Blog awards and things

OneLovelyBlogAward

So I got this nomination today from Whimsical Wyvern – which is super cool, thanks for that! I think I’ve said before that these things are good for us* to help connect to each other. However, I’m super distracted at the moment and I always have an impossible time coming up with names because invariably those folks I routinely follow have already been nominated recently for something or generally don’t do these awards. All that said, I’ll give a couple of facts about myself, and anyone who reads this consider yourself nominated. Check out Whimsical Wyvern’s blog to scope out the rules 🙂

1.) I live in Alaska and I’m not leaving for love or money, unless the issue is that I have neither, then all bets are off.

2.) My life’s goal is to become a full-time, paid, writer, but I’ll settle for the life I’ve got now, but with a really good cup of coffee.

3.) I built most of my own house by hand. Yes, I literally nailed the frame together, stood up the walls, hung the drywall, and every part in between.

4.) The hissing of geese is one of my biggest fears. You won’t understand this until you’ve had a goose hiss at you.

5.) I usually wash my hair before I go to the gym.

6.) I’ve got a low tolerance for bullshit, make-work, and indecision. Except when it comes to dinner. I actually don’t care about what’s for dinner provided it doesn’t contain the following ingredients:

7.) I refuse to eat mayonnaise, cream cheese, cottage cheese, ranch dressing, and sour cream.

8) My iPhone Siri is the Australian one.

How’s that for enough details about me? What about you? Take the nomination answer questions. We’re all human beings and we’re a lot more interesting to each other if we each other and what the other absolutely won’t eat.

*Various bloggers who are just trying to connect with folks over things like writing or whatever it is we’re blogging about.

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Sunshine awards!

Yesterday I noticed that Emily Russell, Author of Aurian and Jin and The King’s Might, had nominated me to answer some questions. I rarely, if ever, fail to at least shake a stick at a challenge. Sometims I give up when the stick gets too heavy, but this time I made it through. So, here are some exceptionally boring responses to questions that for any more interesting person would have generated some interesting stories or opinions. Good luck, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

If you had to survive on one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Does stir-fry count? – not that weird saucy stuff you get in pre-packed frozen packages, the stuff that I make with fresh vegetables. I could eat stir-fry every day forever, but that’s a lot of foods together, so maybe I can’t choose that? Alternatively, if it was just one thing only it would be Egg-McMuffins – the real ones, not those fakey ones you don’t get at McD’s. Failing all of that, which is the argument at my house just now (apparently there is a belief that one ‘food’ means one ‘ingredient’, like Peanut Butter.) If that were the case, I’d pick dryfish (dry smoked salmon or whitefish).

What’s more important in a story: character, plot, or voice?

Character. If I hate the characters, I won’t read the book. I didn’t like Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrel because I thought the characters were stuffed shirts. Now, it’s not that the book sucked or anything, but I didn’t like the book. It didn’t help that the plot was sluggish* Plot is important, sure, but I’ll follow a meandering plot if the characters are good. I will bitch about voice, but I’ll never not read a book or story because of voice. I started reading a book and not digging the voice was strange, but I read and liked the book just fine.

* The footnotes were better.

What’s the first book you remember being deeply affected by?

My Side of the Mountian, when I was like 13. I wish I could say why, but I can’t. I think it has to do with the main character escaping into the woods to fend for himself. This really appealed to me. I’m a super independent person, I prefer to do things and solve problems myself. That said, I think the book that had the most influence on my writing was Douglas Adams Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not something I actually realized until recently as I’ve really started to think about my own voice.

How important is good grammar in a novel to you?
Don’t care, actually. I’m not a grammar-nazi or anything and I’ve got enough of my own problems with grammar that I’d be an idiot to really pick on someone else for it. That said, if the book stinks, then I’ll notice those problems. I’m much, much, much, more interested in understanding. If I don’t have to re-read it, then I’m not likely to notice.

Would you rather get blackout drunk in front of

Your mother-in-law, or Your boss?

My mother-in-law. This isn’t even a hard question because I’ve done it before. My mother-in-law passed away almost two years ago, but she was a super-cool lady and this sort of irresponsible behavior simply wasn’t commented on, provided it only rarely occurred. My boss on the other hand, well I don’t know her super well yet. She’s sort of all over the map, couldn’t say she’d be cool with something like that.


