If I Could Be Serious…

February 17, 2018

Things I’ve Learned While Painting

Part II: No Joking Matter

I don’t want to pick on Games Workshop, but since that was the miniatures company that I spent most of my time following, it might seem like it. I’m not attacking them, in fact what I’m about to talk about has been addressed by them many times. There are other companies that have done this as well, too, so there’s that.

The overall theme, feeling, and design of Warhammer 40K used to be fairly tongue in cheek. It was a serious game, no doubt, but there was still a lot of goofy stuff. Squats, for instance, were humans who colonized a low gravity world and turned into “space dwarfs” and worked as miners (hmm, sound familiar?) and their main mode of battle transportation was with motorcycles. It had the possibility to be really badass, but ended up looking rather silly.

Chaos had Noise Marines (still does, actually). They played electric guitars that fired sonic blasts at the enemy. Now they’re just some type of gun. Orks were kooky and big ol’ dummies. The list goes on.

And that’s just the storyline stuff.

While a lot of effort went into the sculpting of the miniatures, there was a more cartoony aspect to them. Compare something from 20 years ago to now. It’s sharper, more defined and detailed (hey, like my last post said!), and just a lot more serious. Other companies did this too; look up galleries online of old fantasy miniatures and you’ll see quality and craftsmanship that pales in comparison to what’s out there now.

I feel proud to paint and put together miniatures that were well thought out and crafted. I know that when I give it my best and put 100% into it, they’re getting the return investment they put into it as well (not to mention the money I paid…). Seeing something that is super duper sculpted with a shitty, breezy paint job, it just feels…wrong somehow.

And hey, that’s how it is with writing. I’ve always taken it seriously, but I put more time into it now. I take the outline, writing, editing and even submission process very seriously. Compared to how I did it ten years ago, I feel like a true professional (despite not getting professional pay rates!).

I might write something for fun here and there, but I’m not joking around with stories either. I want this to be something that in five, ten, or whatever years I’ll be proud to pull out and say “I wrote this.” Not something that’s laughable and cute for the time I wrote it in.

It’s not rocket science. Take things a little more seriously, put a little bit more effort into it, and you’ll see better results. Not only from yourself, but others as well. The difference between five minutes can lead to a lifetime of good results, and that’s what I’m happy to have learned, even from painting a little plastic figurine.

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The Finest of Details

February 13, 2018

Things I’ve Learned Painting Miniatures

Part I: Details Keep Getting Finer

Way back in 1996 when I started painting, I was 16 and timid. Having very little artistic ability, I couldn’t imagine myself painting miniatures on a regular basis, let alone doing them well. Still, I persisted, and flourished into the mediocre painter I am today. I think I was smart by choosing minis that appeared to be quick, simple paint jobs.

All my friends decided to get into Warhammer 40K. I had always liked the look and feel of it, and was definitely interested in tabletop wargaming. Still, I picked what looked to be the easiest army to paint—the Tyranids. To be honest, I slopped through that army, but yeah, they were much less detailed than all the others.

Throughout the years, as Games Workshop released new editions of 40K, they would redo a lot of the miniatures as well. While older models are always welcome on the battlefield, players are encouraged to give them more and more money keep up with the most recent releases and constantly evolve their battle forces. In addition to a constantly growing price tag, something else changes: the quality of sculpting.

Compare any miniature from 1994 with something that came out last week. You’ll see a major change in the level of quality and detail. Some of the microscopic angles and lines that are included now would cause a massive table flip 20+ years ago, but it’s commonplace now.

I’ve noticed that painting has become a larger hobby on its own. I mean, it always was, but given the growth of the internet, there are tons of “how to paint X” videos, in addition to galleries and bragging posts all over the place. One thing I see is that a lot of people log their hours working on something, and very rarely do you see “badly” painted minis. Let’s be honest, sometimes you see absolute shit on the battlefield and display cases.

