A place for pointless news and disjointed personal musings.
|This blog is merely for tracking my progress and keeping my potential readers up-to-date on the things going on with my work.|
|So, there have been some moderately interesting developments on my end.
-Social networking: So, I've had both a Twitter and a Tumblr blog for a long time, I just haven't used either of them in over a year (or four years, in Tumblr's case). But I recently decided to start them up again, both to help me do some off-site promoting of my writing and to give me some outlets to blog about broader topics than what I can here (this blog is mostly for writing and reading-related topics). So, without further ado, behold my Twitter (https://twitter.com/Soran_M_Bane ) and my Tumblr blog (http://soranmbane.tumblr.com/).
-Pirate otters or something: As is indicated by the "currently reading" section of my Goodreads profile , I recently started reading a book by the name of Sons of Masguard and the Mosque Hill Fortune, Part One. I'd been interested in it ever since it showed up in my Goodreads recommendations while back, but I never looked closely enough into it to realize that it was actually being given away as a free download by the author. Well, I finally looked closely enough at it, and and downloaded it, and I'm reading it. It's pretty interesting so far. If you like talking animal stories, maybe think about hopping over to the author's website and checking it out yourself? There's quite literally nothing to lose.
Also, I just got home from the grocery store a couple hours ago, and I've got a watermelon.
... What? That's important news. I love watermelons.
|Since I haven't uploaded anything to my portfolio for over a week, I figured it was about time to use something that I've been sitting on for a while for just such an occasion; one of the video game reviews I wrote for my high school newspaper. In this case, my review of the illustrious and utterly fantastic Portal 2. I may upload a few of my other newspaper reviews and columns in the far future when I'm going through similar slow periods, but I'll try to keep them few and far between. I am supposed to be a fiction writer, after all.
Anyway, please enjoy my eighteen-year-old self's journalistic magnum opus: "Portal 2 Review"
I actually still stand by most of what I wrote in this review, but if I were to do it over again, I'd probably also talk a little more about the game's wonderful co-op mode than I did. I didn't get a chance to play it until after I'd written and printed the review, you see. Fun fact: my co-op partner was one of my fellow Pulse staffers, and also the guy who did most of the page layout work for the printed review. Other fun fact: the "guy I follow on Twitter" I quote in the review is actually none other than Ian Milham, best known as the art director for the Dead Space video game franchise. He's a pretty cool guy.
|You know something I'm actually kind of thankful for? The fact that I never had an internet connection as a child.
You see, while I never had the compulsion to do much writing back then, I did do a lot of daydreaming. Usually it would be me thinking up my own stories in settings that I liked (so, basically "fanfiction," although that's a term I wouldn't learn until years later), and all of it was terrible. All of it. Like, literally the worst kind of Mary Sue self-insert dross you can imagine, which is why I'm glad I didn't have an internet connection; I might have actually ended up writing some of that awful mess down and putting it where other people could see it.
No, I wouldn't get an internet connection until about the age of twelve, when I was finally starting to grow a sense of self-awareness. That's about when I finally became aware of the concept of "fanfiction" - that is, stories written by amateurs within established settings - and, at first, I thought it seemed like an awesome concept. After all; no single writer or team could ever explore all the possibilities most settings have to offer, so why not leave it to the fans?
Well, because most of those fans are terrible writers, for one. I learned that pretty quick.
And also because most of the possibilities those fans seemed preoccupied with exploring were more along the lines of "what if these two characters who hate each other fell in love?", "what if these two characters who aren't gay were gay and fell in love?", or, best of all, "what if these two brothers who hate each other and aren't gay fell in love?" (thanks for those images, Inuyasha fandom).
So, needless to say, my initial impressions of fanfiction as a medium were not good. I ended up doing what most people on the internet seem to have done; pushing fanfiction off to a healthy distance, turning around, and walking away while only rarely throwing a few curious glances backwards. That few times I have looked back, I've rarely found anything capable of making me want to explore the medium further; in fact, fanfiction writers seem to have added "what if I took this fun series and stripped away all the things that make it fun?" to that list of "possibilities" it enjoys exploring.
And now I'm writing my own fanfiction, and for one of those series I used to do most of my stupid childhood daydreaming for to boot; Redwall.
