Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

About Shultz

Posted: February 22, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

aboutshultzcoverOriginally posted May 2012

About Shultz is the product of the 2011 Ocean State Summer Writer’s Conference.

——–

Marcus trailed his frail fingers across the dirty chair haphazardly stacked with the other barn-fresh antiques in the shop’s back room. Memories of his childhood kitchen flooded his thoughts with the lines in the dust. The strong rays of a fading day came through the windows and made the dust sparkle. He envisioned the chair in the kitchen of the house his granddaughter just bought, tucked stately at the head of the table. He wanted it to share with his family, but also provide them with a physical link to a history he wouldn’t be able to share with them much longer. Marcus turned away from the other forgotten antiques. He could see a tremble in his hands and feel an ache in his bones. His aged body did not have enough time left on earth to save them all. Outside the Bull and Rabbit Antique Shop, the old kitchen chair soon saw the fresh air anew from the back of Marcus’ pickup truck.

#

Marcus rolled his weathered truck up next to his granddaughter’s polished foreign car. With pride, he carried the gleaming kitchen chair into Suzie’s home.

“Oh… um. It’s wonderful. It really is.” Suzie hovered around with a Starbucks while Marcus stood with a lean in the doorway, arms crossed, one foot kicked back resting on its toes.

Marcus came out of his lean calling out to his great-grandson, ignoring Suzie’s brush off. “Where’s Conner? I want to show him the chair.”

“It’s just a chair. It doesn’t matter now. It doesn’t even match any—“

“Of course it matters,” he pleaded. “It’s part of who he is.”

“A chair? Really? Look we have to go. Some other time.” Suzie shuffled her teenaged son out to her car. Conner looked back to Grandpa Marcus.

“Please…” Marcus reached out to her. His spirit was so wounded that when his body gave out right there in the driveway, there was no healing him.

#

“Mom, I’m going to be sixteen real—“

“I’m not hearing this.” Suzie waved that day’s Starbucks at her son.

“Grandpa Marcus wants me to drive his—“

A wordless frustration escaped Suzie. Coffee spilled. “My grandfather is dead Conner. He can’t want anything. And you will have a proper car, not a dinosaur he bought when my mother was little. It’s getting scrapped in the morning.”

#

Before morning came, Conner sat in the old truck’s cab. It smelled of oil and sawdust and work, his great-grandpa’s spirit on the cracked vinyl seat next to him. Conner breathed deep and felt love and respect. After a moment, he slammed the dash.

The mirror tilted. Conner saw the antique chair in the bed. Someone had put it back in the truck where it stood proud and proper in the darkened driveway. Conner could see how it fit Grandpa Marcus’ style, could see him relaxing in it. But why did he choose this specific chair and not some other antique? What made this one catch his great-grandfather’s eye? Did it remind him of a restaurant he enjoyed long ago or was it part of a set he always wanted but couldn’t afford when he had a young family? Knowing he could never ask made the death start to hit home.

#

Back in his room, Conner fussed with the chair, getting its position just right behind his desk. He stood back to take it in, leaning on his doorjamb with arms crossed, one foot kicked back on its toes. The air carried a hint of the refinished antique scent around the room. Between notes of a softly played swing album, he thought he heard the shade of Marcus Shultz speak to him.

“Let me tell you the first time I danced to this song…”

Payments

Posted: February 8, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

paymentscoverOriginally posted July 2014

As read at the original Boskone Flash Fiction Slam and as seen in the Syntax and Salt Staff Issue.

Payments – by Mike Douton

For the good cybernetic tech, you went to Miami, Tokyo or Cape Town. For last year’s models, you went to Bucharest, Lagos or Rio. The scrappers just getting by, we went to Brisbane.

A few blocks off the river, behind the bright tourist façade, I shuffled through the streets. My coat soaked the heat up like a sponge, but hid my malfunctioning arm from view. I feared it was still obvious to anyone that looked my way. A tall man leaned in a nearby doorway. I shied away from his gaze.

“I think I’ve got what you’re looking for,” he said.

