Wednesday trying to catch up only to throw off the whole thing and wonder why even bother.

In theory, Version III of my To Do list fixes the problems of the earlier versions.  I basically now have three lists: long term, shorter term, and this week.  Long term is for projects I really should do, but there isn’t much pressure to do them soon.  This ranges from novels I want to write to garden plans I thought of in the middle of winter.  Shorter term is for things that have more of a deadline, like blog posts or getting my taxes done.  These are usually written on little legal pads, while the “this week” list is on scrap paper.  It’s for the simple tasks like watering the houseplants, as well as the shorter term items I want to get done.  I still have fifty some items on my To Do list, but I only really see the ten or so items I can, or need, to get done this week. 

It is not a perfect system, but it does feel like I’m slowly getting more stuff done.  Most weeks.  There are times where I’ll put “The Week Of X” at the top of the list, but by the end of the week I’ve only crossed a few things off, so I’ll just change the date instead of rewriting the same list. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Ebook sale!

 With everything going on in the world, I figured I should try to make things a little brighter.  But I couldn’t really think of anything, so instead I’ll just have a sale for some of my ebooks.  The following three ebooks will be free from Monday May 2nd, through Friday May 6th, so get them while you can.

The Future is Coming

As a science fiction writer, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how technology will change the way we live. I’ve come up with these ten short essays about science fictional elements that will – almost certainly – one day become science fact as a way for people to start coming to terms with them. Because I’ve spent time thinking about clones and AIs, I feel I’ll be okay when they do finally show up whereas most people will probably freak out. I hope these essays will get people to start thinking about the future because, no matter what we do, the future is coming.

The Moon Before Mars

Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.

Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as “inspirational” as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be.

An Ounce of Prevention

Like most people, Jason Fisher wanted to make the world a better place, but he doubted he would ever have the chance to make much of a mark. Then a “woman” came to him, asking his help to save humanity by threatening it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Free story idea – Timeline designer

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

This idea begins with a guy next to a window in a building.  There’s a crowd outside, but he’s hidden behind some boxes.  He checks his watch, and then takes out a gun.  Moments later, he hears someone walking towards him.  A guy with a rifle comes up to the window, and is surprised to see someone there.  The main character shoots this guy, but there’s no gunshot or bullet.  Instead, the guy clutches his chest and falls over, dead from an apparent heart attack.  The main character takes the rifle and leaves.  There are then a few other scenes of this guy killing people with his heart attack gun. 

In 1961, JFK challenged the Soviets to a race to the moon.  There is a story that apparently, by 1963 some of the Soviets knew that they were likely to lose the race.  So to not lose, and to appear as the better men, some proposed that instead of a race the US and Soviets should pool their resources and go to the moon together.  Before this offer could be made, there was a shakeup in the Soviet Union, and then JFK was assassinated.  So nothing came of this idea.  At least, in this timeline.

The idea of the story is that at some point, a way to time travel is discovered.  Now, this prime timeline can’t be changed, so if you went back and killed Hitler, there would be the prime timeline as well as a new branch, Hitlerless timeline.  Other alterations can be made to the branch timelines.  And before you ask, the method of time travel only works when connected to the prime timeline … because.  So not only can nobody in the Hitlerless timeline build a time machine and come to the prime timeline, they can’t even go back in their own branch timeline.  Anyway, rich people start hiring timeline designers to custom make worlds where X happens instead of Y.  The opening scenes are our main character making a world where the US and Soviets went to the moon together.  He stops JFK from being assassinated, and kills some people – when I worked on this story I was thinking one of the founders of the Taliban – who would eventually cause problems for US/Soviet collaboration.