Why? Well, I already wrote a blog entry all about why ("Why Would You Do That?" ), but basically the main points were that I want to teach myself the basics of storytelling in a familiar setting where most of the world-building work has already been done for me, and because I just really like Redwall and want to try to write the best story possible in that setting. I don't expect many people to bother looking at it, and I absolutely get why; most fanfiction is awful. The entire medium is a massive minefield of poor grammar and self-insert wish fulfillment nonsense, so I'm writing The Krimson Traitor more for my own benefit than for the benefit of any sort of audience, because there probably isn't going to be an audience.
And, of course, at the same time as I'm working on my fanfic, I'm developing my original settings and putting out original short stories in those settings; things which I can see gaining an audience. Then, once The Krimson Traitor is done and over, I can use the experience I gained writing it to start up work on an original novel, and, whether The Krimson Traitor ever gains an audience, that original novel will be all the better for all the lessons I learned writing my fanfiction. That's the plan, anyway.
And, in case you're wondering, no; the plot of The Krimson Traitor isn't inspired at all by my childhood daydreaming. My daydreaming was mostly about this female albino rat (whose name escapes me now, but it was probably something pretty ridiculous). No, The Krimson Traitor is, like, about this... Silver fox, whose name is Nihil... Dammit!
|Okay, I've got myself some coconut juice (which I'm drinking straight out of the coconut, because why not) and I figure now is as good a time as any to talk about some short story ideas I've been kicking around. I haven't developed any of these much beyond the basic concepts, and it's probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future because I want to spend the next few weeks focusing on The Krimson Traitor, but I felt like throwing them out there anyway for anyone who might be interested.
-This first one is another story set in the Mythryn universe, which, in the same vein as Starwake, would likely be a smaller, low-key story detailing how one of the major characters set to show up in Mythryn (in this case, an unflappable and heavily-accented red fox named Warth) ended up in Brass Valley in the first place. I'm not entirely sure what the point of the story would be, but I know I'd like to go somewhere with it since I really haven't spend much time with the non-birds of the setting or even talked at all about the canine-dominated city of Cliffden.
-You know, has there ever been a story about dolphins where the dolphins were the antagonists (and not sympathetic antagonists, either, like in the movie Orca; I mean where the dolphins are just being jerks for the sake of being jerks, as they're very much prone to in real life)? Well, what better place to delve into such a stereotype-defying concept than the Mythryn world? This story would follow the crew of a small merchant ship (probably starring a young otter as the protagonist) as they're subject to the increasingly-violent attention of a gang of punk dolphins and have to find a way to deal with the situation before anyone gets hurt. This story would obviously be a bit more substantive and drama-filled, and I have a better idea of where I want to take it, so this is probably the story that's going to get written first.
-This story concept is a little different, and to help you understand where it comes from I'm going to have to tell you a little bit about my family history. First, my last name - Miljkovich - is Serbian, and comes from my mother. When I was growing up, she used to tell me a lot of stories about her father, Stanislav "Stasha" Miljkovich. One such story was about how my grandfather was a soldier for the Serbian military in WWII, but wound up being captured and spending the rest of the war in a POW camp. With him being an actor by avocation, him and the other POWs would put together plays for their captors. I don't know enough of the details to make a true biographical piece (nor could I ever ask for them, as my grandfather died about five years before I was born and my mother died when I was fourteen), but I still think there's a really strong concept there that I would like to expand upon. Some sort of war drama, perhaps, where an actor-turned-soldier winds up being captured by the enemy and has to use his acting skills to ingratiate himself to his captors and keep himself alive. It could be really interesting, especially once the reader learns that it has a loose basis in real events.
Again, I want to focus on The Krimson Traitor for a bit, so these concepts are likely to stay mere concepts for a while yet. But still, this should be enough to give a taste of what I've got in store for the future.
|Now that I've lured you in with memes and I'm not completely exhausted, I figured I aught to give another update on what's been going on with me:
-Firstly, I finished reading The Rogue Crew just this morning. What did I think? Well, of course I liked it. It certainly wasn't perfect - some faults in the writing make me think that this was probably an early draft that didn't get edited much in the wake of Brian Jacques' death - but it was still Redwall and suitably full of fun and adventure. Also, part of my reasoning for choosing to read The Rogue Crew over Doomwyte the last time I was browsing through the book store was because, since The Rogue Crew is the most recent story with the highest-stakes plot, it would be more likely to have major world developments for me to incorporate into The Krimson Traitor. That turned out to be entirely sound reasoning on my part, since a couple of the developments at the end of The Rogue Crew (namely, Salamandastron snagging itself a fancy ship and forming an alliance with the sea otters) should be pretty pretty interesting to play around with in The Krimson Traitor.