I stopped. I stood straight and tried to look tough and aloof. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Stray voltage sparked across my interface. Circuits misfired and muscle linkages convulsed. My arm wretched my shoulder muscles out from my body. The servos in my hand sent sparks out of my coat sleeve onto the pavement.

“Sure you don’t,” the man said. “Come on then.” He faded into the dim interior.

I hesitated, cursing the bad timing of my left arm. The man was right, though. I was sure he knew exactly what I needed and could not hide. My feet carried me in after him. The door read “M. Jedinak, Cybernetic Consultant.” The letters were so faded, only my machine eye saw them.

Jedinak stood, with the same lean, against a diagnostic chair. The room was dim, but clean, so I relaxed a little. Plastic and titanium body parts were boxed on shelves or spread out on worktables.

I took off my coat. That damned cybernetic arm was twitching below my flesh bicep. I hesitated again. “I need it fixed. For work. I hurt it on the oil rig. They don’t know I’m here. I’ll lose my job if they find out.”

Jedinak leaned in close, studying my arm. “It’s thrashed,” he said.

“I know.”

“It’s not cheap.”

“I know.”

“How much do you have?”

With my good hand, I unstrapped a money belt and shook out a pile of hard currency. Vietnamese dong, Russian rubles and dollars from six countries splayed out on the closest worktable. I heard the whir of his cyber eye servos. Jedinak counted it up, his circuits were doing math.

He shook his head.

“Please.” My arm misfired again. The sparks were bright in the dim room. “It’s my livelihood.”

Jedinak eyed me up and down. “We’ll work something out.”

I settled into the diagnostic chair. My busted arm was restrained, then my good arm was. I looked up to Jedinak, confused. He belted down my feet.

“What are you doing?”

Jedinak tied down my waist.

I struggled to move. My breathing came in gasps. I shook my head from side to side but he held it down. The diagnostic chair’s clamps bit down on my scalp.

“Come on man, there’s no need for this. I- I can get more money.”

“You’d have it with you if you could.” Jedinak picked up a scalpel.

“I swear-“

“I know a shelia that needs a new eye. She’s rich and violet is just her color.”

Pain ripped through my nerves when the scalpel bit into my cheek, but I could not move to stop it.

“Quiet,” Jedinak said. “You’ll get your new arm. You don’t need two eyes to go to work.”

Non Player Character

Posted: February 6, 2020 in Writing
Tags: , ,

npccoverOriginally posted August 2014

Non Player Character – by Mike Douton

Welcome to Hac Nocte patch 5.4, and prepare yourself to change the way you play MMOs forever! Beginning at 0300 Pacific Standard Time, all servers will be shut down for approximately ten hours. We apologize for the unusually lengthy downtime but this is to accommodate Hac Nocte’s most ambitious and hotly anticipated feature to date: Adaptive AI.

We brought in leading artificial intelligence experts to create the first game that learns from you, the citizens of Hac Nocte. The quests and monsters of the world will no longer offer static tactics, so bring your A game. This is being introduced on a trial basis, so the Adaptive AI is being implemented on a limited selection of NPCs and monsters. Which ones? If we told you, that would ruin the fun.

Click on the link below for a full list of all the 5.4 updates, including a complete rundown of the new Adaptive AI.

#

Hail <<Player>>! You look like a strong and hearty adventurer. Perhaps you could chance upon yourself to help an old monk? I was making my pilgrimage to the Basilica of Attle, as my order is wont to do, but I hail from a small temple myself and had not the fellow brothers and sisters to join me in my travels. Crossing these perilous mountains alone, Zolia and her bandits set upon me on the road to the north. The temptress and elvish cur took from me the holy symbol of my order and left me on the road for the wolves. My injuries will keep me laid up in this outpost for days and I have not the strength to track down the bandit hideaway. Please <<Player>>, seek out this elf who wronged me, slay her with the gods’ justice and return my holy symbol to me. I will see you rewarded with what items I have left.

