Monday, May 25, 2015

What Were They Thinking? (and This Week’s Coupon)

We like to make fun of that poor kid with his tongue stuck to the frozen flagpole. Why would ANYONE do anything like that? What were they thinking?
Our world is a complex place. If you look around, you see all sorts of things that might make you wonder:
Who thought to mash up grain, and mix it with stuff, and heat it until it became bread?
Who figured out how to eat a puffer fish? How many people did they see die first?
What would make someone slap together some wood and cloth, climb aboard and try to make it fly?
Why would someone try to cure disease with leeches? Or bread mold?
Man is a curious creature, and we like a challenge. Why do we climb mountains? Because they are there (and if someone doesn’t dare us, we dare ourselves.)
I’m afraid we’re killing our curiosity and our spirit of adventure. We grew up drinking out of the garden hose, but we’re afraid to let our kids do it. We try to secure them in bubble wrap, and I can’t help but think that they pick up on our fears for them, and each generation becomes that much less sure of themselves.
We’ve also become horribly averse to making mistakes, but that’s how we learn. Sure, you don‘t want your child to burn their hand on a hot stove, but sometimes they just have to do it to grow into the kind of people that mankind needs.
“No, Orville! You keep that contraption on the ground or you’ll get hurt!”
“Neil, don’t you DARE go to the moon! You won’t be able to breathe up there!”
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”– President John F. Kennedy
When I was twelve I watched Neil make that “one small step” onto the moon, and I was sure that it would be another small step for us to get to Mars. On July 20th we’ll celebrate the 46th anniversary of those first steps, and we’re still all trapped on this 3rd rock from the sun.
Where are the leaders to get us there? Who has the vision? Where is the sense of adventure?
When’s the last time you did something that made people say: “What were you thinking?”
Just saying…
This week, “The Unreliability of the Mature Mind” is our couponed feature (Dimentia as a defense mechanism against aliens… where does he come up with these ideas?) Here’s the link:
Use coupon code VR93U to save 50% off the list price at check out at smashwords. The coupon will be good through Monday, June 1st. Enjoy!
COMING JUNE 5TH – William’s 5th OUT OF MY MIND short story collection – stay tuned…
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “#InWhoseReality?”) can be found in many places, such as:
Connect with him (and LIKE and FOLLOW) “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on facebook, at:

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Short and the Long of It (and This Week’s Coupon)