In honor of the season, tell me one good memory you have about Halloween as a child. (The first year I was diabetic for Halloween, my dad traded me my candy for a guitar. My dad is, obviously, very cool.)
I remember one or two years where it wasn’t cold and snowing. Does that count? I remember one year in particular where it was so warm a friend and I were able to wander around in our neighborhood with our costumes showing. It was awesome. Most normal years, this year included, you don’t even really need to wear a costume, just a mask or a bit of face-paint, because the rest of you is covered with jacket. Halloween tends not to be super memorable here. It’s dark, cold, windy, snowing, and generally horrible here this time of year.

One word or phrase that really annoys you.
That’s tough. I’m annoyed by a lot. I may not be offended by much, but there is a lot of stuff that just gets under my skin. If I had to just pick one thing, say from writing, I’d pick “Show don’t tell” Every time I hear it, I want to go off like a cannon. It’s meaningless advice. The only less helpful phrase is: I didn’t read it. When giving advice, it’s easy to start with that phrase, but before it erupts from your mouth it should be modulated with something like: The action / dialogue here is weak, it reads like a laundry list of actions instead of a story. Try mixing in some dialogue or a little more action, some internal character narration, maybe some feelings. Anyhow, I could go on, but I think I’m done.

Give me five single words that describe your writing style.

“I really have no idea.” I’m still trying to discover what my voice really is, I think it’s hiding in a old box around here somewhere. I recently started writing a book completely different from anything else I’ve tried. If I had to put a Genre label on it, It’d be closest to paranormal romance, but it’s really suppose to be silly to the point of almost ridiculous. Really, I like to think of it as more urban fantasy. This book is coming together quickly. If I’m focused I can hammer out two chapters in a week, it’s an easy write and I like it, not only that, it doesn’t need much in the way of re-writing, at least according to the folks who’ve been helping beta read it for me.

This has forced me to the conclusion that I may not be so good at anything that’s completely serious. When I try to be a little more serious, it doesn’t work so well. I fight with the characters, which really prevents the story from developing in any sort of interesting fashion. I think it has to do with trying to get into the head of a serious character. That’s not me, and I don’t relate well to those sorts of folk, so it’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes and give them good motivation for making it across the board.

What’s the best part of an average day for you?
Probably that few quiet minutes I get in the morning before heading off to work. It’s one of the few times I can write without distraction. Before my workshop was taken over by goose/duck related brooding equipment, I used to love going in there, putting on my ear protection and making stuff. The dulled noise allowed me to be in my own head and the singular focus of making that straight cut without separating my fingers from my hand, prevented all of the noisy random thoughts that so often keep my mind in high gear. There is a zen in there I’ve not been able to recreate with anything else.

If you’re writing, somebody somewhere encouraged you to do it. Who?

My wife. Without question. It’s not so much that she pushed me a long as much as once I started moving, and I mean really moving, she’s been supportive and continues to push me in the right direction. Also, every writer I’ve met or bumped into online over the past year has given me an indirect sort of encouragement that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I find that as a whole group, writers (myself included), have huge egos making us hard to actually talk writing with. My father in law can be like this. His writing and mine couldn’t be more different and he’s not the sort of writer I can talk to about issues with dialogue, editing or plot development. It just doesn’t work that well. Finding ‘my folk’ – that is writers who are realistic and open about their challenges and provide actual advice – has been kinda tough. Thank you twitter/wordpress connected writers for being awesome!

What makes you decide a story is bad?

If I don’t care about the characters, I’m not going to get far – worse than that though, if the stakes are too high, say the end of the universe, more often than not, I will walk away feeling like someone stole my lunch money. It’s one of the reasons I stopped reading the Star Wars extended universe series’. They invented a new species that rolled in and destroyed the republic/empire whatever, they were indestructible and worse than the empire. I got through book one, started into book two, then stopped, never to pick up another Star Wars book again.

There, I did it! Now, back to NaNoWriMo!

Oh, yeah, first though more nominations. Pulling from the random grab bag of various folks, I decided to pick one person, laziness really, I should pick more, but I’m super distracted just now so… If anyone else wants to answer the questions though, go for it!

Nico Smit @ http://fantasticalmuse.com/
Kimberly Crawford @ https://kcrawfordfiction.wordpress.com/

What inspires you?

When did you start writing?

What is your biggest writing challenge?

What are you working on now – why are you excited about it?

How much time do you get to write?

Do you find that blogging about writing or your work helps you?

Tag, I’m it?

I was tagged by the most excellent L.M. Bryski (lmbryski.com) to answer some questions about myself and writing. So, here it goes. I can assure you, it’s boring so…You’ve been warned

When did you start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to?
A lot of times you hear folks talking about how they started writing when they were still in diapers and things. Not me. I started writing sometime in high-school. I didn’t do it a lot then and once I learned how to program computers, I wanted to apply stories to that. Still do actually. Becoming a game designer was where I started, but I realized that with the sorts of games I wanted to do, I was either going to do the programming (where I might make a living) or writing (where I won’t make a living). So, I went on programming, but didn’t make it into game programming. Instead, I’ve kept a pretty solid wall between programming and writing.

