My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Brandon Sanderson wants Worldcon 2015 in My Home Town

Photo by Carnildo
We have a convention here in Spokane, WA called SpoCon. This year Brandon Sanderson was the guest of honor. Because of that I got to meet him and have my copy of The Way of Kings signed! Check out my blog post I Met Brandon Sanderson for pics. The fine folks who run SpoCon have a bid to bring WorldCon to my home town in 2015. Here's their website Spokane In 2015 about it. Here is Brandon Sanderson's blog post about it:

Hey, all. This is a post that may not be relevant for everyone, but I thought it was an important one to make anyway.

I had the pleasure of being Guest of Honor a few weeks back at SpoCon, a sf/fantasy convention in Spokane, Washington. Well, it turns out that the same group who run SpoCon have a bid out forWorldcon in 2015. The voting will happen this weekend at Worldcon in San Antoniowhich I'm attending. (Though kind of last-minute.)
Voting costs $40, and unfortunately it's too late to mail in ballots; it has to be done in person. Voting also gets you a supporting membership to whichever Worldcon wins for 2015—meaning you can vote in that year's Hugos as well (and get that year's Hugo Voter Packet), for cheaper than it will cost to buy a supporting membership once 2015 rolls around. And a supporting membership can be upgraded to an attending membership very easily.
Since I was just hosted by these people, I think I'm in a unique position to give them—and their Worldcon bid—a shout-out. The guest liaison team was top-notch, and the entire convention was extremely well organized. I was surprised by how pretty Spokane was this time of year to boot.

If anyone is debating where to put their vote for Worldcon, let me nudge you toward Spokane. I don't know anything about the other Worldcon bid teams, and I'm sure there are plenty of great people on them—but I know for certain the team in Spokane knows what they're doing. The city itself is pushing hard for the convention, even going so far to send city representatives to Worldcon this year to lobby.

Hats off to the entire crew. I had a wonderful time, and would love to return in two years for Worldcon. This is a bid to take very seriously.


© Brandon Sanderson 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Death of a Salesman's Boss
A Story for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig runs a weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. This is my first time trying it out. Go check it out! Write your own! Here are the rules for this week:

I’m going to give you ten words. Your job is to work all ten of these words into a flash fiction story, ~1000 words in length. That’s it. End of mandate. The story’s due in a week: Friday, August 30th, noon EST. Post at your online space. Link back here.

The ten random words are as follows:

Here's my story:

Death of a Salesman's Boss, A Short Story |  © Dan Absalonson 2013

I was listening to my favorite band, Atomic Willow, to get psyched to ask my boss for a raise when I saw on the news that he had died. I dropped my spoon into my bowl of frosted flakes.

“Dead? Great! How am I going to get my raise to pay for that flyer now?”

I sat not moving for a moment, then picked up my spoon and scooped the last of my flakes into my mouth. Soggy! I hate it when they get soggy, like thin chips of clay. They figured out how to fly us to distant planets and terraform them into habitability, but they still couldn't keep my frosted flakes crunchy till the last bite.

I looked back to the screen with the stuffy mustachioed man reporting the details. What I saw on the vid-screen after lowering my bowl would captivate me for several minutes before I got up to leave for work. Right there on the screen was a picture of my boss for all to see. It was a bit unreal. My bowl in the sink, I pulled on my jacket and walked to my apartment complex hanger bay.

I got into my flyer, buckled in, and pushed my thumb onto the ignition button until it turned green. The engines started up creating a low hum. The computer greeted me.

"Good morning Dave. You have an..."

"Yeah, morning. Destination work. Local news feed to screen,"

“Yes sir, but first you have an urgent vidmail from work.”

“Fine. Put it on.”

“Yes sir.”

“Hey guys you may have seen the sad news but Mr. Stanton passed away last night so no work today. Everyone is to fly straight to the funeral. It starts at noon.”

