Category Archives: Misc

Random posts not specifically related to writing.

Inspiration

I spent Labor Day weekend at my parents’ house out in the country. Saturday night we noticed the sky lighting up off in the distance, so I went outside to check it out. The storm was still quite a ways off – there was no rain, the wind was just starting to pick up, and the storm clouds were high up in the sky.

You couldn’t see the actual lightning, and the thunder was just a quiet rumbling off in the distance, but you could feel the storm in the air. I walked out into the yard, just soaking it in. There was a row of trees between me and the storm, and whenever the lightning flared you could see their silhouettes. It was kind of eerie.

I pulled out my cell phone, thinking I would record a video clip to share on social media (because that’s what we do nowadays, isn’t it?). But I quickly realized two things:

  1. A cell phone video could never truly capture the moment.
  2. I would be wasting an incredible experience if I tried to observe it all through the stupid little screen of my phone.

So I put my cell phone away — my friends would just have to miss out.

As the storm got closer, the sky above me would light up in brief, flickering flashes, almost like a strobe light. And every now and then you would get an especially bright flash, almost blinding even. I would say that it made the sky as bright as day, but that wouldn’t truly be an accurate description. Because for as bright as some of those flashes were, it was not the yellow light that you associate with the sun. No, this was very much a blue-white light that you would not see in the daytime.

I don’t know how long I stood there enjoying the light show, but it was quite a while. And it was amazing. I kind of understood what motivated people to become storm chasers. It also made me appreciate one of the joys of being a writer — because this was one of those moments that I would love to capture in my writing.

Of course, my words probably aren’t much better than my little cell phone video would have been, and it still remains a moment that truly needs to be experienced, but for me, it’s one of those moments that inspires me, that makes me want to continue improving my craft, until I can truly recreate moments like that, so that readers can almost feel like they were there.

When the first droplets of rain started to fall, I finally forced myself to go back inside — which was probably a good thing, because five minutes later it was pouring rain out. So I sat down at the kitchen table with my parents, and we all had a cup of tea while watching the storm rage outside. Then it was time to call it a night. But before I went to bed I knew I needed to get the experience written down, while the memories and the emotions were still fresh.

And that is my story of inspiration from the holiday weekend.

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Time to refocus

Been giving it a lot of thought over the last week or so, and sadly I feel it’s time to shutter the blog for awhile. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing it, or that I’ve run out of ideas. The problem is that in focusing on putting out a solid blog entry every week, it’s starting to more and more feel like a distraction/time suck from my actual story writing.

The simple truth of the matter is my writing routine still hasn’t truly recovered from the move/job change. And now that I’ve been in my new place for almost 4 months, it is beyond time to knuckle down and really focus on my writing if I want to have any hope of ever finishing a novel, much less reaching the point where I’m ready to publish something. Because what’s the point of maintaining an author platform if you’re not making a real effort to be an actual author?

I may publish things from time to time to the blog, and at some point I’d really like to revamp the website, adding a front page and links and such things. I briefly considered shifting to more of a personal diary style of blog, with just quick little daily updates versus the weekly full articles, but ultimately I figure I can just as easily use Facebook/Twitter/Google+ for those sorts of updates.

So as much as it pains me to do so, it’s time to close the doors on this thing. And hell, based on the serious lack of non-spam comments and email list sign-ups, it’s safe to assume that nobody was really engaging with the damned thing anyways, so it’s likely not a great loss to the blogosphere. So for now, vaya con dios.

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Aaaaand we’re back!

At long last I’ve finally found the time/motivation to write a new blog post. Going to keep this one short, sweet, and to the point (need to ease myself back into the process). It took a few months to get settled back into a routine after taking a new job in a new city (and dealing with a few other random personal issues that I won’t go into here), but I think I’m finally ready to refocus on my writing.

I haven’t worked seriously on my novel in entirely too long, but hope to change that going forward from today. I’ve managed to get a little writing in here and there – most specifically a short story about Vikings for a little mini-competition on my writing forum (Mythic Scribes, for anyone who’s interested). But now I think it really is time to get back to tackling my novel.

More and more I’ve realized that I’m not nearly as far along in the development of my craft as I need to be, so I’ve re-evaluated my dreams of publication. Instead of thinking about future publication, I’ve decided first and foremost I just need to focus on finishing the damned thing. There’s no point in putting a bunch of thought/effort into building my author platform and developing a publishing strategy if I can’t even finish a single full first draft. So for now that is my sole goal – finish a rough draft, regardless of how rough it is. Even if it’s horrid enough I completely scrap it afterwards (although hopefully it won’t come to that), at least I can say I finished it.