This has given rise to commissioned painting, or simply unpainted armies. Two friends at the game store a few weeks ago, for instance, had their 40K armies out, having fun, but were literally basecoated. No detail, no highlighting, nothing. Both admitted they had no time and no talent to do it, but they were in fact on waiting lists for local pro painters to do their figures for them.

As for myself, I’m spending a lot more time on each figure in my Shadespire army. While I want it to look good, I keep noticing little, fine details that can only be done in a certain way. I hate having sloppy miniatures (I’m not 16 anymore, guys!), and I take pride in my work.

I keep finding all these parallels to writing with this. “Rules” and “standards” in literature are always growing and changing. You look at a published novel from 100 years ago, and you’ll see a sloppier, totally different style of writing as compared to something that just came out. While a lot of today’s novels still tell instead of showing, use lots of passive voice, and use highly unrealistic dialog, it’s a completely different way of writing than it used to be.

Fine detail might not be everyone’s forte, but the quality not only of writing and storytelling has grown, so has the control over this quality (editing, beta readers, etc.). Yes, I know there are a lot of books with major plot holes and unrealistic plot points, but the point is, it’s a lot different.

Not to say that writing from 100 years ago (or 50 years, 20 years, even 10 years ago…) is bad or sloppy. They had their place, and did what they set out to achieve. As Citadel and Games Workshop tighten their storylines and universes, moving from a tongue-in-cheek semi-RPG to a grimdark, uber-serious galaxy of constant war, the figures they create reflect that. Naturally, other companies follow suit and up the ante on the caliber of sculpt with their miniatures.

I’ll keep focusing on the fine details and do no less than by best. With painting my figures, and writing my stories.

 

If you’ve been following this blog with any sort of alacrity, you’ll know that around December of 2016 I dove headfirst into a new collectible card and dice game called Star Wars Destiny. It’s a lot of fun. Expensive (and I’m still suffering…), but fun. Infuriating, but fun.

Anyway, since I’m spending a bit of time at game stores now, I’ve reimmersed myself back into the gaming world. Ever since I was 13, I was big into gaming, and as a result, became a huge nerd because of it. Well, not just that, but it had a big hand in it. Back then, and for a long time, gaming stores were not in abundance, and gaming was not cool. Nowadays, board games and pretty much any type of game are massively popular. Barnes & Noble has a bunch, toy stores and toy departments are getting more than your typical Milton Bradley/Pressman kiddie/family/party games, and Kickstarter is flooded with new games all the time.

It’s also rekindling my interest in a lot of games I’ve fought long and hard to be out of.

Mainly, Warhammer. Games Workshop is a fantastic company, don’t get me wrong. They produce some of the best miniatures and paints known to man. Citadel Miniatures and Paints are expensive as hell, but so impressive in sculpt, scope, popularity, and awesomeness, I can’t complain.

Back in 1996, a bunch of friends and I got into Warhammer 40,000 big time. 40K is still one of the most popular games on the planet, and has become so much more visible than 22 years ago when we were delving into it. Regardless of all that, it got me and a bunch of pals into painting minis like it was nobody’s business.

Back then, we tried our best to make them look good, but we weren’t experts. Getting them painted and ready for the battlefield was our main priority, and if you go back and look at those figures, it shows. All of mine are gone, however, victims of one of my many phases of The Purge, a daunting task at getting rid of most, if not all, of my collectibles and random junk I had laying around.

Still, painting minis was a big hobby for me. Over the years, I’d buy and paint miniatures just for fun. Not just Citadel, but other brands like Reaper and Ral Partha as well. When I started working full-time back in 2009 (yes, I had somehow managed to survive until I was 29 years old at 25 hours a week. My debts and lack of a savings account now show for that, let me tell you!), I quit. Not that I wanted to, per se, but not having any time to paint in addition to working, spending time with your significant other, and making sure that life doesn’t run you over with a truck are not all things that can be juggled easily.

A few months ago, I was struggling with writing and many other things. My wife suggested I start painting again, just to kind of give myself a break. Not that I’m taking a break from writing, but it’s always good to give yourself some space when you’re getting too close.

