Friday, March 25, 2016

Fiction Friday: March 25, 2016

Time for an update on my writing projects.

1. The Pinevale Ghost (short story/ghost story): Third Draft Complete - Workshop Phase. I sent this to my alpha readers (let me know if you are interested in being an alpha reader for me, it basically means that I send you the story and you provide feedback of what works and what doesn't). I am also submitting it in chunks to my writing group. I've already gotten some great feedback on it. I've already brainstormed some ideas for fixing some of the issues, and I look forward to doing a revision, maybe in April, but definitely by the time May comes around.

2. Leaf in the Wind (short story/fantasy) - First Draft Phase. This one is my first foray into the fantasy setting. It is a fairly simple tale, or at least started that way. This morning I had an idea that would drastically alter the organization of the story, but I will hold off on implementing that idea until I am done with the first draft I already had planned out. The new idea may work better, but I'd like to see the original plan laid out before I do so drastic an overhaul. I'm probably 75% done with this first draft. After I finish the first draft, I'll let it sit for a little while before I try a rewrite on it.

3. Her Biggest Fan (short story/not sure what genre) - Second Draft Complete. I wrote this short story a few years back. The idea seemed very original to me, but since then I've grown to think the ending is a bit cliche. I tried a revision immediately after I'd written it and decided to shelve it for a time. After I finish my first draft of Leaf in the Wind, I will revisit Her Biggest Fan and whether some distance brings a fresh perspective. If so, I will rewrite it and workshop it. If not, I'll still workshop it for feedback on what my writing group and alpha readers think isn't working.

4. The Dome (novel/sci-fi) - First Draft Phase. I began writing this novel during NaNoWriMo 2015. Work pressures got to me and I failed to complete it. After my revision to The Pinevale Ghost, I will rectify that failure and complete my first draft of my second novel. The first draft is approximately 30% complete.

5. The Wishing Well (novel/sci-fi) - First Draft Complete. This is the first book I ever wrote. It was supposed to be the novelization of a sci-fi, progressive rock album I wrote. Instead, it became a prequel story for that album. It is a mess, but I think I am better prepared to do a revision on it now. Though, when I say "revision," I am leaning more toward complete overhaul (i.e. blow the sucker to smithereens and start from scratch). Also, somewhere along the way I got the thought into my head that I'd like to finish writing the second and third albums before I take another pass at the novelization. Part of the reason for this is that telling the story through song is VERY different than telling the story through a novel. They are different mediums, and I need to feel the freedom to explore each as its own thing. I don't want the constraints of story telling to limit or dictate the songwriting in any way. I'm purposely avoiding making a decision on this, so we'll see how I feel after I've finished The Dome.

Anyway, there you have it. Those are my current projects and plans for writing fiction. I hope you have a wonderful Friday and weekend.

40 Days of Writing!

Ladies and gentleman, I give you... John Cory the Consistent.

Today marks 40 days since I went to the writing conference (LTUE). I have written every single day (except for Sundays for religious reasons) without fail since then. From what I have been told repeatedly throughout my life, 40 days a habit makes. I have thoroughly enjoyed my writing habit and plan to keep this thing going.

Up until now my only goal has been to write every single day without fail. So, my plan now is to kick things up a bit. I'm going to set a reasonable but challenging goal for my daily writing requirement. I debated between a time requirement or a word count. Ultimately, I decided on a word count, because: (a) it is so easily measurable and (b) it ensures productivity as opposed to the use of time. I think for the next 40 days, I will set a daily word count goal of 1,000 words. There is, of course, no punishment for going above and beyond that goal.

I love rewards (who doesn't?), and a couple weeks ago I decided that if I wrote every day for 40 days (just assume that I have a standing caveat of except Sundays, so I don't feel obligated to add that part in every time), I would reward myself buy purchasing an appropriate web domain for my authoring. I have done so. I will share that information with you once I have the website up and running (which may be a little while, for reasons I'll explain below).

