In Memoriam: BEAR ACE 603

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March 26, 1993

Lt. John “Frenchy” Messier
Lt. William R. Dyer
Lt. Cmdr. Jon “Rooster” Rystrom
Lt. Pat “Aardvark” Ardaiz
Lt. Robert “McFly” Forwalder

 

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the son and in the morning
We will remember them.”
— 
from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

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Read, write, review–and not necessarily in that order — Mad Genius Club

Once upon a time, in a forum far, far away, an aspiring author commented that they never read anything in the genre they wanted to write. There was the online equivalent of a gasp, followed by stunned silence. Then a lone voice asked this author why? Why didn’t they read the genre they wanted to […]

via Read, write, review–and not necessarily in that order — Mad Genius Club

Shoot! I’d bookmarked this post for sharing a week ago and then completely forgot about it! Bad Andrew! Bad! [spritzes self with spray bottle full of water]

Anyway, this article is a must-read for first-time fiction writers, or anyone who is thinking about trying their hand at a new genre.

The only thing I’d add to Peter’s excellent advice is to not only read lots of books in your new genre of choice, but also read multiple authors (preferably good ones – do your research first) from that genre. If you only read one author in a given genre, there’s a good chance that your work will sound very similar (if not identical) to that author. I made this mistake: back when I started writing techno-thrillers and action thrillers (I was in middle school and high school, and they are all appallingly bad), I was reading Tom Clancy novels almost exclusively, and as a result, all of my own books read like bad Clancy knockoffs.

So don’t make my mistake. Read lots of books from lots of authors.

Never stop writing. Or reading.

-Andrew

Worthy Adversaries — Valor and Compassion

The classic villain: the Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 Wizard of Oz film At an audition for my local community theater’s upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz, I observed some actors trying out to play the Wicked Witch of the West, each one ending the monologue, at the director’s request, with […]

via Worthy Adversaries — Valor and Compassion

I know that I keep saying that I’m going to write a dedicated post about what makes a good villain. And I will get to it, I promise. Eventually. But I stumbled across the above post, and it is itself a good primer on not necessarily what makes a good villain, per se, but what makes a good antagonist. The author’s key point (IMO) is that an antagonist does not necessarily have to be a bad guy (hence my distinction between antagonist and villain), but rather has to provide a challenge to the hero that he/she/it needs to work to overcome.

That actually rather neatly answers the question I’ve been asked several times: “How can ‘Man vs. Nature’ be a thing? Nature isn’t a villain!” No, but it can (and often does) present the most difficult challenges that anyone, be they real or fiction, will ever face.

I want to hear from you all: who is your favorite literary antagonist? Doesn’t have no necessarily be the actual villain, but a character (or thing) that presents a worthy challenge to the hero.

Never Stop Writing.

-Andrew

A Writing Sample: Death and the Angel

It just occurred to me that I’ve been rather remiss: I’ve been going on and on about how I’m a creative writer, but I haven’t actually shared any of my creative works with you (besides shamelessly pitching my book, of course). It’s high time I corrected that failure.

This piece was a one-shot that I wrote a few years ago in response to a writing prompt that Mike Kupari posted on a web forum that we both frequented at the time. It’s set in the same universe as the Four Horsemen story I’ve mentioned before. I was planning on expanding it into a full-length novel, but never got around to it. Maybe some day, but in the meantime I’ve cleaned it up and “modernized” it a bit for your reading pleasure. I’ve tentatively titled it Death and the Angel. I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and I think this song* serves as an excellent soundtrack. So without further ado:

#####

Tires squealed on the soaked asphalt as my Mustang roared through the night. My MP5 flew off the passenger’s seat and landed in the footwell as I braked hard for the exit ramp. The stock was still coated with blood and bone fragments from when I’d bashed in Carmine’s skull with it. Fire coursed through my chest with each breath, a constant reminder of those few seconds where everything had gone to hell. Kevlar and quick reflexes had saved my life, but they hadn’t been enough to keep Sal’s men from grabbing Helen.

Helen.