As I do that I do plan to continue working on the blog, hopefully going back to my weekly updates. Mostly I think I will continue to chart the progress of my novel, discussing any insights I might have about the process as I move forward. I’ve also got a couple of other random writing-related articles I’d like to develop at some point. And who knows, I may even publish the occasional short story, just to keep things interesting.

Well, that’s probably about it for now. No point rambling on too long, especially since I’m mostly just writing this one for myself, to get back in the habit of blog writing.

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Quick Update

Looks like it has been precisely one month since my last post, so I figured at least a quick update on things was in order. Life has been more than a little crazy this past month. On the plus side, I found a new day job, so I’m no longer worried about being unemployed (and no longer need to spend most of my free time job hunting). On the down side, my new job is in a different city, so all of the time I’d been spending job hunting shifted into house hunting and packing. Finding a place didn’t take too long (thank goodness!) so now I’m all about packing up my life into boxes. It will likely be several more weeks before I’m settled back into a routine enough to start writing regular blog posts, but with any luck by this time next month I can start getting that back on track.

On the subject of writing, I’ve still managed to find a little time here and there to work on my stories. One of the biggest motivators I’ve had in this regard is stumbling across a short story competition in a speculative fiction literary magazine. So I dusted off one of my short stories and have been reworking/editing it to try and get it hopefully publication worthy. Of course, trying to do this with everything else that’s been going on has been more than a little bit of a challenge, and with the submission deadline being this Sunday, the story isn’t completely where I want it to be. But I’m going to try and make it as polished as I can and then get it submitted. Wish me luck!

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Roleplaying Games and Writing

Got a little side-tracked from my regular writing this week – but at least I’m writing. I am writing something a little different, however. It all started when I was sorting through some old papers last weekend, and I came across a roleplaying game adventure I had started writing years ago, based on Alice in Wonderland. Dusting it off and reading through it, I felt inspired to give it a solid rewrite, and update the mechanics to the roleplaying game I am currently playing – 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

So now I’m writing a D&D version of Alice in Wonderland. And while it’s not exactly original material by any means (and it sadly isn’t doing anything to help me make forward progress on my novel), it is a very fun creative endeavor. And it gave me my inspiration for this week’s blog post – the usefulness of roleplaying for fiction writers. This is a subject I’ve seen covered by other writers in the past, but as someone who’s been playing roleplaying games on and off for a good 30 years now, I decided I’d throw my two cents into the mix.

A little background first. It all started when I was 12. And interestingly enough it is one of those childhood memories that sticks with me, even now. My father, my brother, and I had gone into a hobby/game shop, and my brother and I were looking at all the lead miniatures. We decided to buy some to paint, because they were cool-looking fantasy monsters. It was our dad who noticed that they were labeled “Dungeons & Dragons miniatures” and that apparently there was a game they were meant to be used with.

Our dad didn’t think it made much sense to buy the miniatures if you didn’t have the game they went with, so he went ahead and bought the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set for us as well. And just like that I was introduced to the wonderful world of roleplaying. And while my love of painting miniatures didn’t last more than a few years, my love of roleplaying games only continued to grow, and is still a passion to this day. I’ve played numerous different roleplaying games over the years, with a variety of genres, themes, and game mechanics, but they all have one common unifying element, and it’s what makes them so worthwhile for writers – they’re all about storytelling.

As a writer and an avid reader, nothing engages me more than a good story. And this love of story extends to the games I play. While there are times when the whole kill the monsters, get the treasure, rinse and repeat style of roleplaying can be fun (just like there’s mindless fun to be had with your average first-person shooter video game), this only holds my attention for so long. What truly engages me is being involved in a good story, especially when I able to contribute to that story.

Regardless of the particular game, and regardless of whether you are a player or a game master, a good roleplaying game session should be about taking part in an interactive story. And what better source of inspiration and boost to creativity can a writer ask for? Not only do you get the opportunity to flex your own creative muscles, but you can gain ideas and inspiration from the other players in your group as well.

Now what you take away from the experience will differ depending on your role. The players, for example, are mostly focused on characters – mainly your own, naturally, but you never know when another player will create a character or do something in a game session that inspires your own writing. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the main character of my current story series was inspired by the character I play in Dungeons & Dragons.