So I pulled out the paints and got moving. It’s been fun. Back in October, Games Workshop put out a new skirmish game, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. My friend Tony is into it so he’s told me a bit about it. It looked interesting and after reading the rules, I figured I’d give it a try. In December, I bought myself a warband (group of miniatures ranging from 3-6) of Orruks (formerly known as Orcs), and let them sit for a few weeks.

Recently, I’ve painted two of the four. I have a lot of thoughts about painting, especially after being out of the game for so long. This will be a long series of blogs, so stay tuned if you’re interested. There’s a lot of neat stuff here, not all involving painting or gaming. Life lessons of all varieties are abundant, and I’ll show you why in future installments.

And don’t worry, I’ll still talk about writing. In fact, I’ve got a story I’m in the middle of right now, and if things go right, it’ll be finished within a few hours…

Anniversary of Awesomeness

February 3, 2018

Things are looking up!

Behold, my typical negativity is gone. I mean, sure, I’ve still got my hang ups, but I’m pretty happy right now. In spite of financial difficulties and the fact that no matter how much I work out I’m not losing any weight, things are going well.

Cloaked Press is releasing an anthology called “Spring Into Sci-Fi” in a short while. My story, “The Man Without a Planet” will be in it. I’m super excited, and you should be too! It’s an actual paper book, with real ink and everything! Be sure to pick one up when it’s available.

I’ve been writing and editing like crazy. I have a stack of stories I’m very happy with, and working hard to get them out there. Some are going over very well with critique groups. Others are finding their place. I think if it’s longer than 2,000 words, people don’t want to take the time to read, review, critique and comment on it. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that it’s harder to find reader for something that’s 3,500 words than 1,500.

Stories are out in the wilds! Some are even on shortlists, and I’m holding my breath. I know I shouldn’t, but after all the time I’ve spent on these, why not hope for something positive? I don’t want to say I deserve it, but would it be too much to say it’s my time for something good?

Journaling the hell out of a new novel. Still waiting to edit The Third Tower, but I’m getting other ideas out there. I even jotted down a quick idea for a short, sweet, classic sword & sorcery novel. Maybe they’ll bring back the cheap spinner paperbacks with ridiculous cover art? What’s so bad about a short novel about a bunch of muscle-bound psychos killing each other?

And hey, look at that: today’s my 5 year anniversary with this blog! Thanks for following all these years, and thanks for your support!

Not in writing news, but I had a sinus infection for over a month. It’s gone! Finally. Seriously, feels great.

I started a new Clay and Styg story the other day. Should be done soon! Hopefully things will continue on this good path. As always, stay awesome!

There’s something horrifying about not having anything to do.

After finishing The Third Tower, and any novel for that matter, I give myself two weeks. I can do whatever I want—write, don’t write, come up with ideas, edit, whatever. I don’t want to feel tons of pressure after finishing a huge undertaking, especially when it’s, as of now, a “hobby.”

(If you’re wondering, I have three other novels I’ve written. One I tried hopelessly in vain to have any kind of reaction towards, and two that didn’t quite cut the mustard.)

My day job is entering the slow time of the year, so I have a lot of 8 hours days where I sit around and do nothing. Perfect time for writing/editing/etc., right? Nope. It’s hard to stay motivated when you sit around and do nothing all day. I open an MS Word document, tap out a few sentences, and put it aside, promising myself to do more later that day, later that night, the next day, the weekend, or basically any other time than when I should be doing it.

So yesterday, I started a story. Something I’ve had an idea swimming around in my head for a few weeks. I got about three paragraphs into it and…got mad.

Not mad at the story, just mad. Thing around the house, things at work, things within my family, personal things that have nothing to do with writing this story. But somehow, those thoughts came to mind and I couldn’t continue writing, so I put it aside.

And here I am on Sunday, writing about how I can’t write.

