My Life In Neon

Sci Fi / Fantasy writer Autumn Nicole Bradley – Dream in digital, live in neon

Archive for the category “Writing”

Two New Short Stories Available Now!

Two new short stories are available as eBooks now at Smashwords!

Mercy Killing the Dragon

Cover art by Stephanie Stanga

The dragons held no sway over a people as great as the Rana. To prove it, they nailed a dragon to the walls of the city and left it to bleed, undying, for a decade. But no greatness trickled down to the children who lived in the shadow of the east gate, only the dragon’s blood. When Maharta learns what true suffering is, he sets out to end the dragon’s misery and atone for his people.

The Last Warband

Cover art by Stephanie Stanga

Far to the north of Delmyria, a loose coalition of clans and tribes known as the Kingdom of Korbuch is building an army. Each tribe sends their greatest warriors to join the Last Warband.

Mokat was given the greatest honor his tribe could bestow: he was chosen as their clan’s champion. But he resented being sent away from the war he knew while his enemies still stood. It felt too much like fleeing. And his axe had not drunk enough glory to flee so soon.

Both of them are set to “Pay what you want”. If you like what you read, please leave what you feel it is worth.


What is the worst writing advice you’ve received?

Amid all this advice I’m giving on how to write dialogue, I am mindful that not all advice is helpful or well received.

For example, I once received this unsolicited gem from someone who learned in passing that I was a writer and was trying to be helpful (in the most assholeish way possible):

It will be taken as a sign of maturity when you accept that your book will never be published.

Lesson of the day? Projecting your own inadequacies is not advice. However, that comment is now forever burned into my memory and will be the crux of any inspirational words I have for anyone else.

Addendum: I did not piss in his cornflakes, before or after. Though I maybe should have.

So what was the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

Edit: I just remembered another one:

I have a family member who was burned by a vanity press (if you don’t know what it is, read up on it here) back in the 80’s and none of my extended family has forgotten about it. However, they aren’t writers and aren’t involved in the industry in any way, so they have been disconnected from the rise of self publishing. With eBooks and print-on-demand services, self-publishing is not the same as the vanity press scam (although the vanity press scam is still alive and well).

I’ve been working on a series of short stories for the past few months and the intent is to shop them around to online magazine publications first in order to qualify for joining the SFWA. Three qualifying sales and you are eligible. However, should that fail, my intent is to target the eBooks marketplaces. I do feel the work is professional quality, and I don’t consider self-publishing to be a failure. At all. But going that route first for the time being precludes qualification for SFWA membership.

The moment I opened my mouth about self-publishing a series of short stories, the floodgates opened. It wasn’t enough that I had to first endure a family member breathlessly recounting the horror my great uncle suffered, and their dire warning: “Don’t do it!” only to have to explain to them that “No, this isn’t the same situation. The market has changed. No, I do not pay up front out of pocket.” No, I needed to endure this gauntlet over and over and over with each of my half a dozen aunts and uncles in town for my uncle’s wedding. And then their spouses. And my parents. It would have been simple if I could just get all of them in one place just give a speech. But, that would be too simple.

But every single time it was: “Oh. Well, ok then. Be careful.”


Sometimes An Idea Strikes

Sometimes this happens:


When an idea strikes, will you be ready?

An idea just grabs you and won’t let go. Sometimes you are just struck by an idea and you need to write it down (or else a ninja will rip your balls off). It burns its way out of your skull and there’s nothing you can do about it except close your eyes and let your fingers be guided by the inspiration alone.

And then sometimes inspiration takes a break before crossing the finish line.

A few weeks ago I was hit by an awesome idea for a short story. Miraculously, I got it finished over the course of a long weekend. “My Brother’s Keeper” is a sci-fi story about relativistic weaponry and interstellar war, except it’s not really about that, those are just the parts that make it sci-fi.

Then on Valentine’s Day I was hit by an idea that had absolutely nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, except that it is a love story. It’s about 93% coincidence that it was Valentine’s Day. I’ll grant 7% for the fact that the last puzzle piece for the idea fell into place while on a movie date.

Here’s what I should be doing:

  • Editing Root of the First‘s first 50 pages again.
  • Editing “My Brother’s Keeper” and “The Last Warband.”
  • Preparing for another round of agent submissions.
  • Preparing for WisCon35
  • Revising Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine*
*Note, I’m intentionally letting Lewis Mulligan wait until March before I begin editing.

Here’s what I am doing:

  • Working on a yet-untitled new paranormal literary fiction novel.