While the players aren’t the ones creating the adventure (that’s the game master’s job), that doesn’t mean that as a player you can’t take inspiration from events or encounters that happen during gameplay. That being said, there is one thing to keep in mind – as you aren’t the creator of the adventure, you need to be careful how many specific details you pull into your own work, especially if your game master is using a premade adventure (as whoever wrote the adventure is going to have copyright on everything in the adventure). But that doesn’t mean you can’t use aspects of the adventure for inspiration.

Now if you’re the game master, roleplaying games offer a different opportunity, in that they give you a ready set of alpha readers that you can use to test out your story ideas. Whether it’s a new villain or secondary character you want to test out, or separate little events from your story that you throw in here and there, or even running your players through the complete narrative of your novel, you have a chance to get initial feedback on your ideas before you spend too much time and effort developing them.

Not only does this give you a chance to work out some of the kinks, to find the things that don’t work (and the things that work really well), but you never know when your players will take your ideas and run with them in a direction that you hadn’t thought of. I actually have a perfect example of this from the first adventure I ran through with my current D&D group.

Our quest had been to recover a mystical stone and return it to the Queen. We recovered the stone and were headed back to the palace with it. However, one of the players decided he had a different idea. The player in question was getting ready to leave for college, so this was going to be his last adventure with the group, and he wanted to make his exit memorable. So what did you do? Right in the middle of our final battle, his thief character secretly steals the gem from our paladin, and right after the battle he runs off with it (along with all of our party’s gold).

Needless to say, this was not even remotely what the game master had in mind. We were supposed to take the gem back and receive our reward from the Queen, simple and straight-forward. But the way the adventure concluded ended up being way more fun, and way more memorable, than what the game master had originally intended. In fact, the ending went over so well, and was so often talked about by the group, that the game master actually kept the player’s thief character in the game, using him as an antagonist who occasionally showed up to harass the rest of us in one way or another.

It’s this impromptu interactivity of different people that truly makes roleplaying games as much fun as they are, and it’s this same interactivity that makes them a wealth of inspiration for an open-minded writer. Not only do you get to explore and develop your own ideas, but you are constantly exposed to the ideas and creativity of the rest of the group. And with that final thought, I bring this week’s blog post to a close. Happy gaming!

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Life Is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans

Did a little better with the writing this week than I did last week, but not by much. The main factor behind my lack of writing is that I was recently informed I am getting laid off from my day job at the end of March. This has resulted in two things (at least in relation to my writing). Firstly, a significant amount of my time and energy has been devoted to job hunting. And secondly, the stress and uncertainty of my job situation has made it incredibly difficult to focus on my writing, even when I do have time to write.

So that is the situation at the moment. With any luck I can get things sorted sooner rather than later, and refocus on my writing from there. Time will tell, I suppose.

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Musical Extravaganza

Been a frustrating, stressful, non-writing sort of a week this week. So much so that this is the first writing-related thing I’ve done all week. I haven’t even looked at anything related to my story, much less done any writing on it. So in keeping with this week’s apparent non-writing theme, I’m breaking from my normal story-related topics for this week’s blog post, and instead I’m going to write about music. I know that I’ve previously written about music (specifically about having a soundtrack for my novel), but this week I’m going to just write about music completely unrelated to writing.

This topic is mostly inspired by the fact that I just discovered a new band on YouTube this week. Which is YouTube’s most redeeming quality in my mind – it’s a surprisingly great source for music (this is also one of YouTube’s very few redeeming qualities, but that’s a rant for another day). I think I’ve found almost as many great musicians/bands on YouTube as I have on Pandora, and that’s saying something.

To say that I have eclectic tastes in music is likely more than an understatement. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I long ago lost interest for the most part in popular, Top 40 music. I’d much rather listen to obscure indie bands and foreign music – the stuff you’re just not going to hear on the radio. The last few years in particular have seen me gravitate more and more towards foreign music – Japanese rock/pop and Scandinavian folk metal and Electro Swing, to name but a few genres.

Most recently, I’ve found myself drawn to musical genres that combine traditional music and instruments with a more modern rock sound. And my most recent musical discovery fits perfectly into this style. They are a Japanese group called Wagakki Band, who combine traditional Japanese instruments with rock music. Even their look seems to be a blending of traditional dress and punk rock fashion.