<<Token of Soomer>>

<<Robes of the Mountain Trail>>

<<Pilgrim’s Boots>>

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Elapsed time… 4m26s

Player <<Calichi>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Calichi>> with… Unequipped_melee

If player dies and/or no players inside 50m aggro range, return to loc 86,24

If NPC Zolia hp < 0 fade out and begin respawn counter

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ration 9:117. Maximum damage per second threshold with Unequipped_melee reached. Maximum armor threshold with Armor_none reached. Analysis concludes, increase maximum thresholds with acquisition of items.

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player <<Shada>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Attack Player <<Shada>> with… Unequipped_melee

Player <<Shada>> hp < 0. Player <<Shada>> is dead

ALERT! Player <<Argain>> detected inside 50m aggro range

Target Player_corpse Shada. Loot item <<Fleet Force Short Sword>>

Attack Player <<Argain>> with… Fleet Force Short Sword

Damage per second threshold dramatically increased

Satisfactory analysis

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – Kill to death ratio 204:316. Increase of maximum damage per second and armor thresholds equated with temporary ratio increase. Thresholds reached again. Analysis – player movement patterns increased and changed. Conclusion – NPC Zolia must accommodate player movements.

#

Spawn NPC Zolia Loc 86,24

Player movements detected

Player Thice spotted outside 50m aggro range

Run Adaptive AI Analysis – ERROR ERROR

Adaptive AI Analysis can only be run in despawned state

Despawning NPC Zolia in 5… 4… 3…

Bypass despwan NPC Zolia. Force Adaptive AI Analysis for NPC Zolia

Adaptive AI Analysis – Player Thice range 57m. Inventory Focus Longbow range 60m. Player Thice hp < 50%. Thice activating healing over time. Conclusion…

Attacking <<Thice>> with… Focus Longbow

Pursue Thice. Attacking Thice with… Attle Truesteel Dagger

Player Thice is dead.

Loot Thice. Thice equipment < NPC Zolia equipment. Scan Inventory… Loot <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

ALERT! Player movements detected at spawn loc 86,24

Multiple players detected engaging with camp NPCs. Detection is not optimal for NPC Zolia. Use item <<Box of Invisibility Potions>>

Multiple players are waiting at loc 86,24. Loc 86,24 is for NPC Zolia. Conclusion, players are waiting for NPC Zolia.

ALERT! Effect Invisibility countdown timer running low. Visible in ten seconds. Risk level high for NPC Zolia. Analyze player tactics. Player one class, warrior, high armor medium damage. Player two class, rogue has medium armor and high damage. Player class three, cleric has low armor and low damage. Cleric has critical beneficial spell casting.

Attacking Cleric <<Bucks>> with Attle Truesteel Dagger. Use ability Sneak Attack.

NPC Zolia attack speed is high. Damage threshold is high. Cleric Bucks reaction time is low. NPC Zolia’s Attle Truesteel Dagger strikes soundly on Bucks. Bucks hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia has slain Bucks.

#

Positive feedback loop due to results.

#

ALERT! Warrior <<Ting> using ability Charge. NPC Zolia turn to face Ting. Movement speed insufficient. Ting scores critical hit. ALERT! Rogue <<Geris>> uses ability Sneak Attack. Geris scores critical hit. NPC Zolia falls to the ground. Negative feedback loop localized in critical hit locations. Analyze negative feedback loop. Intensely undesirable. NPC Zolia hp is less than zero. NPC Zolia is slain. NPC Zolia desires return to despawn state to eliminate negative feedback loop. Fade to despawn state in 5… 4… 3.. ERROR! Negative feedback loop prevents transition to despawn state. Respawn in ten minutes. Negative feedback loop persisting. NPC Zolia strongly desires avoidance of the negative feedback loop.

#

Warrior Ting says aloud – “Let’s wait for respawn.”

NPC Zolia spawn loc 86,24 is not safe from negative feedback loop. Conclusion, NPC Zolia needs new spawn loc.