That’s an interesting premise, but what’s the actual story?  Well, I think the main character has the reputation of a fixer.  It’s easy to create a new timeline, but it takes finesse to steer it to where you want it to go.  For example, one timeline is set up by a commando team showing up at the Alamo.  What can ten guys do against an army?  Well, with armor piercing rounds they start shooting all the cannons half-a-mile away, and then they start shooting the officers.  And when the Mexicans try to storm the Alamo to find this unprecedented weaponry, they get mowed down by machine gun fire.  The Alamo isn’t stormed, and a new timeline starts up.  But such a brute force move has unintended consequences.  So the owner of the timeline – who maybe went with the commando team to play soldier at the Alamo – calls in the fixer to try to clean up the mess. 

And that’s pretty much all I had thought through.  It could be that he uses all the money he makes to build a special timeline where his wife – who died in the prime timeline – will live healthy and happy, but that’s rather cliché.  Or maybe he’s an undercover agent trying to infiltrate whoever is using their branch timeline to make supercrack, or whatever, to bring to the prime timeline.  Something could be done with this, but I couldn’t think of what.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Random Writing Tips – Necessary distractions


Twentysome years ago, when I was getting serious about writing, I bought a phonebook sized listing of writing markets.  Basically every magazine would have a half-page summary of what kinds of stories they were looking for, what they paid, and where to mail your submission.  I went through this and marked every place that I might be able to send something.  And for the next few years, when they came out with an updated book, I would buy it and do the same thing.  But as things became more and more online, it was easier to get the information from a magazine’s website.

For a few years I used a site that let you search for markets for, say, science fiction stories.  But then they moved to a subscription base and while the cost wasn’t that much, it was still more than I was making from my stories, so signing up kind of defeated the purpose. 

I think a couple times I tried making my own lists, either as an Excel sheet or HTM file.  But these weren’t all that successful because I think I tried to do too much with them.  It wasn’t just this site takes scifi stories, it was this site takes scifi stories between X and Y words, it pays Z cents per word, they prefer these types of stories, they don’t want these types, they want a detailed cover letter, they also run contests from time to time, etc., etc., etc.  All that information was nice, but I didn’t have a way to clearly organize it.

For the last couple of years, this hasn’t been an issue since I didn’t submit any stories anywhere.  I finally got around to submitting a story a few months ago, but it was to a big magazine that I knew and had submitted to before.  If, when, it was rejection, I knew of a couple others I could submit it to, but that was it.

About the time I submitted this story, I saw a tweet asking if anyone knew good markets for microfiction.  A lot of people replied with sites they knew of, and I bookmarked the tweet, but that’s not a very efficient way of keeping information on sites to submit to.

So I decided to try again making my own list.  I did this in Excel with one sheet for paying markets, and another for non-paying.  I kept it simple, with columns listing the name, minimum word count, maximum word count, pay, and some notes like if they do themed issues.  I later added in a column if the site asked for a cover letter.  I went through the tweet and searched for all the mentioned sites, and I also went through my list of places I’ve submitted to.  All of this took a few hours, spread out over three or four days. 

As I was finishing up this little project, I thought, You know, I could make a separate sheet where I put in how many days it took for me to hear back from the sites I submitted to.  To keep everything neat and tidy I’d just have the average response time show up on the main sheet.  Because that is a nice bit of information to have when submitting to a site.  I almost started doing it, when I wondered, Would my time be better spent actually writing a story to submit?

Was my Markets spreadsheet useful?  Well, so far I’ve only used it for the one story, but I have ranked the eight or nine sites I could submit it to by how much they pay, and I’m working my way through them.  Which is easier to do when all the data is in one spot.  Could I spend hours more adding various bells and whistles to make it slightly better?  Easily.  Would that be a distraction just taking away time I could spend writing?  Definitely. 

Over the last twentysome years, I’ve spent untold hours searching through books, magazines, and webpages for places to submit stories.  Would some of that time have been better spent writing?  Certainly.  But spending some of your precious time to figure out where to send your stories, is a necessary expense.  Worse, there is no “best” way of doing this, so you’ll have to spend even more time figuring out what system works for you.


Image from Pixabay.