As an way to stay motivated, I will create appropriate "rewards" for meeting my goals. This will include materials to better learn and study the craft (books and workshops on writing), brand development (hiring a web design person), and networking (writing conferences). Anyway, it may be a little while before I get my website up and running, which is fine by me, because for right now my focus is on writing.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fiction Friday!

I just finished my third draft of the short story I mentioned before. I had been calling it "The Straitjacket," but I no longer feel that title is indicative of the story. So, I changed it to "The Pinevale Ghost." I'm not sure I'm sold on that title either.

Anyway, I have the story down to 22 pages, double spaced. It is definitely much stronger now than it was in the first and second drafts. I think I see a way to re-organize and merge a couple scenes to cut the story down even more, but I will wait to make that adjustment until after...

I get back feedback from my alpha readers! This morning I sent the story out to 11 alpha readers (based on them having expressed interest in reading this story, me valuing their creative insights, or them being present when I first saw the Pinevale Ghost). I'm also going to submit the first 9 pages of the story to my writing group this Sunday.

So, once I get some feedback on the story, I will consider the direction for my next revision. I plan to submit it for publication somewhere. I'll have to do some research to find out who is publishing ghost stories these days.

Speaking of fun new things, I joined my first writing group. It's an online group, so I am not sure how that will go. We'll submit no more than 10 pages each week, and then critique each other's writing. I'm very excited for the continual source of feedback for my own writing, and the sense of accountability and deadline for my production.

I'll keep you updated on my story as it progresses, but for now, I begin writing my next short story. I'll actually be completing a short story that I started writing within the past year. I got busy at work and set it aside, so I'd like to go back and finish it now. That story is about a character I created for Dungeons and Dragons a long time ago. It is not one that I will seek to publish, but is just for fun to experiment with writing fighting scenes.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Life The Universe and Everything

Two weekends ago I attended my first ever writing conference, and I absolutely loved it. Sierra, the girls, and I drove up to Provo, UT for BYU's Life, The Universe, and Everything. It was a three-day conference with many of my favorite authors present, sitting on panels and discussing the craft and industry of writing. I also got to hang out with my brother Jonnie for much of the conference.

Why was this conference so awesome? Well, I have flirted with writing in spurts over the years. I've wanted to write novels, but I've had a hard time consistently carving out time to get my ideas down on paper. This has resulted in a lot of unfinished projects and frustration. What I got most from the writing conference was a sense of "finding my tribe," meaning I found like-minded individuals passionate about writing who motivated me to make this dream my reality.

To do so, I have had to commit to making some sacrifices so that I can carve out time to write daily (well, every day except Sunday). I can't sacrifice work, so instead I've been sacrificing TV/movie time. Instead of going home after work to veg out and binge on Netflix or movies, I've been focusing on getting home at a decent hour, playing with my family, starting bed time at a more reasonable hour, and then getting myself to bed by 10:00 p.m. each night. Usually I head to bed early enough to be able to read for a little while before I shut off the light. All of this routine is geared toward helping me get an hour of writing in before work each morning. My goal is to build momentum with one hour a day at first. As time goes on, I intend to train my body to function on less sleep (working my way from seven hours a day down to six) so I can get two hours of writing in before work.

I've been doing this for about two weeks now, and it feels great. I've been working on a short story that is a ghost story, adapted from a true life event from my youth. I finished my second draft of that story this morning. I am going to do one more revision, and then I will be looking for some alpha readers to read the story and provide "big picture" feedback on it. After that, I will send it out for publication and see what happens. While I wait to hear back from the publishers, I will begin writing the next story.

I'm treating this like a job. Clock in and out every day. After my morning scripture study, it is my top priority. Then, I shift focus and go to my other job (the longer one that actually puts food on the table). My focus for the next couple years will be less on publication and more on learning the craft and experimenting to find my voice. So, I will focus mostly on short story writing, because the smaller format allows me to: experiment with more genres and styles, build momentum through project completion, and focus my writing to practice certain skills that I need to develop without getting bogged down in the mire of a massive project. My end goal is novel writing, and I will still write one this year, I believe that there are some fundamentals I need to get in place first. Also, short stories are really fun.