Maybe I’m feeling that slump of no contact from editors. Not only did I send out 10 short story submissions (with no responses yet), I’ve had multiple queries, asking editors what’s the status on my story sent out half a year ago, with no response.

Is there some behind the scenes “let’s screw over this Myke Edwards guy, because fuck him” conspiracy going on? Are they just lazy? Did I do something wrong and they just tossed out my submission without bothering to let me know?

Why keep writing if no one cares? If people won’t even post my story on an unpaying blog that posts free stories for people to write, why bother? I mean, seriously, that means I literally can’t even give it away for free.

Maybe I’ll finish the story. Maybe today, even. Maybe I’ll edit The Third Tower and attempt to get it published. Maybe I’ll realize that someone, somewhere, gives a shit.

And that is what is horrifying to me. Not knowing whether or not I should keep going, keep working hard at punching a brick wall because maybe, just maybe, despite my broken and bleeding knuckles and overly-exhausted nature, it will fall down and I can get by.

Maybe.

Happiness Is…

November 27, 2017

Being finished!

Earlier today, I finished the final chapter of The Third Tower. Draft number one of my latest novel is completed!

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am about this. I’ve had the idea for years. I mean, seriously, more than 15 years ago I started thinking about this. Three years ago (almost exactly, truth be told), I started writing it. After many breaks, starting it back up again, and repeating that procedure, I finally forced myself to quit dragging my feet and just finish it.

Naturally, I have a lot of editing to do. There are many, many, MANY contradictions and loose ends I’ve left in this, but it’s understandable. Writing something here and there over the course of three years, you’ll have that. I can’t imagine it will take long (famous last words…) to get it ship-shape, but I’ll get there when I do.

For now, I’m going to let myself relax. I have many other stories to write, edit, and attempt to get published. Who knows? Maybe my next big thing is right around the corner.

As for novel-length, well, er, novels, what’s next?

I’ve got a huge list of stuff that needs to be written. Things I’ve planned on for years. Things that hopefully won’t take three years of hemming and hawing to finish. Things that can get written and taken care of when they need to be.

I can’t wait for you to see this one, though. Stay tuned, big things are just around the corner.

Are You Long Enough?

November 19, 2017

Smart phones are great. I love how not only can I check my email, but I receive a cute little jingle that lets me know when a new email comes in. (Please bear in mind I’ve only had a smart phone since January. Yeah, yeah, get over it.)

So imagine waking up in the morning to the tune of a new email, long before your alarm goes off. This morning, I did, and I noticed it was from a publication! In fact, they’ve had my story since April. Yep, April—SEVEN months ago! I had a note to send a query on December 1st if I hadn’t heard from them by then. Let’s be honest, even though I expected a big fat NOPE on the email, I was hearing back from them!

Of course it was a rejection. But may I just say how absolutely fucking pissed off I am about this?

My story was rejected (actually, “withdrawn” was the term they used, so maybe they just took it out of consideration completely?) due to not being long fiction. Let me say that again—my 3,000-some word story was withdrawn because it isn’t long fiction.

SQ Mag, an Australian speculative fiction publication, has been going through some turmoil lately. No activity, long wait times, etc. At the end of October, they announced they were working hard to clean up their slush pile and basically redo the magazine. Great, they’re making an effort.

However, when I submitted back in April, and even now with their revamping, the fiction requirements were the same. 500 word minimum, 7,500 maximum. No serials, no fan fiction, yadda yadda…the same old stuff.

So how is it that a story that is 3,499 words long is not considered “long” fiction? I mean, I guess it’s not novella or even novel length, but if I’m reading correctly, that word count fits perfectly within their parameters for acceptable word counts.

This is the second Australian publication that not only made me wait forever for an answer, but gave a really annoying response when they finally got back to me. The sheer condescension, the utter pretention, the aggravating and rude cryptic responses…what the fuck? Is it just an Aussie thing? Or did I just happen to run into the first readers/editors that don’t give a shit about much other than their vegemite sandwiches?