Another band I really enjoy that follows this same general concept (although with a very different sound) is the Finnish folk-metal band Korpiklaani, who combine traditional Scandinavian folk instruments with heavy metal. Despite not really being a big heavy metal fan, I really enjoy their music because of that blending of styles. It reminds me in many ways of Celtic Punk, a genre that I have long enjoyed (for examples, check out the music of Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys).

On the subject of unusual foreign metal bands, I can’t write an article about eclectic music without mentioning one of the most unusual bands I’ve come across in quite some time – the Japanese pop-metal band Babymetal. Yes, you read that right, pop-metal. The band features three teenage girls singing pop lyrics with a heavy metal band providing the instrumentation. Their music is a bizarre mix of bubblegum pop with metal guitars, that really shouldn’t work, but somehow does (I will admit that it’s not to everyone’s tastes by any means, but I absolutely love their music). For a great example of their sound, check out their song Gimme Chocolate.

I’ll touch on one final unusual genre of music that I enjoy, and then we’ll bring this musical extravaganza to a close. And that genre would be Electro Swing, which is a European genre of music that combines old school swing jazz with modern techno/dance music. As someone who’s long been a fan of big band swing music, and who enjoyed his fair share of techno back in the 90s, hearing them blended together was amazing. Anyone who likes fun, upbeat, danceable music should give it a listen. I would recommend the band Caravan Palace, or any of the songs from the compilation album Electro Swing Revolution vol. 2 as a great place to start.

If I were looking for a “moral to the story” to summarize this post, it would be that there is a world of amazing music out there beyond the generic auto-tuned repetition that fills the ranks of mainstream music. It’s just a matter of getting out there and finding it, and then being open to the possibilities, because a lot of what’s out there isn’t what you’re used to. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a listen. Here endeth the sermon.

No idea what next week’s blog will be about, but I am really hoping I can get my head back in the game and get refocused on my writing next week. Sadly winter tends to play hell with my creative motivation (and life’s thrown me a few curveballs recently that have only aggravated the problem). But my goal is to push through it all and get back on track with moving my story forward. Only time will tell what next week brings.

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Happy Holidays!!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m off to visit family for Christmas, so there won’t be a blog update this week or next. Stop back in after New Year’s for my end-of-year update!

Happy holidays to everyone, and thanks for stopping by my blog.

Ryan Crown

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And So It Begins

Greetings, and welcome to my author blog! As it says at the top, I am Ryan Crown, aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist. You can read more about me and this blog on my About Ryan page. So I guess the first question to answer here is simple: Why write a blog? The easy answer to this is that all the experts online insist that it is essential for successful authors to have a blog. Even before you have anything published to promote, you should be building your author brand through your blog. So here I am!

But beyond that, I do really like the idea of connecting with my readers, and having a place to post short fiction and character profiles and behind-the-scenes information about my stories and my writing process. And along the way there will be plenty of random posts on the many topics I have an interest in/passion for, such as movies, music, comics, etc.

My goal to start out is to have a new post up every Friday. They might not be very long (or they may ramble on much longer than they should), but there should be something up every week. Want to know when the latest post is up? Then sign up for my mailing list! Just enter your name and e-mail address in the form on the left hand side of my page. I promise never to spam your inbox, and will only e-mail you when there’s something new on the blog.

Before I bring this quick little intro post to a close, I suppose I should say a little bit about my writing. At the moment I’m working on a fantasy adventure novel (hopefully the first in a series) featuring a bounty hunter and his compatriots. The outline is done and I’m ready to start the first draft. It’s on temporary hold, however, as I have decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

For those who haven’t heard of this, it is an annual writing event, with the goal being to write at least 50,000 words of a first draft during the month of November. This will be my first time participating, so we will see how it goes. I’ll be sure to post updates on my progress over the month (which will likely be all I have time to post, as the bulk of my available time will be focused on my novel).

On the plus side, the one month delay while I wait for NaNoWriMo to start has given me time to do some additional world-building for the setting of my novel, as well as focus on some of the business aspects of being an author – such as putting together this website. That being said, I am really looking forward to November and jumping into writing my first draft.

In closing, I’d just like to say thanks for checking out my site. I will strive to make this an enjoyable and entertaining enough place to keep you coming back. And I’d love to get your feedback, so feel free to post a comment – What did you like? What did you not like? Have ideas for future posts? Let me know! All I ask is that you keep your comments polite and relatively family friendly. Thanks!

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