So, please let me know if you are interested in being an alpha reader. Also, I want to join or start a writing group in the Henderson, NV area. If you are interested in joining me or inviting me to yours, please let me know. My genres of choice right now are fantasy and sci-fi.

There you have it, folks. I'm a writer.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Metroid: The Sky Calls

I am a huge fan of the Metroid series. The original NES game caused me insane frustration, but I loved every second of it, largely due to the music playing behind the game. The music was eerie and created a strong sense of adventure, trepidation, and solitude. The game was like Zelda in its expansive world exploration, and survival was anything but given.

I adore this game franchise, and the thought of a feature film for the franchise makes me happy to no end. While Nintendo has had a strong stance against any feature films for their properties (after the Super Mario Bros. movie that was... less than a box office smash), there is always hope that someday Nintendo will change its mind.

Until then, enjoy this wonderful fan-made short film.

Metroid: The Sky Calls

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 9: Happy Halloween 2015

For this song, I wanted to try re-creating an acoustic guitar strum with a virtual instrument on my midi keyboard. I think it turned out pretty well. I also wanted to find a way to incorporate drums into my Halloween song without it feeling like rock music. Let me know whether you think that turned out well/poorly. The only thing on this song that is not a software instrument is the evil laugh, which I had a lot of fun recording.

I also allowed myself to mess around with editing a bit on this song. I didn't repeat takes over and over, searching for the perfect one. Instead, I took a few takes and then comped together a workable track out of the different body parts and limbs of the various tracks. I guess this song is sort of an ode to Frankenstein. Too bad I didn't realize that until I'd already posted it to youtube with the pictures. Ah well.

I hope you enjoy. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 8: Transformers Theme

I recorded the guitar for this song a long time ago (at least two years). For some reason I got in a Transformy mood and thought I'd finally put it out there. So, I added a little mystery space synth to set the mood before the guitar comes in.

This week I learned how to increase the overall volume of the master track in Garageband 10. You do it in the EQ. There is a tiny little dot on the side of the Master EQ that will add gain to the master, increasing the volume of everything. The two problems I run into with this approach to mastering are:

(1) I either get digital clipping, which sounds HORRIBLE and makes the song sound like garbled machine noise, or

(2) I get a lot of background noise, most typically in the form of air flow picked up from the mic during recording.

I learned a while back that there are ideal volume settings for gainstaging--which takes place at that earliest stage of recording--where you want to find the optimal level of input volume from the microphone. Some argue that it is -12db through -6db (that range), and at least one other guy argues that it is -18db (Graham Cochrane at The Recording Revolution). This Transformers Theme was recorded long before I knew that.

The main problem I currently have with Garageband is that there is no metering of value in the program. I have a meter, and it will show clipping, but it doesn't provide numbers for me to see where exactly I'm at. Each DAW is different, so I can't just trust that if I'm at 2/3 of the meter I'm in that sweet spot. So, for everything Garageband does well, I adore the program. However, for it's inability to provide meaningful metering during the recording process, I get frustrated.

Anyway, here is this week's song:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Zelda Main Theme on Classical Guitar

Many of you now know, I'm a sucker for old school video game music. Hearing that music instantly takes me back to those wonderful days of playing NES as a child, the sense of wonder and exploration of fantastic worlds, the sense of trepidation heading into the bosses' lairs, and the sense of anxiety and fear knowing my very sanity lay in the balance if I couldn't figure out how to beat freaking Castlevania.

I am also a sucker for classical guitar, so when someone combines classical guitar with my favorite old school video game music... the rapture. Today I stumbled upon this little gem and thought I'd share with you all. This guy's name is Jonas Lefvert, and he plays a mean Zelda Main Theme.

Happy Wednesday.