The idea for it hit me, and it’s still a little underdeveloped. I know where I want to start, and where I want to end. The paranormal aspects of it were just too cool not to build a story around because it flows so perfectly with the driving theme of the story. It’s incredibly rare that life gives you a high-concept, easy-to-interpret metaphor that is attached at the hip to the plot, all wrapped up in a neat little box.

All that’s missing right now is the big, empty middle. There’s a whole “middle” to this story that just isn’t there yet. And I have no idea what to put there. I haven’t even settled on a time period that this is set in. As I’ve worked on it this week, I have become increasingly enamored of the idea of leaving it deliberately vague. But I don’t know how long that will last.

Lewis Mulligan and the NaNoWriMo Post Mortem

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine wasn’t an official winner, sadly.

I am still working hard on it to finish it sometime this coming week or two. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with the progress.


That was the big number. 11:59PM on November 30th, that was where I was cut off. I didn’t reach the 50000 goal but I’m still marking this one in the Win column. That’s faster than any other writing I’ve done to date. My prior record was ~30,000 one month while writing Root of the First.

I fell behind early. I got off to a good start, but I went through a few days in the first week where I didn’t do enough to make time to write. So from that point forward I was racing to catch up. I ended up in a burst-and-break pace where I’d crank out around 2000-3000 words in a day (the goal is 1667 per day) and then go through a few 500-800 days in a row. The last day, I jumped from around 40k to the final number, so that’s 20 pages in one day. Not quite enough to close the gap, but even I’m impressed by how much I got done.

On the whole, I’m pretty satisfied with the work I’ve got on the page so far. There are sections that I know I’m going to cut, and others I’m planning to expand later. There are some curiously bad phrasings of sentences scattered throughout that I will need to clean up later.

This is a pretty large deviation from my normal writing pace. I usually work steadily at around 1000 words a day, but I make them count. I tend to give a lot more consideration to my words while drafting normally, and that saves me a great deal of time revising because I’ve already got what I want the way I want it, at least as far as line edits go. The place I lose time normally is in the structural editing, where I have to cut, move, or change my carefully worded sections in order to accommodate a shift in plot or pace.

NaNoWriMo has been the opposite. I’m spending far less time than I feel I should on the wording. It’s very dry, and very generic, voice-wise. And I’m not sure the pace helps with my plotting. I gloss over plot holes because I need to move on, but I know from experience that fixing those plot holes in revision will probably mean major edits. It isn’t usually as simple as just editing a few words here and there, or tossing in a sentence to explain something. That’s always the hope, but the reality is that the earlier in the book a structural change needs to happen, the less of the rest of the book you can leave unchanged. Butterfly effect, and all.

The end goal for this book is around the 65000 word mark. I’m thinking I will finish this first draft near the 55000 word mark and expand from there. Needing to expand a revised draft is always a nice position to be in. Certainly better than needing to cut 50000 words like last time!

I anticipate finishing the first draft sometime early this month. For those on the preview list, believe me, you don’t want to see this thing until I’ve gone over it at least once, which means sometime in January.

NaNoWriMo Update

At the half-way mark by the calendar, I’m just a little shy of the half-way mark in word count. I fell behind early due to some travel stuff, but I’m hoping to catch up the last week of the month when I go home for Thanksgiving. While the holiday means Thanksgiving Day is pretty much out, the entire rest of that weekend is going to be staring at the walls and catching up on Boardwalk Empire. So, plenty of time to write.

I know I promised character profiles, and they are coming, finally. I had contacted an artist a month ago to do some sketches to accompany them, since I really have a hard time finding profiles compelling without a reference image, and I am a student of the “If I like it, I assume someone out there likes it” school of thought, so I figure it’s worth the wait. When I do things, I like to do them right.

The original artist dropped the project to work on hosting an art festival, so. . . valid excuse. Can’t really fault them for not finding the time. But I have a new one working on it as of yesterday, so they will be coming soon.

They’re also working on a sketch of the ship, so hopefully I can replace the Blackjack in the background of my site with my own creation.

As for the novel itself, I’m about to cross the 20000 mark at the end of act 1, so I’m thinking I won’t finish it during NaNo even if I hit the 50000 by Nov 30th. Now that I’ve got the rhythm and the pace, I’m guessing we’re going to come in at right around 65000, give or take 10k in edits later, which is right where I want to be for Young Adult.

Steam Engines GO!