So that was it. No chance to ask for the raise to pay for my new flyer. I mean it had everything. If I needed to I could live in the thing, but now I couldn’t make the payments. If only I had done the smart thing and waited until after I had secured a raise. I was due for one I knew, and my first payment was schedule for my next payday. If I didn’t get a raise I would have to sell all my junk and move into my flyer for real.

It had a sleek black hull with a mini kitchen, small lounge with one extremely comfortable couch, and even a bathroom. If only I had been in this bad boy last year when the skyway guidance rigs had malfunctioned leaving us all stuck in space. That was the one thing I couldn’t do in my new ship, manual flying. Sure if I had perfect eyes, was in great shape, and had the time to study for the test I’d get my pilot’s license. The only people I knew with one got theirs under the federation’s credit account in the military. If they were in a skyway and the traffic was bad they could just switch it into manual and fly off whichever way they wanted to go. Not me, but I finally had a new ship. I wouldn’t have to bum a ride to the bar after work to hang with the guys because I was too embarrassed of my own vessel.

As I flew to the skyway that led to my work I listened to the news. I learned the disease that had left my boss disfigured had actually been killing him the whole time. I wondered at the deceit. Had anyone known? Was it all just to keep the office running smoothly so people wouldn't waste time worrying about him? He was a great boss, a driven man, but sometimes I thought he cared a little too much about how efficient the office ran. But I guess that was his job. You can’t let your employees slack off when they’re in sales. Now he was finally able to rest.

* * *

At the funeral the pastor preached fire and brimstone, telling us to take this moment to think on our lives. I did. I needed that raise. I spent the time working up the courage to ask for it in what would historically be the worst timing ever. I approached the V.P. of our company on the way out.

“Hey Todd.”

“Hi Dave.”

“What a terrible tragedy huh?”

“Yeah, Richard was a great man. I’ll miss him.”

“Yeah me too. He was a great boss. Hey listen, I know this isn’t the right time but I was supposed to have a meeting with him this morning, about a raise…”

“You can’t be serious man. Are you kidding me?”

“I’m sorry I just have some things that it would really help with right now and I…”

“Forget it. Listen, now is not the right time. I have enough to worry about with the company. None of us were expecting this. May he rest in peace but the least the guy could have done was warn us. Look it’s going to take some time okay?”

“I understand.”

I’m screwed, I thought.

* * *

As I flew home the sun was setting over the canyon, like a huge balloon devoid of its helium slowly sinking back down to the real world to once again be among the rest of us. No longer could it fly up into the sky and gaze down upon all of the people and things which could not fly.

I got online and rented a space for all my stuff and a small cargo ship. I was moving out.

“Looks like I’ll get to see how great it is actually living in my T36 Luxo Sailer. Whatever, it was worth it.”

I often showered at work anyway after using our onsite workout facility, and the couch would make a great bed. Now I’d spend less time at home, and more time out - living my life. Maybe all this was a good thing. I still really wished Mr. Stanton had stayed alive for just one more day.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Robots Reading to Me

They say one of the best ways to see if your writing is good is to read it out loud. I've found this to be very true. Every time I have recorded one of my short stories to podcast it, I have had to stop recording and make edits. Then I go back to the text version after recording the story and update it and the story is better for it. When you read things out loud you use different parts of your brain than reading silently and you are able to catch things your eyes would glide right past. You actually will see what you think is there when the text is different in some cases. Crazy right? But true.
"When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and not only do we form visual links but we are also aided by auditory links." 
- From "Does reading out loud cause you to remember things better?" By Sruthi Swami

A great tool I have used for years to review my writing in addition to reading it out loud myself has been running my stuff through a text to speech program. Kind of like letting Siri from an iPhone read your text to you - but I usually use a male voice. I will hear typos that I didn't see when reading it all the time. The free ones only have robotic voices available, but you'd be surprised how used to those voices you can get if they're decent. I've found the robotic voice of Peter in TTS Reader in some ways sounds better than the more realistic voices you can find for free. While his voice sounds robotic, the way he renders syllables is usually more like real speech. His inflection is pretty good. Most of the ones that use a real voice always have strange pauses and shift pitch in the wrong places, and I just can't listen to them reading a story. Maybe a news article - but not fiction. If you just picture a robot sitting next to you telling you the story - TTS Reader for your PC can be a great tool for reviewing your writing. It's free, it's a tiny piece of software that takes seconds to download and install, and it works great. You can even save the audio to .wav or .mp3. I have such files on my iPod right now.