-Secondly, do you see that bat? The one I'm using as the cover for this blog and as my portfolio cover? If you're wondering where it's from, don't; I made it for a high school graphic design project using Adobe Illustrator. I'm also a bit of an artist, you see... Or at least I was; I haven't been doing much art since I got out of high school. But I did recently recently install Inkscape (a free vector art program), and I plan on trying to get back into creating vector art so I can start making my own covers for my stories. I might even try my hand at creating a digital version of the map for my Mythryn stories.
-Speaking of Mythryn, I've started up work on a little something I'm calling the Guide to the Mythril Peninsula, which, as the title may imply, is going to be a comprehensive guide to the setting featured in "Shattered Gold" , "Starwake" , and which I plan to use for future stories. I already have my personal notes, of course, but those wouldn't be good to upload since they were really only meant for my own benefit and are thus disorganized and full of sparse descriptions and plot spoilers. This guide will be for people who maybe want to know a little more about this setting, but don't want to wait for me to write enough stories to give a complete picture of the place (I try to avoid info dumps in my stories, so world details only come in bits and pieces as they become relevant to the plot). The guide is going to be full of information on things like the geography of the region, the different cities and their cultures, some of the more common animal species and the personalities they tend to have, and the history of the region. I'm not sure when it'll be ready to release, but it should make for some interesting reading once it's done.
And that's pretty much all the semi-interesting stuff that's going on with me right now.
|It's done... Oh, thank seasons, it's finally done...
Over 7,300 words of pure torture, finally released to the public. Well, torture for me, at any rate; hopefully not for my readers. Writing this "short" story has been an arduous process. What was originally intended to be a 3,000-some word simple love story ended up turning into something entirely less manageable, but I managed in the end, more or less.
Now, it's just a matter of getting some sleep (I've been up close to twenty-four hours straight by this point), having enough time away from this thing that I can proof-read it with a clear head, and/or waiting for some reviews to come in and tell me the things that are almost certainly wrong with the story so I can do some editing. Fun.
|I wanted to have a short story release to announce before I made any updates like this, but it's been so long since I posted a blog entry that I figured I'd just get it over with now. There's still things to talk about, at any rate:
-My progress on Shattered Gold: It's coming along nicely now. I managed to break past a nasty creative slump around the tail-end of last week, and things have been trucking along steadily (at least a couple hundred words a day) since. I'm at about 4,300 words in right now and currently well into the climax of the story, so, unless there's another case of writer's block between here and there, I fully expect to be done within a few days. I'm pretty excited.
-Goodreads: I went and set up a Goodreads account (https://www.goodreads.com/SoranMBane) recently, so if anyone's interested in checking out what books I've read and what I have in my collection, there you go. Wracking my brain in an attempt to recall all the books I've read over my life has been quite an exercise (good thing I'm only twenty-one, so I've only got about a decade-and-a-half of reading experience to sift through).
-Avatar: Me and my boyfriend were browsing a random store downtown, and there I came across the full first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender for a really good price (it was five DVDs for $20, so I got the Avatar set and my boyfriend got himself a copy of Hellboy 2). Maybe not the most hard-hitting update ever, but this is a show I've never really had a chance to get into despite the fact that I love good animated shows, so it's a pretty big milestone for me.
And that's about everything that's gone on since my last update. Exciting stuff, I'm sure.
"Good writers borrow, great writers steal."
I don't quite remember where I first heard that, or who it's from (and apparently neither does anyone else, as indicated by a quick Google search), but it's an interesting quote to me all the same. At the very least, it makes it easier for me to not feel so guilty about ripping off my favourite writers all the time. Still, credit should be given where credit is due, so for this particular blog entry I'd like to do just that; single out some of the writers and stories whose influence will undoubtedly be seen most heavily in my own work. You know, to show just how much I appreciate the donations.
-The entire animal fiction genre: I do have a Redwall fanfiction underway, after all. The Guardians of Ga'Hoole inspiration for my Mythryn stories is also bound to be pretty well in evidence. Elements of Watership Down and Silverwing will likely crop up from time to time as well. As I've said in previous blog entries, I was basically raised by stories about talking animals; it's only natural that I'd try to dabble in them myself as a writer.