A few days ago, I was debating which of two ideas I wanted to pursue for NaNoWriMo. Well, I have decided:

Lewis Mulligan and the Pandemonium Engine

One day, Lewis Mulligan was a scrapper in a textile mill, and the next day he was the cabin boy and apprentice navigator on the TRA Nevermore, a second-hand airship just leeward of ruin. But while transporting a clockwork contraption known as the “Pandemonium Engine,” the crew runs afoul of Church inquisitors, a secret society of alchemists, and a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Now, it’s up to Lewis to steer the Nevermore to freedom, or at least go down with style!

My goal for the crew of the Nevermore is a steampunk Firefly. Granted: different medium, one story arc vs 14 episode arcs + 1 movie, and I’m not Joss Whedon. But still, if I can get halfway there, I’ve achieved all I wanted for NaNo.

I’ll be posting Crew Profiles for the ship in the next few days.

Fallout: New Vegas comes out a week from tomorrow. Now, if I had done it right, I’d have made my planning schedule end on October 18th, and reserved the 19th-31st for Fallout, and called it “story research.” Instead, I still have benchmarks and milestones sprinkled throughout the rest of October.

The Impasse – Steampunk vs Contemporary Lit

I have reached an impasse on my NaNoWriMo novel planning, and, as of today, I have no useful advice to offer anyone going through a similar struggle.

I now have two ideas to pursue.

Idea 1: This was my primary idea going into NaNoWriMo this year. It’s a lighthearted, probably YA adventure in a semi-historical alternate history sci-fi setting. Unabashedly steampunk but with its roots in mostly legitimate science.

Idea 2: This one was a 3AM idea that forced me from my bed last night to write it down so I didn’t forget. It’s a near-future contemporary literature piece that asks the question, “Why can’t we dream big things, anymore?” Possibly dark comedy satire.

Idea 1 has the strong merit going for it that I have been burning to write a steampunk piece for a long time and needed an excuse.

Idea 2 is just such a high concept piece that I feel it says more important things to a modern audience. It’s topical, which means there’s a shelf-life for the idea that will exist until China lands on the Moon and America collectively craps its pants in realizing how far behind we’ve fallen.

Three Steps to a Better Plot

  1. What is the worst thing that can happen to your main character?  Make the villain do that to your MC personally.
  2. What is the best thing that can happen to your main character?  Have that great thing happen to the villain in full view of the MC.
  3. Write down 15 news headlines or gossip topics for your setting.  At least 3 of these will, with modification, be able to be dropped into your story to add setting flavor, connect your characters to the world they live in, and serve as minor obstacles along the way. I call this Headline Plotting (read more here).

Red Light Properties Review

Title Page

While browsing yesterday, I came across a graphic novel they had put up in their stories section. It just finished its run, so all 21 chapters are available as of yesterday.

Red Light Properties

Concept: spirit medium and exorcist expels ghosts from haunted resale properties.

Why it’s cool: I’m not a fan of the story, the characters, or the art. Just not my cup of tea. However, what Red Light Properties does well is presentation. They nail it. The navigation of the book reveals dialog bubble by dialog bubble, panel by panel rather than page by page. It’s a very original way of presenting a graphic novel, and a method I wish more web comics used.

Why it works: The story is based on suspense and revelation, so the use of bubble-by-bubble reveals merges the natural flow of conversation with the inability to skip ahead and ruin a big surprise. It also solves the problem many comics face of inconsistent page flow. It’s completely unambiguous what order speech is taking place in.

It also works because it presents the art, unobstructed by speech/thought/narration bubbles, then the page fills up with words. So much of a comic’s art is lost to word space, and this solves that problem nicely.

It won’t work for every web comic. Classic three/four panel comedies have a format that works for them already, and most writers are meta enough to use the flow as part of a joke. This is definitely more for classic graphic novel presentation.

Site Changes

One thing I would like to do is build a community around the Delmyria setting. I’d like fans to be able to do more than just read and comment. Disclaimer: Nothing I say here should be construed as giving license or ceding control or ownership. But I’d like to set up a license structure (not necessarily Creative Commons but definitely inspired by the openness) that allows fans to build on what I create.

I’m experimenting with BuddyPress plugin that adds many social networking functions to a blog. I’m not satisfied with the forum features it includes, however. I prefer any number of other purpose-built forum software packages to this. It reminds me too much of the Facebook discussion boards which are woefully lacking in both user and moderator control.

I also plan to have a wiki. I had one hosted here once before, but it was for personal use and removed.

In terms of actual news, “Mercy Killing the Dragon” has been revised and is now being submitted. I’ve added a yet untitled short story to the list. The new one focuses on a Kroh’chuk warrior and their traditions.

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