Her angelic face filled my mind’s eye as I pressed accelerator against firewall, tearing through the streets of Atlantic City at psychotically dangerous speeds. I barely noticed. I was on the razor’s edge: acting and reacting by pure survival instinct, fueled by that dangerous cocktail of pain, adrenaline, and manic desperation.

I had only let my guard down on the platform for a few brief seconds, but it had been more than enough. I’d screwed up. I’d failed her. Now she was back in the hands of that monster. I didn’t let myself think about what Sal might be doing to her. I’m not a religious man, not by any stretch of the imagination, but from the second I’d car jacked that Uber driver in front of 30th Street Station, I had been praying that I wasn’t too late.

The parking lot at Farley State Marina was all but deserted, no surprise considering it was well after 0300. A handful of vehicles were parked near the docks. Right smack in the center was Sal’s Porsche. For a terrible moment, I thought I was too late. Then I saw the Appolonia. The enormous Sunseeker sport yacht was still in her birth, lights blazing like a beacon in the storm. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

I parked a little ways off from Sal’s vehicles and grabbed my MP5, slinging it over my shoulder and pulling the stock open as I climbed out into the driving rain and began moving towards the marina with deadly purpose.

A figure emerged from the darkness as I neared the docks.

“Carmine?” he called. It was one of Sal’s men, “Terry? Rod? That yous guys?” It took me a few seconds to identify the voice. Vinnie. Or maybe his name was Vito. I didn’t remember. And it didn’t matter. I snapped up the submachine gun and let it answer for me. The goon crumpled in a bloody heap. The fat, stubby suppressor attached to the muzzle muffled the gun’s report down to a polite coughing fit. Nobody would notice it over the rain. As I marched past, I saw that he was still moving, gasping for air, trying to draw his pistol. I let off a second quick burst and splattered his brains all over the pavement. Raindrops hissed and popped as they struck the now-warm suppressor.

I moved onto the dock, subgun at low-ready. Aside from the lights on Sal’s yacht, there was no sign of life. I headed towards Appolonia’s slip, moving from shadow to shadow like a ghost. Or the Grim Reaper. In less than a minute, I was crouched on the enormous yacht’s swimming deck. Once more, I prayed to a God I wasn’t sure existed that I was not too late. If I was…

I shook my head. It didn’t matter. It was no longer a question of whether or not I planned on letting Salvatore Abandonato live. It was only a matter of how slowly I was going to let him die.

#####

Hope you liked it.

Never stop writing.

-Andrew

*Yes, I know it’s a cliche. Don’t care: I love that song, and it fits the mood of the piece perfectly (in my opinion, anyway).

Well, That Was A Weird One

Sometimes I would really like to sit my subconscious down and ask it what the heck is wrong with it.  I have somewhat… strange, for lack of a better word, dreams on a fairly regular basis. Not disturbing or horrific or anything like that, just weird nonsensical, and usually incoherent.

Last night (well, night before last as of the time this post goes live) I had one such dream, only this one was mostly coherent and just the right kind of strange that I figured y’all would get a kick out of it.

Oh, and if any of you want to use this as the basis for your own story, feel free. I have enough on my plate that there’s no way I’ll be able to get to it any time soon.

So I was somewhere in Napoleonic Europe, probably Spain or France, but I’m honestly not sure. Only I was wearing my regular 21st Century Street clothes and carrying a modern semiautomatic pistol (and I think a modern rifle at one point too, no idea where that come from). I’d stumbled across Richard Sharpe, Patrick Harper, and the Chosen Men at some point and joined up with them. Sharpe and Harper, I should mention, looked and sounded exactly like Sean Bean and Daragh O’Malley.

Anyway, Sharpe and his unit (and myself by extension) had been tasked with escorting a noblewoman and her ladies and waiting somewhere. I think maybe to said noblewoman’s wedding? Anyway, we eventually realized that we were being chased by a regiment of Redcoats that had mutinied, deserted, joined some kind of pagan cult, and become cannibals. And said Cannibal Redcoats wanted to capture the noblewoman for…. reasons? Subconscious was never clear on that.

Yeah, like I said, weird.