-Richard K. Morgan: I don't think there's any writer whose influence on my style has been quite as... Pervasive. Not so much in what I write about, but in how I write about it; all the brutal action, sardonic humour, thoughtful commentary, and immediate realism of his stories are things that I desperately want to include in my own writing, even if I don't swear as much and won't be indulging in any sexual themes until I get around to writing about humans (sex scenes with animals would be skeevy, gross, and wrong; no need to worry about me going that route). He has influenced my plots and characters to an extent, of course; for example, once I'm done with The Krimson Traitor, my first original novel is going to be a detective story with a sarcastic first person narration, which was not necessarily intended to mirror Altered Carbon (I wanted to do a story about a talking crow, and a detective story just seemed like the best fit, since crows are such good problem solvers), but I have to concede that the resemblance is uncanny. Even in The Krimson Traitor, the protagonist - Nihil - is almost a PG-13-rated vulpine version of the protagonist of the Land Fit For Heroes books - Ringil - with their cynical attitudes, sword-wielding skills, and curiously similar names. Oh, and getting back to Mythryn, here's the first sentence of the plot synopsis I have written for it in my notes:
It’s said that crows are among the most intelligent of all creatures, but Mythryn – “Ryn” for short – is smart even among crows, with a talent for finding the truth that no bird or beast can match.
Sound familiar at all? If not, then you probably haven't read the plot synopsis of The Steel Remains:
A dark Lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs Ringil Eskiath - Gil, for short - a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword.
Intentional homage? An unconscious accident? I wrote the Mythryn synopsis so long ago that I don't even remember, but either way it's probably not coincidental.
-Fallout: New Vegas: How influental was this game to me? Well, Zero (the protagonist of Free Fox, a sci-fi story I'm planning that I've already talked about about a couple times in this blog) was actually based on one of my Couriers. Well, more based on one my Couriers, which was based on one of my Lone Wanderers from Fallout 3, which was based on the protagonist of this one obscure independent short film call Agent MX-Z3RO (this character has kind of a complicated lineage). But ultimately, it was the witty, duster-wearing, energy weapon-wielding, tyrant-hating courier with the "Confirmed Bachelor" perk that made the cut for Free Fox. Outside of that one character, there'll also be some similarities in how I handle the overall themes of my stories, with different groups and characters all clearly intended to represent different ideas and issues while still (hopefully) being complex enough to conceivably be actual people.
-Digimon: If characters starting out working for a bad guy, but then learning the error of their ways and becoming a hero turns out to be a common character arc in my stories, I think you can safely blame it on my childhood spent obsessing over this show.
-White Fang: All the slashed jugulars and horribly brutalized protagonists that might crop up in my stories probably come from this book. Or maybe also from Richard Morgan. Or both. On a side-note; there's a part of me that wants to wonder why I always see this book filed in the children's section, but then I have to remind myself that there's instances in the Redwall books where characters get their heads mounted on pikes. Children's books can be pretty hardcore.
-Yahtzee Croshaw: Not necessarily as a storyteller, but Yahtzee was a huge influence on me back when I was writing video game reviews for my high school newspaper. The experience I gained on that paper was invaluable to my current writing pursuits, but it wouldn't have been nearly as fruitful without that foul-mouthed Brit to draw inspiration from.
Remember; it's impossible to avoid being derivative in your art, so you might as well just be conscious and honest about who you're deriving from. And, you know, say thank you to the creators you steal from every once in a while. It's the least you can do.
|Alright, since I don't have any items to release this week, I figured I'd at least make a news post to keep peeps up-to-date on what I'm up to:
-I've started Chapter 5 of The Krimson Traitor. It's less than a paragraph in at this point, so I can't make any promises about when I might be done with it, but it's a start.
-My new short story, Shattered Gold, is turning into an absolute monster; about 3,200 words long and counting at the time of writing. And here I thought a love story about eagles would be simple, but I guess that goes to show what I know about my capacity for being simple. I hope to at least have this thing done by the end of next week, but then I've been hoping to "have it done by the end of next week" for about three weeks now, so we'll just have to see where it goes.