Okay, that was uncalled for. I have no problem with Aussies, but I think maybe I won’t be submitting to their magazines anymore.

Speaking of long waits, Persistent Visions is getting a little out of control. Their slush pile is dating all the way back to November 14th…of LAST YEAR!

Guys…do you need first readers? I humbly volunteer to help out, FOR FREE, to get your slush pile back on track. It has been close to half a year since I submitted my story to Persistent Visions, and while I’m sure the answer is going to be a big fat no (hey, surprise me with another answer, guys!), I’d like to know that I’ll at least get that answer. I’d like to know if they’re okay, and not going through massive troubles in life keeping them from running this publication. They’ve got some great content, so check it out now. It’s free!

And finally, I have one chapter left to write in The Third Tower. One. Chapter. To. Go. Feels good to say! It should have been done three years ago, but that’s not the point.

I’m one chapter away from being done! Yay!

Totally unrelated–I saw Justice League last night. Awesome movie. Well done, guys.

Crispy Like the Air

October 16, 2017

Autumn is in full swing here in Toledo, and I couldn’t be happier. As much as I love warm weather, the low 90’s temperatures started getting old, fast. I don’t want to walk out of my house in the morning in mid-October and start sweating already, so this low 50’s stuff is very much welcome.

It always feels like perfect writing weather, too. You see the memes all the time, something about a cozy sweater, a blanket, a hot cup of tea or coffee or cocoa, a cat on your lap, and a good book. Or, a story in front of you that is being worked on with the utmost diligence. Cute. Clever. Cliché.

But, it’s truth. I feel more at ease when there’s a chill in the air. Maybe a part of it has something to do with the fact that I don’t feel the need to constantly be running around from place to place. I can sit still, open the curtains, and watch the leaves fall while I tap away at whatever chapter I’m in the middle of.

Speaking of, only a few more to go! The Third Tower is chugging along nicely, but I really wish I had more time to just sit my ass down and do it. It’s nice to chip away at it when I can, but it sure would be nice to pound out two chapters (or more!) in a day. Still, I’m getting it done, and not finding other things to do—seriously, other things are finding me.

There’s also a lot of big things coming soon from me. A new story, and one that’s been up for a year now, “It’s the Great Murdering Pumpkin, Charlie Townes,” is getting a major push! Keep your eyes open for that—it’s free!

Still waiting to hear from several publications. I hate to complain about the wait, but seriously, do they even read the slush pile? One keeps updating their status every day, but they’ve been “reading” submissions from November of last year for close to a month now. November of LAST YEAR. Reading, my ass.

But, I can wait. I’ll be patient, because I’m at their mercy. Not only that, but I have plenty of other options. Things are out there, and things are getting done. I humble and heartily thank those who are making an effort to further the artform, and the arts in general.

Seriously, writing, graphic art of some sort, music, performance, and any other thing you can think of, all deserve your support. Don’t do horrible things to ruin it, like that Weinstein guy and Al Michaels making tasteless jokes. Do what you can to keep it alive, and keep it moving. Yes, this might mean spending a little money, but even if it’s a measly dollar, does it matter?

Contrary to the fact that I haven’t been posting in a while, I’m happy. Things are going well. I really have nothing to complain about that would make much of a difference if I did. Where’s the harm in that? Hopefully, I can finish this book soon and find it a good home.

Hopefully, everyone can have such good fortune with whatever it is they do.

It finally arrived! Volume Nine of Bardic Tales and Sage Advice is finally here, in my grasp…and it feels delicious!

As you should remember, last July my story “Behind You, in the Corner” was published in a fantastic online publication called Bards and Sages Quarterly. Of course you bought a copy. Then, at the end of the year, there was a poll for the best/favorite piece from each issue. Thanks for voting for me, by the way.

My story won for the July issue. There were a TON of votes on it, so obviously people liked it. It didn’t quite make story of the year, but that’s okay. There was a response to it, and I’m happy about that!