As I post this, the first draft of Swordsmaster has surpassed the length of my longest story so far (“Mutiny on the Star-Bound”, at 11,425); it is now in novelette territory, and officially well on its way to being a novel, so I thought I’d reflect on the differences I’m encountering between writing short and long.
Back when I decided to have my creative renewal – my Midlife Renaissance ™, I made two decisions. Firstly, I chose writing speculative (sci-fi, fantasy & horror) fiction because it was what I liked to read, and it allowed the greatest flexibility for me to “make things up”, as well as the maximum leveraging of my “over-active imagination.” 
Secondly, I decided to keep it to short fiction rather than trying to tackle a novel right off the bat. I thought it would be much easier to keep my focus and my voice with a shorter amount of words, and I was right. But short fiction has a couple of restrictions that I may never get the hang of: in short fiction you must hook the reader quickly (in the first 13 lines), and you must be sparing with your words. There isn’t a lot of room for fluff, but since I don’t consider “words” to be one of my writing strengths, short fiction mode has suited me well. Also, since I knew my writing time would be sporadic, I needed to write short form so I wouldn’t have too much to re-familiarize myself with (my memory being faulty already, and not getting any better.) 
My own creative method (start with an idea or a phrase and just write until I’m done and see where it’s taken me) works with short fiction. There isn’t a lot of distance to cover, so it’s harder to get lost out there in the words, and even if I deviate a little from the direction I thought I was going, I still wind up in a place that ties together and makes sense. It may not be the conclusion I had planned, but it still has a logic to it; the ending works. 
Now, the first time I ever thought I was going to write a novel (Swordsmaster, but over 35 years ago), I had the same creative method of “stream of consciousness” writing, and the story twisted and turned in all sorts of nonsensical and annoying directions. I needed to be able to control it, and didn’t know how, so I had to kill it, otherwise it would have rambled and ramPAGEd all over the place, and although it might have been emotionally fulfilling to me to complete it, it would have been of no value to anyone else.
Even then I knew that my writing was worthless without having meaning or value to another person . In acting, you can go over the top with your emotions and let what feels good to you overpower and kill the story you are performing. Improvisation can occasionally produce genius bits, but rarely a memorable story.
You have to rein it in and plan what you’re doing in order to have the best shot at success in long form. So when I decided as one of my goals for this year that I would tackle a novel, I was wary of not having my course laid out. I don’t do outlines for my short fiction, but I laid one out for Swordsmaster. And yet, even though I am confident that I will get to the ending I have envisioned, I know the outline wasn’t detailed enough to keep total control of the story. Twists have already developed in my path that were unexpected, yet serve to move the story toward the finish line. Characters are already interjecting themselves and interacting in ways that liven things up, and make me wonder once again who’s really in charge here. I know it will be a wild ride before it’s over, and I will see and write things I hadn’t expected, but that’s the fun part.
After six weeks of writing this story, it is obvious that the hardest aspect to keep control of will be consistency. My poor memory is already being a drag on the process – note taking has become imperative. Terms that I would have tossed in on a whim in short fiction without bothering to keep track of now have to be listed in a glossary so I don’t have search through thousands of words just because I can’t remember how something was said.
Or what someone’s name was. Or what a place looked like.
In short fiction, I had a limited number of characters to keep track of, and if I created a location, I would most likely only use it once or twice, and would still remember the details of either in the month it might take to complete a story.
I need reminders about everything now. And there are so many places and people who need names. In all my writing up to now, I have used a letter repeated four times (“AAAA”,”BBBB”) as a placeholder for a name I hadn’t decided on. I’ve already run out of letters and need to develop another method to deal with it.
I know I will be doing more drafts than I am accustomed to. I can already see that my first draft will be to just get the plot done. The next pass will be for details - short fiction allowed me to use less description in creating a story. This year I will struggle to get long-winded (don’t mock me – I am very short in my short fiction); in long fiction I have to get better at details. There will undoubtedly be huge purges of material that serves no purpose, rewrites of parts that weren’t quite what they needed to be, and consistency checks throughout. That’s a lot of drafts.
I have about 12% of the words I estimated I’d need on the page now, and many of those words will be overwritten before this is done. I thought I might be able to complete it this year? There are people who have told me I’m crazy, but it wasn’t even about this.
Just saying…
This week, “Nipped in the Butt” - the second installment of my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series - is our couponed feature (Major Tom saves the Empire – again!) Here’s the link:
Use coupon code JG25F to save 50% off the list price at check out at smashwords. The coupon will be good through Monday, May 25th. Enjoy! 
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “#InWhoseReality?”) can be found in many places, such as:
Connect with him (and LIKE and FOLLOW) “William Mangiieri’s Writing Page” on facebook, at:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Validation (and This week's Coupon)