What genre do you write?
At the moment, I’m writing fantasy, but I’m not married to that. I like to tell good stories. If I found one outside of fantasy that I like, I’d write it.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
I have 3 current projects. The first is a high-fantasy I’ve been chiseling away at for about a decade and it still needs an outrageous amount of work. The second is called Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, it really is my favorite at the moment, and the third is a steam-punk fantasy that doesn’t have a real good name and I’m only just now in the process of sketching it out. The Winebottles project is really my main project. I started it in early August and I’m about half-way through. I’m extremely impressed with myself over that story, actually. Not only is it not something I ever thought I’d write, it’s getting very good reviews from everyone I’ve shared it with so far. The last project is just now getting off the ground, it’s a steam-punk fantasy that I’m going to try to hammer out for NaNoWrimo

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
The first thing I can remember writing was back in high-school. It was a sci-fi short story I’d written for an english class. I don’t remember a lot about it, except that it had something to do with the foolishness of war.

What’s the best part of writing?
You know, I’m not sure I can say. It’s just something I like doing. I love all things related to making stuff, wood working, programming, small construction projects, cooking (I’m not great at this), and stuff like that. As far as I’m concerned, writing a story is the ultimate art of making (game programming is a pretty close 2nd though).

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night?)
I’ve got a day job and kids. These things dominate my time and I don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to write. On a super focused week, I might get between one and two hours a day for a day or two running. Normal weeks run about 30min before work and 30 min on lunch break, with maybe 5-10 minutes in the evening, with a few breaks in there. I usually miss Saturday, but sometimes I’ll get the chance to binge on Sunday. I generally write best when my concentration isn’t broken, which is really any time of day.

Did you go to college for writing?
Nope. I got my degree in computer science.

What bothers you more speeling errors; puncutation, errors, or errors for grammar?
I’m bothered by egregious infractions of all three, but minor errors I don’t much care about. If I have to read a second, third or fourth time to understand, it’s bad.

What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?
I don’t think I could pull out any specific advice that I would call the best I’d ever heard. I can, however, point out some of the worst advice I’ve ever come across. At some point in my digital travels I came across a bit of advice describing dialog tags other than the ‘he said and he asked’ as henous, especially when adverbs are involved. It sat wrong with me, so I pulled a few books off the shelf to take a look at what other authors do. Guess what, they were all employing dialog tags and adverbs. These books were good.

What advice would you give to another writer?
Just write. Don’t talk about it, do it. Listen to all advice you hear, remembering that it’s advice, you can take it or leave it, but if someone points something out, at least do them the favor of considering it.

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
My favorite thing to do is bop around on twitter and other writer’s blogs. Jut seeing that others are thinking the same things I am, and experiencing some of the same difficulties keeps me going.

What is the best book you’ve read this year?
I dunno. Perhaps Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
I can’t say that any one particular movie has stuck out in my mind as being the best. I don’t watch a tremendous amount of TV, but I would say that from the perspective of fantasy writing, I watched Jim Henson’s The Labryinth with a critical eye earlier this year and I was more satisfied with that story and the imagery than any other movie i’ve watched this year.

Who is your favorite author?
That’s a hard question. I’m going to go with Douglas Adams. I recently picked up the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy for the first time in a long time a month or two ago. The writing in the early part of the book is actually kind of terrible, but it’s funny and engaging, and that’s why I like it. Plus, there’s something about the hapless MC that I enjoy. It’s tough to do it right, but he does. I realized that after I started working on Wine Bottles and Broomsticks that my MC is an awful lot like Arthur Dent. It wasn’t really intentional, but that book most certainly had an influence on my writing.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Re-write my precious high-fantasy The war of Shadows. That story needs a lot of help. I’m going to finish my first full draft of Wine Bottles and Broomsticks and start a second book in that series. In the mean time new chapters will go up on channillo.com monthly until I’m done. The third thing I’d like to do is get most of a full draft of a steam-punk fantasy written. That’s going to be my  NaNoWrimo project. Lofty goals, all of them, but It’s what I’m aiming at.

Where else can we find you online?
I’m on twitter @daveskoster
My blog: www.onwritingdragons.com
Facebook: Dave S. Koster
and Instagram @daveskoster

I absolutely can’t believe you made it to the end of this. Good for you – You deserve a glass of wine or something.

Cheers!

-Dave