Not only did I get an extra couple of bucks, it was published in BT&SA vol. 9, which we’ve been waiting in deep anticipation for over a few months now. Friday, it showed up and man is it beautiful.

Big thanks to Julie Ann Dawson, the editor. She had the foresight to read my story through to the end, and accept it for publication. I love visionaries like her, they make the world a better place!

And of course, thanks so much to everyone who voted. Thanks for reading my stories, following me, supporting me, all that jazz. I truly appreciate it and mean every word I say. You’re all awesome!

If you would like to buy a copy, go here:

Bardic Tales and Sage Advice vol. 9!

So, in other news, I’m chugging along at the Third Tower. Since I sit in front of a computer all day at work, I haven’t had the drive to write much lately. Then I was like, what about pen on paper? So, several recent chapters have been handwritten. I spent some time last night transcribing them onto the computer, which naturally killed my eyes and back (maybe I should have used a desk chair instead of a wooden kitchen chair?), but they’re all set. The best news is, I’m only 13 chapters away from the end!

I never wanted to have another several years long novel on my hands. I started this three years ago, took a break, wrote some more, took another break, and on and on…

Hell, I didn’t even touch it in 2016! I tried, I thought about it, but nothing came out. Shame on me. But hooray for me for getting it done now! Only a few more weeks and then it’s complete, and I can do anything I want.

Other short stories have been getting done as well. I just had one up on the online workshop last week, and it got 11 critiques! Most of them were very positive and helpful, and a lot of the reviewers “liked” the story. That’s promising!

Next up, I’ve got a mind-fuck fantasy story that takes place in the summer, but autumn has already begun. Hmm, unlike here in Toledo, where it’s been autumn for two days and feels like high summer.

Wishful thinking maybe? Nah, I’ll fight the heat and enjoy my maple pecan lattes and wear scarves like the hipster doof I am.

Later, sexies! Stay awesome, and thanks as always!

Focus Like a Jedi

September 3, 2017

Having hobbies is a great thing. If not for hobbies, what would we do with our spare time? Clean the house?!

Way back when I was 13, my brother and I got a game called Hero Quest for Christmas. It wasn’t your average board game. It had a campaign feature, lots of interactivity, and an ever-changing game board. Neat!

That love of gaming carried over into my freshman year when not only did I get into this new thing called collectible card games, but a few friends introduced me to role-playing games. I mean, I knew what they were, but didn’t have anyone to enjoy them with.

I never looked back, despite a few years of not doing much.

So for the past few years, I’d been out of gaming pretty big time. I wanted something new that I could play, not waste a lot of money on, and actually enjoy with a community of others. Last October, I found my game.

Star Wars Destiny, a new collectible card game from Fantasy Flight Games. My relationship with FFG is long and varied, but I can always count on them to make quality games. This was no exception.

I’ve been into the game pretty hardcore since it came out. Due to a lack of funds and time, I haven’t been able to go to any of the big, major tournaments, but that should change next year. What’s cool is, there’s a new set coming out in two weeks!

It’s been killing me. Specifically, my writing.

Okay, not that much. But I recently made my master list, and I’ve been following it pretty good. Editing, mostly, but things are getting done. I’m happy! It’s a lot better than sitting around and not doing it.

The worst thing is, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the new cards from the upcoming Star Wars set. More than I should be.

It’s okay, though. This excitement lasts a few days, then dies down, and I’m back to the grind. In fact, as I write this, it’s a three-day weekend for me. What time I have to myself (which is most of it), I can do pretty much anything I want, which again is mostly editing.

However, I did come up with a new story idea the other day. Why?! I’m trying to finish a novel here!

I just need to promise myself to keep working on this. Star Wars is awesome, and I’m super excited about it! But it’s killing me to have to wait. That’s good, though—it isn’t going anywhere.

And neither am I. But the chance to get my writing back on track and have things where they need to be is. Time to keep it moving. Time to put the cards aside for the weekend, and focus. Like a Jedi.