I finally finished watching the Writers (and Illustrators) of the Future Awards ceremony (you can watch it  here if you'd like - just remember - it is 3 hours long.) (isn’t streaming wonderful – you can see almost anything anytime you want, as often as you want, instead of only in the instant. Or is this not such a good thing? Sounds like another blog post…)
As I was saying, I watched the ceremony, and it was truly inspiring. The most important takeaways from the ceremony come from the speeches of the two dozen author and illustrator finalists. Keep trying. Thank you to everyone who supported me or pushed me. Thank you to the contest for validating that I am a writer.
I am not on their level. There, I’ve said it; even in this day of indie publishing, where you no longer have to cow-tow to the traditional publishing houses and get down on your knees to beg an EDITOR to deign to allow other people to see your work, I STILL find myself thinking “Bill, you’re not a real writer until you are traditionally published.” I still look for that validation.
I’ve submitted stories to the contest off and on since 2008 or so. The closest I got to becoming a finalist was when K.D. Wentworth gave my “Purr Mission” an Honorable Mention (that was her last round as editor of the contest – she died without signing the certificates that quarter.) That nod from her helps to keep me writing to this day, just as the occasional personal comments that other editors added to a number of form rejections show me that someone in the know has ACTUALLY READ what I wrote and found it worthy of more than just a “NO.”
We are social animals, and we rely a lot on validation from our tribe for a raison d'ĂȘtre (our reason to exist.) There is a dark side to this need. The wolf who is low-man on the totem pole, who’s the object of snaps, snarls, and subjugation,  still wants to be in that place, rather than not being a member of the pack at all.
The pack mentality can be a powerful inhibitor as well as a motivator. The threat that you will no longer be considered acceptable if you don’t behave the right way or say the proper things exerts a powerful control. It’s hard not to fall into group-think. If you put people together in a room, chances are that a dominant viewpoint will emerge that is parroted by everyone who wants to be in with the “cool kids” (that’s right – no matter how old we get, we never truly leave junior high school.) A consensus develops in part because people with an opposing viewpoint are afraid to lose social acceptance by going against the grain.
It is possible to find truth in consensus, but CONSENSUS IS NOT TRUTH. Think for yourself. Don’t just accept things at face value because EVERYONE KNOWS. So if there’s something you really want to do, something that you’re passionate about, keep striving for it. You don’t have to have someone else’s permission or acknowledgement to pursue your dreams. Persevere.
Although it helps, every once in a while, if someone gives you that nod. Pay it forward.
Just saying…
This week, “Bugging Out” is our couponed feature (there are so many ways to really lose it – where does it all go?) Here’s the link:
Use coupon code LB32E to save 50% off the list price at check out at smashwords. The coupon will be good through Monday, May 18th. Enjoy!


William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication: “#InWhoseReality?”) can be found in many places, such as:

Connect with him (and LIKE his Facebook writing page) at:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Split Personalities (and This Week’s Coupon)

I’m “a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction…” (apologies to Kris Kristofferson.)  I think that’s what all of us writers are (at least the fictitious onesJ.) We sit alone and put our souls on a piece of paper and then show it to the world.
Maybe I have a split personality. I’m shy (no - don’t laugh at me, I  am) - I’m really not comfortable with being out in front of everyone and being noticed. And yet, throughout my life, I’ve repeatedly put myself in that position. Acting, playing musical instruments, singing - all done IN PUBLIC. When I became a karaoke junkie, sure, I would sing at home away from the “crowds”, but it always feels better with other people around. To my family’s embarrassment, I sing while we’re shopping (and sometimes strangers join in.)
I can’t just listen to someone speaking in a meeting – I have to continually contribute with marginally useful comments or one-liners. My wife says I tend to speak in a stage whisper (that’s when you act like you’re trying to keep others from hearing you, but you’re really making sure that everyone can.) It is not my stage training – it’s who I am.
For me, writing is a contradiction (to be exact, it’s the decision to not just write, but then LET OTHERS READ IT instead of hiding it in my sock drawer.) I fear being noticed AND NOT being noticed. I’m not the only one. I’ve been watching the latest Writer’s of the Future awards ceremony (wish I could make it to that someday), and there are several winners (and legends) who seem to be from somewhat the same mold – shy, and yet still wanting to put themselves out there for the world to see.
Wanting attention – to be noticed – is a big part of being human (probably a bigger part than being shy.) We are social animals after all – even the ones who think they’re lone wolves (like me.)
And being dichotomous (oh my gosh, I thought I was making that word up, and it’s real!) is part of what we are, too. No human being (except maybe one or two) is only one way – even you. Don’t deny it – I bet you contradict yourself in a number ways, too. Think about it.
Just saying…
This week, “The Sheila Wulf Chitinoid Sessions” is our couponed feature (aliens that are odder than we expect – of course, that’s why they’re called ALIEN.) Here’s the link:
Use coupon code PE24P to save 50% off the list price at check out at smashwords. The coupon will be good through Monday, May 11th. Enjoy!


William Mangieri’s writing can be found in many places, such as:

Connect with him (and LIKE his Facebook writing page) at: