Monday, October 25, 2010

A Chelonian Air

I made this little kid’s song up today as I was driving my son to school. If I was bold enough, I’d post a video of me singing it. But I’m not that bold. It’s called “A Chelonian Air.”

He has a chelonian air about him.
He moves real slow but, in truth, he moves quite well.
He has a chelonian air about him.
It may be due to his multi-patterned leatherback shell.
He has a chelonian air about him.
His skin’s so smooth and oh-so-leathery.
He has a chelonian air about him,
With nictitating eyes that protect him from the salt in the water of the sea.

My son enjoyed it, humming along through a mouthful of “Toy Story” gummies. Even if he had no clue what I was singing about.

In case you don’t either, I’m thinking the picture to the left’s a surefire clue.

”A Chelonian Air” is copyright © 2010 J.M. Martin. Yeah, me. All rights reserved, etc. Use only with permission (which means, let me know and I’ll ask you to link to me.")

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Writing Progress Update!

I’ve spent the last two evenings really cranking out some good stuff (yeah, if I do say so myself and all that). I’ve managed to finish two stories this past week, both set in the world of Khaladune—the same world as featured in my story “Tisarian’s Treasure,” which appeared in the Fantasist Enterprises anthology, SAILS & SORCERY.

The two stories:

  • “Blind Ambition” takes place beyond the northern fringes of a vast empire set on expansionism by any means. However, the appointed High Marshal happens to be struggling with his personal feelings about how to go about matters, especially since he’s tormented by a deep alcohol-induced depression stemming from his apparent exile from the Emperor’s side for reasons he doesn’t understand. This one runs a little over 5,200 5,400 words and is ready to be submitted after I hear back from one last beta reader, though I’m not opposed to a few more eyes looking at it if YOU want to be a beta reader. Gotta let me know quickly, though.
  • “A Jagged Line” is the other story, and one I’ve been working on for a while. It features best friends, one a knight with a holy sword, the other a gifted sorcerer-priest who has fallen deathly ill because of an ancient evil. The tale begins with the two men retreating into the wintry wilderness after they had to flee a besieged fortress, along with a company of bedraggled knights and soldiers. In the wilds of the untamed Forsaken Lands, they must uncover and confront the ancient evil or surely perish. This one’s a doozy, coming in at around 16,300 words. It has one beta reader left to comment, as well (hurry, Stephanie!), but has also been sent off this very evening to W.H. Horner for a professional editorial pass. I’m both anxious and excited to get his feedback.

Okay, going to sleep now. Leave a comment or something. I need some love.

Oh yeah, and I updated my blog. The link colors are driving me crazy, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to change that right now. I’ll keep working on it.

Read a sample of “Tisarian’s Treasure” here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Author’s Call for a Street Team: Lucienne Diver

Recording artists do it, movie makers do it, so why not writers? Lucienne Diver, author of the popular VAMPED series of young adult novels, has put out the call to gather a street team to promote her books throughout the nation.

What an excellent idea. When I finally roll out with some novels of my own, you can consider this concept swiped! Hit the link for more info about Lucienne, her Vamp series of books, and how you can become a member of her street team (she’s got swag!).

Lucienne’s call for a street team on her blog:


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guest Blogger on Magical Words: Alethea Kontis

If you're a writer, published or aspiring, you have to read author Alethea Kontis's guest post at Magical Words. The clip below made me grin from ear-to-ear, but she has a lot of similarly great things to say. Go. Read!

Oh, and if you're not a writer, it's still an insightful read and will take you all of five minutes. Go, I said! Go, go, GO.

Once upon a time, authors wore magical capes and rode flying carpets and made enough money writing books to quit their jobs and buy castles in Ireland. Times have changed. We now all live in a world where a brainless chick from the Jersey Shore got a book deal.

Amplify’d from

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing by the seat of my pants...

I'm a self-professed pantser by admission.

pant⋅ser [pant-ser]

1. One who writes a novel by the seat of their pants, without an outline, character sheets, or any semblance of pre-planning.
2. Crazy person.

See also:  intelligent, witty, and downright sexy.


I've never been one to follow outlines, much less make them before I start writing. I get an idea and I roll out. But, as it usually works out, my idea only has so much gas, and once I start to putter, I tend to stall. I can't tell you how many stories I've started that eventually ran out of juice, lingering now in a folder on my hard drive hoping that someday I'll return to find forgotten potential there and pick up where I left off (which I have been known to do).

I'm trying to find a happy middle ground between outliners and pantserdom, which is why I'm happy to have come across a "struggling writer's" blog called, of all things, "The Struggling Writer," where various concepts are introduced by a fellow pantser on how to plot/outline a story without actually outlining! You see, like the strugglingwriter, if my outline is too detailed, I actually feel constrained and eventually become frustrated and bored.

Lack of interest is my biggest momentum-killer. Writing by the seat of my pants is so much more exciting! Half the time when I sit down to spin a yarn, I have no idea where it will go or what the characters will do or say until my fingers start flying across the keys. It's fun. It's exciting. It's unexpected. And I never get bored.

But something needs to be said about the product it becomes, as I'm also a constant revisionist, and what I often turn out as a pantser lacks a certain coherency. Then I get frustrated by the underlying structure.

So... now I'm thinking about trying one of the methods presented at "The Struggling Writer." I specifically followed the link to and downloaded her Chapter Concept Statement Grid. For my next work, I'm going to use this as a loose outline and see how it works, if I stay on-task throughout, while maintaining form. If it works out as well as I hope it will, you'll be the first to know! Wish me good fortune!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Copper Age Webcomic: Hopeless

The first issue is called HOPELESS: PERSONAL DEMONS. I'm not sure how I came across this Webcomic by Tom and Nimue Brown, but I enjoyed reading it and thought I'd share. The word balloons and their placement can be confusing at times, but that’s easy to overlook, and it's especially fun to see how Tom's work progresses over time. If you look at the first few pages and then skip to the last few, there's a very nice maturity in the style and colors. The story is fun, too! They’re posting a page or two a week and up to page 68 or so, I believe. Go give it a read!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Progress Update: A Jagged Line

Whew! My story, “A Jagged Line,” began as a short story with another title and has grown to almost novella proportions. When I hit the 12,000-word mark I knew I was spinning a tale much larger than I’d planned. At 15,000, as I delved into the end-scene, it was really bugging the heck outta me. It took a while just to tackle that last climactic bit. I kept fixating on the word count. At that length, I knew I was limiting my options for submitting and, yes, that concerned me. Ultimately, however, I took a deep breath and did what was most important: FINISHED IT. I ambushed my favorite place to write (“Study Room A” at my local library), planted my BIC (“butt-in-chair”)*, and wrote. Then wrote some more. I never looked down to where Word displays the count. I just chugged my Sugar Free RockStar and finished that bad boy.

In the past two weeks, “A Jagged Line” weathered three editorial stages: a round of beta reading (thanks to John, Ken, and e-Wolfe!), a round of revision for tightening, and a red-pen-read-aloud just yesterday. It sits at the 16,225-word mark as of this afternoon, after I cut almost 800 words. All that’s left now, I think, is a professional edit, since I’m worried about a bunch of extraneous info still being in there because it’s based on a setting that has undergone intense worldbuilding for many years. But once through that, it’s off to submissions.

In the meantime, I’ve got more story ideas… or maybe I’m going to return to one of my other Works In Progress, I can’t decide yet. Either way I go, I’m gonna try to be less of a dang pantser! Gotta convince myself: outlines are our friends. And they’re not chiseled in stone, after all. It’s just that the “seat-of-my-pants” is pretty much my M.O. when it comes to writing… and to life, for that matter.

So, guess I’ll be seeing ya soon; although, I do have one last thing to post that’s completely unrelated:

Dear Hollywood Film Makers:

Please, please, please, for the love of God please, stop giving work to Katherine Heigl.


The Rest of the World


BIC (butt-in-chair): The mantra of the Magical Words writers’ group. Subscribing and reading their posts is likely the kick in the pants I needed to get back to some serious writing of late.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The War of Art | Steven Pressfield Online

Author Steven Pressfield (GATES OF FIRE) gives us an excerpt from THE WAR OF ART, a self-help book about stoking your own inner fire of creation and staying motivated to follow through with your life's true purpose. Though written primarily from a writer's perspective, the sentiment he conveys spans all walks of life and all purposes. I read this excerpt yesterday and it really struck me as something worth sharing.