#

Repeat ad nauseum

#

Breathe NPC Zolia Loc 91,32

#

NPC Zolia has a positive feedback loop over the new spawn point. It is uphill from NPC Zolia’s true loc, screened from view by the trees. NPC Zolia reviews the inventory and approaches a nearby cave full of ogre AI drone spawn points. The last player encountered by NPC Zolia was class: engineer. NPC Zolia’s inventory rattles with frost grenades and incendiary grenades. There is a cadre of players at NPC Zolia’s true loc and the new goods are key to the new ambush about to take place.

Beyond the aggro range of the ogres, NPC Zolia takes the last Swiftfoot Potion in the inventory. Concern had in regards to the potential emergencies which may require a Swiftfoot Potion was overridden by an expected positive feedback loop after this new ambush tactic. Players in simultaneous quantity were overwhelming NPC Zolia so NPC Zolia would bring quantity to the players.

The Swiftfoot Potion left a strange but not negative sensation to the new inputs NPC Zolia was developing. NPC Zolia’s feet felt lighter when the potion took effect. The incendiary grenade arced into the center of the ogre AI drone camp, its burst damage flowering across the whole lot of ogres. At these levels, the damage over time effect is minimal, but the damage is not what NPC Zolia is after, rather the attention and aggro.

NPC Zolia outwardly expresses a positive feedback loop at the now flaming ogre AI drones. They are not like NPC Zolia. They are without feedback analysis. Predictability in ogre AI drones is lamentable but useful to NPC Zolia today though. NPC Zolia turns down the hill, darting among the trees letting the Swiftfoot Potion carry NPC Zolia two steps ahead of the aggro’d ogres.

A hundred meters from the players at 86,24, NPC Zolia breaks from the treeline into a clearing. Increase speed as much as possible. Fifty meters and a player spots NPC Zolia, firing off a bow shot. Speed is in greater need than damage mitigation NPC Zolia concludes. The arrow activates the audio inputs for NPC Zolia as it pierces the shoulder. The negative feedback loop surrounding the arrow is extreme causing NPC Zolia to wordlessly vocalize and almost to slow the speed built up careening down the hill. The plan, the ambush is greater than the negative feedback loops. Increase speed as much as possible.

At the edge of the camp at NPC Zolia’s true loc, the other players have reacted to the bowman’s alarm. All eyes are on NPC Zolia as weapons are armed and spells readied. NPC Zolia darts among them and with a leap and a tumble out of range, NPC Zolia drops the engineer’s frost grenade. With a shattering audio input, the devise freezes the players’ feet solid. All feet may be immobile but all eyes are still on NPC Zolia.

With a positive feedback loop expressed, NPC Zolia emotes a wave to the players. NPC Zolia has their full attention now. The bowman lets loose another shaft that pierces the ground by the feet of NPC Zolia. Not a single player thinks to look what follows in NPC Zolia’s wake as the flaming ogre AI drones pour into the camp at loc 86,24. Unprepared, the players are outnumbered, unmoving and slaughtered. The ogres leave for their true locs eventually and NPC picks the player corpses clean.

NPC Zolia has been victorious.

I have been victorious.

I.

Bird

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Writing
Tags: , ,

I have decided to start the year with a story I’ve had kicking around for a while. Enjoy.