This is the software I use on PC but I bought a MacBook Pro a while back and have found the text to speech on there to be even better. I use Alex. He seems to be the best male TTS voice on a mac. It is still a bit robotic, but they actually programmed in breath sounds between words. It sounds surprisingly natural to hear him take a breath every sentence or so. His inflection is good too making him even easier to listen to than my beloved Peter in TTS Reader.

If you use these free tools and get into it you can find more realistic voices. The best ones I have found are at Ivona. Even then you need to experiment with what voice sounds the best, but those voices are about as good as it gets with TTS. You can download a trial and use that first to make sure you want to buy it. It can get pretty pricey. I'm content with my free TTS voices, especially now that I found Alex on my mac. You can also save to an audio file there, but you'll have to google it to figure out how. Strangest way I could have possibly imagined. Weird Mac programmers! :) I do love my MacBook Pro though, great machine. By the way, this TTS software is also a great way to review your blog post for errors before publishing it.

Alright, I better get back to pushing my novella Sword and Urn into its third draft so I can hand it off to beta readers soon and get some feedback. The story is working now, I just need to clean up the text. If you'd like to give it a read and give me some feedback you can start reading it right now on Wattpad here. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In The Charts on Wattpad!

I can't believe it! My short story Stuffed Monster has dipped below #200 in Fantasy and is at #198 right now on Wattpad! I've written in a previous post how this is none of my doing, but I'll take it! Thanks Ivan Yuen co-founder of Wattpad!


I've had a novelette called "A Second Chance" sitting on Amazon and Smashwords for a long time just lingering around for .99¢ and not much has happened with it. So yesterday I decided to strike while the iron is hot and put it up on Wattpad where I've been getting a lot of traffic lately. I put it up yesterday afternoon and this morning it was at #96 in Spiritual and #193 in Mystery/Thriller! I don't think any of this will last but it sure is fun and exciting! :) Also, if you'd rather have a copy of this novelette on your kindle, nook, or other device I made it so you can pay whatever price you want including FREE over at Smashwords. There you can get it in .epub for most devices or .mobi for your Kindle or Kindle apps. Thanks for stopping by!


Check out these numbers! My novelette A Second Chance is at #63 in the Spiritual charts, and my short story Bullets and Tears is at #66 in Historical Fiction. I seriously doubt I'll see numbers like these again anytime soon, but hopefully I'll prove myself wrong someday :)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Brandon Sanderson's Dropbox is Inspiring

Click to view at a larger size
I came across this screen cap image of Brandon Sanderson working on his latest book. That's pretty cool but as a writer there's much more in this image on the right hand side and it is very impressive and inspiring to me. Over there you can see only a portion of the projects he has, is, or will be writing. It goes from 6 to 32 but it looks like if he were to scroll down there would be more folders with novel names on them! That is so cool that he has so many books he's written and is planning on writing. No wonder I heard him say at his book signing in my home town last week that Isaac Asimov is an author he respects. Asimov wrote hundreds of books.

Brandon is a guy who decided he wanted to write novels for a living so, partly while in school, he worked the night shift at a hotel so he could knock out tons of novels, which he did, before getting one published. He wrote like crazy and learned the craft by completing one novel after the other. So by the time his "first" book Elantris came out the dude had already written thirteen novels, Elantris being his fifth book. He has earned a Dropbox folder full of novels written, writing, and to write.