So the Cannibal Redcoat Regiment was chasing us all over Napoleonic Europe. We really couldn’t have a stand-up battle with them because there were a thousand of them and maybe forty of us, and I didn’t fire my pistol at all because I knew that I only had maybe twenty-five shots and then that was it: I wouldn’t be able to find any more ammunition for my gun for over a hundred years.

I think at one point, the Cannibal Redcoat Regiment captured one of the ladies-in-waiting, and maybe a group of us went after her? Again, subconscious was kinda hazy.

So finally, we get to this huge ivory tower. Think Isengard, but in the architectural style of Gondor from the LotR movies. And I think maybe this was the Cannibal Redcoat Regiment’s base, because we had to sneak into it and be absolutely silent or we’d be discovered. We made it up to the roof at the very top of the tower…

…and that’s when I woke up.

No idea where any of this came from, seeing as how I haven’t watched or read any of the Sharpe series in months, and for those of you who haven’t read or watched any of it (and I highly recommend you do, great material) it’s straight-up historical fiction. No cannibals or huge fantasy towers anywhere in the series.

So… yeah. My subconscious, ladies and gentlemen.

Never stop writing. Or dreaming. Even if your dreams are weird and don’t make a lot of sense sometimes.

-Andrew

Hark, a Post?! And a Contest?!

In the immortal words of The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t* from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m not dead yet!”

I wish I could say that I’ve been overwhelmed with work to the point where I haven’t had time to post. It is partly true, but the truth is I’ve just been lazy about writing on my own time. I’ve written before about how easy it is to “fall off the wagon” when it comes to writing and how difficult it can be to “get back on the wagon” once you’ve fallen off. That’s what happened to me. Again.

Developing discipline and motivation is the one single thing that I struggle the most with as a writer (that and coming up with character & location names). It’s not enough to just write when my Muse speaks to me, since she can be an evil and fickle creature. No, I need to get back in the habit of treating my creative writing like it’s my second job, and write something – anything – every day.

I’m going to do my very best to get back into that habit, and that includes paying attention to Dealing With Your Muse again. I can’t promise that I’ll get back to my old tri-weekly post schedule, but I do promise that it won’t be another three months (holy carp and other assorted fish!) before I write something again.

Now, my current WIP (and my other motivation for writing this post), is a fantasy short story that I’m going to submit to Baen Books’ annual Fantasy Adventure Award. The contest is open to the public, and will be accepting submissions through April 30, 2019. If you are a writer of fantasy (or even if your not), I strongly encourage you to give it a go. Full contest rules and submission guidelines are at the link above.

(Obligatory note for the FCC: I am neither an employee of nor a paid promoter for Baen Books and did not recieve and sort of conversation for this plug. I very much doubt that the staff and management at Baen even know I exist).

I entered this contest back in 2016, and lost. Didn’t have time to write a short story in 2017 or 2018 (between work and grad school, I had pretty much zero life for those two years), so I’m giving it another shot. Not expecting to win this year, but who knows?

For everyone who decides to enter, good luck!

Never stop writing.

-Andrew

*for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, behold the classic scene:

Thinking Like a Stranger — Mad Genius Club

Apologies – yet again – for not getting back on the wagon with blog posting. Between being busy at work and then over-booking myself with my new hobby… eh, excuses, excuses.

Anyway, this article from TXRed over at Mad Genius Club gives a lot of excellent advice on how to write characters that think differently than you? Ever get feedback from an alpha-reader or a reviewer that says your characters all sound like you? Don’t be shy in owning up to it: that’s a problem every writer has at some point in their career – usually at the beginning. I confess that I struggle with it at times.

The key to remember is that not everyone thinks like you, and that not all cultures are the same as (or, in some cases, even remotely similar) to yours. So you really have to “get into their heads,” so to speak, to find out what motivates your characters and why they do what they do and think what they think.

Well, that’s what all writers do, isn’t it? We get inside the heads of fictional people and other critters, find out their motivations (or give them some) and then see what happens. Right? But what if you need a character with a mind that works in a very different way from yours?

via Thinking Like a Stranger — Mad Genius Club

-Andrew