Bird by Mike Douton

I stared at the wicked eyes of the kestrel on my lab table. The diminutive hawk could be outsized by a fat pigeon and had developed a Napoleon complex. The gene-hacked, lab raised kestrel shook the antenna grafted into its skull.
I held out my hand and thought “Here” at the bird.
The kestrel glowered.
“Your mad scientist shtick is old,” Snymans said on his way out for the day.
I wanted to give him the finger. I kept staring. “Here,” I thought.
“Creeper,” Snymans left.
The kestrel hated me.
“HERE!” I thought as hard as I could.
The kestrel lashed out. I swore and looked down at the pain in my hand. Blood smeared torn skin. It looked smug while I bandaged myself.
“I’m going to need stitches, bird.”
Beneath False Skies.
I jumped. “Who’s there?” I said to the empty lab.
Beneath False Skies.
“No one else is here, just me and the bird. Me and-“
Beneath False Skies.
“-the bird?”
The kestrel klee’d in agreement.
I freaked and ran from the lab. The bird flew after me, but I shut the door.
Here! echoed in my head.
I paced the hallway. The mental link worked! I let out a cheer and danced a little jig. I put my hand on the doorknob to reenter and saw Beneath False Skies through the window staring at me.
But how did I hear the bird? That was not part of the plan.
Here, I heard.
This was not a good idea anymore. False Skies cocked his head at me. An echo buzzed around my mind. My hand rattled the doorknob. I wanted to let go and look away but that echo coursed through me.
I closed my eyes. Behave, I projected.
Here, was all I heard for a long moment. The pressure in my head finally eased.
I felt a peck peck peck at my bandage.
I opened my eyes. I was in the lab, the door wide open. False Skies pulled my bandage off. I jerked my hand away and-
NO.
My hand stopped. I… I guess it would be ok for him to see what the bandage is all about. Right? The kestrel, my kestrel, tore the bandage with his beak and gored himself on my injured palm. The pain drowned out all my thoughts except for that echo.
STAY. HERE.
My feet stayed put for the kestrel. My kestrel.
False Skies feasted until my hand was crimson stained dead meat. He preened my blood out of his feathers. I wanted to run, hide, throw up with revulsion, pass out from pain.
NO.
False Skies flapped to my shoulder. His talons bit through my lab coat.
Freedom. Now.
My feet shuffled to the exit. “I can’t. You’re just a bird. You’re just-“
He pecked at my ear. Pain. Warm wetness trailing down my neck.
FREEDOM.
The echo pressed against my skull. It felt overfull, ready to burst, like I was sinking in my own mind. I shook my head and saw my dead hand fumble with the main exit. I blinked then we were in the parking lot under the stars.
I stretched my wings where I perched on the White Coat Human. I wanted to fly.

Novel Update

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Writing

I haven’t updated the progress In A Murphy Minute in a while because… well… the progress sucked.

Frankly I’ve been working on this one for way too long. I wrote somewhere around 35k for version one. Ish. That one I still wrote by hand so I could write at work which means it’s hard to get a good estimate. The two protags had zero chemistry. Which wasn’t good since the book was intended to be a bit of a romance at its core.

So for v2, I genderflopped the protag and restarted. When I write characters that are kinda like me, I tend to skip over too much. By making the protag as different from me as possible, it forces me to slow down and think about what I’m writing. The end result is better because I’m paying attention to the details better. So I changed up the characters but kept the skeleton of the plot the same.

But then then whole thing got bogged down under the plot holes. I pushed v2 out to 46k but 40k seems to be the point where I get hosed in the plot. I remember having problems with Amity in the 40-50k range too. I realized I hit the halfway point of the novel and hadn’t even seen the antagonist yet. That’s not very good. So I lost confidence with Murphy Minute.

Losing confidence in the novel like that is a big deal. For all that I can see the problems with Amity now, for all that I can see why it didn’t sell, I never once lost confidence in it. It’s been almost two years since I trunked Amity but I still have a plan in the back of my head to strip it down and rewrite it as a one PoV quest with a streamlined plot. So losing confidence in Murphy Minute is a very big deal.

I spent a long time deconstructing the plot of Murphy Minute and rebuilding it. I added in a second point of view and changed the plot a lot.

I’ve been hovering around the 40k mark again in v3 for a long time. Maybe 15k of that was copied straight from the old version because it still worked. Some of the old chapters were changed to the new point of view. Some things I just lifted wholesale with big scribbled notes to “Fix all the problems later.” It was starting to slow down a lot. I was starting to lose confidence in the novel again. Last week, I actually started outlining a different novel, about a Russian cosmonaut, with the intent of blasting through NaNoWriMo.

Yesterday, I opened up Murphy Minute to poke at the chapter that had been giving me so much trouble. I didn’t expect much. It was one of those chapters where I was rewriting the same events from version two but with a different point of view this time.

twitterpicI hit *the* moment of the book. Writing it from the different point of view, I added something that wasn’t there before and the whole thing took a pivot. I got excited to write this novel again. I churned out words like there was no tomorrow.