-Did you know I play Minecraft? Well, I do, and I finally got around to downloading that Abbeycraft adventure map today. I haven't been doing a whole lot of gaming lately on account of my writing, so I figured I might as well remedy that with something related to the very thing that's been responsible for keeping me from my games. Plus, even if it's only out of Minecraft blocks, just seeing how they've built the Abbey is going to useful for helping me actually visualize the place once the plot of The Krimson Taitor makes its way there. Abbeycraft is pretty fun so far, at any rate; anyone who likes Redwall and has Minecraft should probably play it.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go blanket the Great Hall in cake.
|I've been floored by a nasty migraine the last couple of days, so I've unfortunately not been able to get much actual story writing done (I'm currently working on finishing a Mythryn-related short story called Shattered Gold). I still want to have something to show for today, though, so I figured I'd pump out a blog entry instead.
So, today's topic is another animal story-specific one. As I'm sure you're aware, animal stories tend to draw from popular stereotypes when it comes to the characterizations of all the different animal species. You know; rats are dirty and selfish, cats are snooty, foxes are sly and sexy, crows are creepy and/or thieves, owls are wise, dolphins are cheerful and heroic, etc. etc. These are the archetypes that have been with talking animal stories ever since the days of Aesop's Fables, and - as you can probably see if you've read my short story, Starwake - I aim to move away from those stereotypes with my Mythryn stories in favor of more realistic depictions. There are plenty of reasons for this; it's a good way to differentiate myself from the animal stories have come before, it allows me to perhaps teach people a little about the animal world and garner some respect for under-appreciated creatures, and it should allow me to create more nuanced and believable characters from these animals.
So, in that spirit, here are just a few of the animal species you can expect to see in my Mythryn stories and how my depictions of them will differ from their usual popular depictions:
-Crows: Ah, yes, the star of the story. Crows in fiction tend to be depicted as creepy and evil or thuggish and thieving at their worst, or as bumbling and stupid at their most positive. The reality is that crows are incredibly intelligent and sociable animals. Especially notable is the New Caledonian crow (which is what Mythryn herself is intended to be; New Caledonia obviously doesn't exist in this setting, so this species instead hails from the Crescent Isle), which is quite famous in scientific circles for its propensity for tool-use and problem solving. The talent crows have for problem solving is part of why I decided that I wanted to write a detective story starring one; it just made sense. Crows (as well as other corvid species, particularly ravens and magpies) tend to be the intellectual geniuses of the Mythryn world.
-Rats: In fiction, rats are generally depicted as dirty, vicious, thieves, and downright evil. In real life, rats are highly social and - while not approaching anything close to the level of crows - are still quite decent at problem solving. In the Mythryn world, this translates to a generally jovial, industrious, and family-oriented species, which - while they can understand and use technology - probably won't be inventing a new steam engine any time soon. They're basically the average blue-collar Joe of the Mythryn world.
-Prairie dogs: It's funny how few prairie dogs you see in fiction, isn't it? There honestly doesn't seem to be much of a stereotype to correct, but if there actually were any prairie dogs in fiction, I imagine they'd be billed as very silly, bumbling characters. I mean, just look at them; chubby, goofy-looking little squirrel-things that they are. What other reputation could they ever get? Well, like the rats and crows already mentioned, prairie dogs are far more intelligent and sociable than their appearance might suggest. Prairie dogs have a particular talent for language; they possess a sophisticated system of calls which they use to warn their family members of threats, which is perhaps one of the most complex languages of any non-human animal. In the Mythryn world, this translates to a species which - while not particularly good with technology - are absolute masters when it comes to words; they're essentially a species of poets, scribes, storytellers, songwriters, and scholars. They also tend to be fairly friendly and family-oriented, similar to rats.
-Spiders & mice: Now, not every animal in the Mythryn world is intelligent. There are many - mostly very small creatures, fish, invertebrates, and herding animals - which are exactly as smart as they are in real life. For spiders - one of the most hated creatures in our popular culture - that translates into a fairly docile animal which can make a great pet with the right handling. For mice - one of the most clever and heroically depicted animals in fiction - that leaves them as a mere fast-breeding source of food for the intelligent meat eaters.
-Owls: The wisest of the animal story cannon (owing, of course, to the Greek legends of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and her pet owl), owls in real life are not particularly intelligent. In the Mythryn world, owls (along with most other birds of prey) mostly get by on their strength and combat prowess. Most of them at least operate on some code of honor (as opposed to crows and their preference for logic), and tend to live solitary lives.
There you have it; just a handful of the creatures common to the Mythryn world and how they'll be depicted. Maybe you learned something from some of that, but either way, hopefully you have a better idea of what direction I want to take this setting.