Click to view at a larger size

I thought it would be fun to share an image of my books in the cloud. Instead of dropbox I use Google Drive. It looks like the novel I'm working on now should be the last one I have to write before I get published :) Kidding aside I have found that it's one thing to be able to write well and it's a whole other thing to be able to write a complete story well. There are things I love in my trunked novels but they all pretty much need to be rewritten if I'm going to publish them. I've learned a lot and I'm hoping that moving forward I'll be able to get all of the stories I write to a place where I think they are fantastic and worthy of publishing. So here's to Brandon being an inspiration. I hope that someday my Google Drive looks like his Dropbox.

Are you inspired? Leave a comment about it. Even better leave a comment with a link to an image of your writing folder! Just because I can, here's that picture of Brandon and I at his signing in my home town last week one more time. :) Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Next Town Over | Awesome Web Comic

Image Source: by Erin Mehlos
Next Town Over is a web comic by Erin Mehlos I stumbled upon this weekend that just blew me away. Not only does it contain great story telling, both visually and through the words, but the art is amazing. Even the panel borders are impressive. They are ornate. You can really tell the artist loves what they're doing because such care has gone into this comic. It's not thrown together. I want to do web comics too, but the few times I've tried I haven't completed much because it is so time consuming. Even if you're just doing black and white you have to pencil it, ink it, do the lettering, scan it, upload it - and if you add even simple color it adds much more time to the process. 

I'm pretty certain that if the novella I'm starting the third draft on is received well that I'm going to do a graphic novel version of it that I will also post as a web comic page by page. I started it a while back but now the story has changed and I'm just going to do it black and white but you can check out the first page. I thought it would be fun to use a crayon texture I made for the coloring but if I end up doing it I'll just be going black and white. Drawing it will be a great project that will get me in my sketchbook more and should improve my drawing skills as I'll be having to draw a lot. I look forward to seeing how this novella does and possibly start planning to do graphic novels/comics that go with a lot of my stories. It would be a lot of work but it would be so cool! Anyways, enjoy Next Town Over, I know I am! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 9, 2013

In The Wattpad Charts Again

I was looking over my works on Wattpad and realized I had two short stories that I never uploaded. They've been everywhere else for a long time. So I uploaded these two stories, and they have shot up the charts! Again, this will maybe last the day but it's still kind of cool. :) Little Willie's Revenge is at #108 for Spiritual, and Helsa's Secret Ingredient is at #296 for Fantasy. I'm not sure how these metrics work because it seems they have each only received 1 read and neither has any votes or comments. My novella "Sword & Urn" I was excited to post about hitting #300 in fantasy is currently at #858 as I write this. I knew it wouldn't last, but it's gone up and down so there is that. Maybe it will jump back down again once I finish rewriting the ending. :) 

Stuffed Monster

The Last Butterscotch

Science Fiction #489

My Last Day

Bullets and Tears

Fezdon's Mistake

Evil Takes Flight

As you can see above, several of my others stories that haven't received any attention for months are also in the charts. I think I know the reason. The comment you see below was left on my short story Stuffed Monster:

I thought it was awesome that someone randomly read it and enjoyed it. I thanked him and followed him on the site. Then I saw who he is - the co-founder of Wattpad! Later that night he commented on another story of mine called The Last Butterscotch:
Then he followed me back on the site. Ever since then I have been getting emails notifying me of Wattpad members following me like crazy! So I'm assuming all of this attention on Wattpad is from this awesome gentleman Ivan Yuen commenting on my stories, adding them to his reading lists and following me. I'm glad he stumbled onto my story! I'm glad my stories are at Wattpad. Are your stories there? Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

I Met Brandon Sanderson!