We've all heard the phrase (often in science-fictiony circles), "Join the Resistance!" Pressfield has a different take. We must RESIST the Resistance. Go to the excerpt (hyperlink above), spend a few minutes soaking in these words of wisdom, and find out why.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Comic Review: Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable by Joss Whedon

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4: UnstoppableAstonishing X-Men Vol. 4: Unstoppable by Joss Whedon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great series. I just read all four volumes of Joss Whedon's and John Cassaday's ASTONISHING X-MEN this week and I can't remember the last run of comics I enjoyed this much. Brilliantly done! An excellent jumping-on point, too, if you've never read the X-Men (or comics in general). Even if you don't care for superhero comics, this is good. It's worth your time. It has great characters, awesome artwork, a wonderful ending... a total blast. 'Nuff said.

My rating: five stars (out of five)!

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1  Gifted  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2  Dangerous  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3  Torn  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4  Unstoppable

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Comic Review: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted by Joss Whedon

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: GiftedAstonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted by Joss Whedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't picked up an X-Men comic in a long time, unless you count the WOLVERINE ORIGINS: DEADPOOL graphic novel I reviewed recently; example, I had no idea that Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Emma Frost (the White Queen), were a couple. When did that happen? Nevertheless, in ASTONISHING X-MEN, it works. I love the interplay between Scott and Emma, with her love for Scott sullied by her bitterness of what he once shared with Jean Grey. I also like Kitty Pryde's overt mistrust of the White Queen owing to prior bad blood.

As a fan of both Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, I've been excited to read ASTONISHING X-MEN for quite a while. So far, through the first six issues in the "Gifted" trade paperback, I haven't been disappointed. Whedon's storyline is tight, his plot moves along at a great clip, and the dialogue has just the right amount of pith and wit (say "pith and wit" five times fast -- sorta fun, huh?). 

Cassaday's art is a real pleasure to soak in, too—he perfectly combines heroics, drama, emotion, and realism with his masterful artistic abilities. On that last bit, realism, I'm just not into every bulging vein and corded sinew popping through a hero's costume. Cassaday has a knack for making his heroes look both cool and real at the same time, and I love it. He's been one of my favorite comic artists going all the way back to DESPERADOES for this very reason.

The "Gifted" storyline centers around a mutant cure called Hope, and there’s also the threat of a secret alien invasion by a revenge-seeking extraterrestrial named Ord. The covert organizations of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Nick Fury!) and S.W.O.R.D. end up getting involved, and one of the more compelling parts of the story is Dr. Hank McCoy's (Beast, image right) personal struggle, for of all the mutants in the current team—Scott, Emma, Kitty, Logan (Wolverine), and let’s not forget Lockheed the Dragon (the alien, Ord, certainly won’t… you’ll see) – Hank is the one whose mutations are the most evident and unattractive, making this miracle cure a very ambiguous lure. I think this is enough of a teaser, so I won't spoil any more of this excellent series. If you haven't picked up an X-Men title lately, I recommend the ASTONISHING X-MEN. You can waltz right in, quickly get up to speed, and enjoy a quality comic series with "marvelous" art (pun intended!).

My rating: 4 stars (out of 5).

Also check out these titles featuring John Cassaday's work:
Absolute Planetary, Planetary/Batman  Night on Earth, Desperadoes Omnibus

View all my reviews


Friday, October 1, 2010

A Writing Journal: Query Submission Contest!!

Author Bethany Ray is hosting a super fresh contest via her blog at “A Writing Journal,” where one lucky dog will be awarded a FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT, as well as a permanent link and bio on her blog, and a $25 Amazon gift card to boot. Like I said, super fresh, huh?

Go to her Web site for contest rules about how you—yes, you!—can receive multiple entries in the contest. If you're not a writer or don't have a manuscript ready, fret not! Bethany says you can always gift this bad boy if you happen to pull out a win over Yours Truly.

That would be me.

Nicely. Check it out!