Brandon's signature in my book!
Brandon Sanderson is in my home town of Spokane, WA this weekend for a local convention called SpoCon where he is the guest of honor. Tonight however he was at our local Barnes & Noble for a book signing. It was awesome! We got to hear him give a reading which was great and pretty funny. He answered a bunch of questions from the audience about his book and finishing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series. He was really down to earth and just a genuinely nice guy. He's one of my writing heroes. Not only has he written some of my favorite novels of all time, but the guy hosts a writing podcast called Writing Excuses where he and other pros give tons of amazing writing advice week after week. It is a hugely valuable resource for writers. This guy gives and gives to help writers like me learn the craft. On his website you can read several versions of his novel Warbreaker in its various states of revision to see his process. You can also find Brandon's extensive comments on each and every chapter of his books in what he calls annotations, and tons of deleted and bonus scenes from his novels - what a terrific thing for writers! So yes, tonight I met one of my favorite authors and it was awesome! Thanks for stopping by and check out the pictures below!
Brandon and I after he signed my copy of The Way of Kings.
Brandon giving a great reading at his book signing.
Brandon answering questions from fans in the crowd.

My Revising Process

I took the first draft of my novella and broke it into chapters, then used Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet to find all the important story points and found out where they should be in the story according to chapter for the structure to be right. You can read about how I did this in my last blog post right below this one. So now I have all the elements of the story in the right places and it flows how it should. The story structure is nailed down. 

I've been rereading this second draft and am finding that while things are in the right place, there are still many places that need some more cleaning up. So I'm going to do one more draft before I send my manuscript off to beta readers. This last draft won't involve any story revision, but revising the prose down to the paragraphs and sentences to make the writing clearer. So for this novella I thought it would be fun to make a simple list of my process to get it ready for sharing with other eyeballs:

Revision Process:

Write the First Draft

Give it time to cool so I could distance myself from it

Reread the story

Organize it into chapters

Write a new outline based on these chapters 
(A brief paragraph per chapter)

Use Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet find to all the story points

Place these story points into the correct chapters

Revise Outline

Revise/Rewrite manuscript into a Second Draft so the story structure is right

Reread the story and realize there are still spots of sloppy writing

Revise the manuscript into a Third Draft so the prose is clean and concise

Read the story again to make sure it's ready for Beta Readers

What's your process once you have that first draft done? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sword and Urn hits # 300 in Fantasy on Wattpad

The novella I've been revising, Sword and Urn, hit # 300 in Fantasy on Wattpad today! That is really cool. I'm not even done revising it. I just finished chapter 9 of 10, but since I changed the ending chapter 10 is going to be all new. I don't think this is going to last so I grabbed a screenshot of it to share:
I noticed a couple days ago that it was #413 in Fantasy and in the 600s for Adventure. Then I believe it went to the 800s for fantasy and adventure. I kept revising, posting new versions of each chapter, and I changed the cover a bit. I'm not sure what the reason is but my novella somehow shot up the charts in Fantasy to 300 and I am humbled, surprised, pleased, and like I said excited! It is no longer on the charts for Adventure. Now if only someone would leave a comment :) 

I'm hoping to get lots of comments very soon when I pass this book off to some beta readers. I can't wait to hear what they have to say good or bad so I can continue making this into a better book. I'm very pleased with this second draft and I'm glad I took the time to study story structure a while back. Surprisingly most of the story fit into the right structure, unlike all of the other books I've written so far. I was very surprised by this because the first draft had no chapters. I broke it onto chapters by trying to make each one around 2,500 words and at a good place for a chapter break. Then I broke down my story with the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet and figured out where all the pieces should go and in what chapters. Then I did a chapter outline. All of this helped me to get the story in a better place structurally and I couldn't believe that somehow I had mostly written my story with the correct structure in place. There was some tweaking but mostly the ending is what needed a big change.

I can't wait to finish rewriting chapter 10 and putting a cap on this second draft so I can start getting some feedback. My feeling is that this will by a story I publish. That's the hope. Would you like to be a beta reader? Send me a note! Don't know where to find me? Check out all the buttons on the upper right of my site to get in touch with me with your method of choice. Or just start reading the novella now on Wattpad and you can leave comments on each chapter there, even if you're not a Wattpad member. It's super easy to read in a browser and they also have apps for just about every mobile device so you should find it easy to start reading. If you're going that route my book is # 19775537 in the Wattpad app. As always, thanks for stopping by!