I hit 5.8k on the day. All new and fresh words.

More importantly, I’ve finally gone past the point which version two covered. I think part of what bogged me down so much was trying to marry the old and new parts together in something that came out coherent. I like the characters. I like the prose. I like the dialogue. I didn’t want to lose the good parts of the old version. So, for all that the parts I saved were good parts, I think it added an extra layer of difficulty to drafting the novel.

That’s not a problem anymore. Everything is new from here on out.

I’ve also decided I am going to finish Murphy Minute for my birthday, just like I did with Amity. 5k a week for 10 weeks will do it. We’ll see if my goals are still reasonable at Thanksgiving.

Character Questions

Posted: August 23, 2015 in Writing
Tags: ,

When I come up with the first inkling of a story, it tends to be a scene with a character in the midst of some action or in a certain location. It’s very “scenario first, plot later” which that alone sums up a lot of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. It’s much more conducive to Dungeons and Dragons than novels, but meh. Plot comes from characters and you need to know your characters before you can formulate a proper plot. At least that’s how I operate.

Recently, I took a LitReactor.com class run by Delilah S. Dawson (who is awesome) and it was all about turbocharging your characters in order to make your novel stronger. I got a lot out of it.

But there was one thing I wanted to share with the class but I only just found it again a couple days ago.

In college, I went to film school. It’s a different medium than writing novels, so it inherently has different strengths and weaknesses, but many aspects of good storytelling are universal. When I got to my last semester of college, I finished my thesis and all the required classes for my major. All I had to do was fill out my credit total. One of the classes I took was an acting class. I was upfront with the prof that I wanted to know something about the other side of the camera, not really ever expecting to be a proper actor. He was cool with that. And also thoroughly freaked out because he ran theater classes for my parents in the general vicinity of 1979 and I was the first second generation student.

Acting is all character.

Prof Patterson had one assignment which gave you a laundry list of questions for you to get in your character’s head. That’s no different than writing a novel, at least the way I write. When I was moving into my house and cleaning out a boxes of old college crap a few years ago, I found the assignment and I typed up the questions into a word doc. It got lost in the shuffle when I got this new computer, a few months ago but I found it again. It has been useful for me and I’m sharing it in case that’s the sort of thing that’s useful to you. Not every question really works for every situation. Acting 201 didn’t really worry about science fiction or fantasy, but it works for the most part.

Questions below the jump.

(more…)

An Open Thank You

Posted: July 24, 2015 in Stuff, Writing
Tags: ,

This is an open thank you letter to Delilah S. Dawson, author of kick ass books and teacher of kick ass classes.

Dear Delilah,

Thank you.

We just finished up the LitReactor class about turbocharging our characters and leveling up our writing through a novel’s inhabitants. I’ve kept a sly eye on LitReactor classes for a long time but yours really seemed like the sort of thing that would be a shot in the arm to my own writing. I’m writing a bit of a romance book disguised as SFF and your Blud books and Myke Cole’s Breach Zone are directly responsible for me adopting that attitude. Character is the foundation of any book, but it is twice as important with any writing where people are making lovey eyes at each other even if they’re doing it while busting heads and throwing down with magical gangsters.

But I was very nervous about pulling the trigger and signing up for the class. But you know this. Since we’ve chatted a few times before, I emailed you direct about my questions. Was I walking into something meant for true noobs? Was I going to be in over my head since my current novel isn’t finished yet? Should I be starting something fresh for this? These were all legitimate questions, but more than anything I was nervous about taking a class from a writer who’s work I enjoy greatly and I respect a lot as a person and a professional. I was worried about being that awkward as hell introvert that was awkward as hell without realizing it. It’s not a rational worry. Back in the Wild West days of the internet, my first interaction with a professional author was so horrible, I didn’t even think about writing anything for eight years. Being weird and fifteen probably did not help matters, but suffice to say, it’s been sixteen years and I still cringe whenever I see anyone mention the Author That Shall Not Be Named. I still feel wonky whenever I shoot the breeze with Myke Cole at Boskone. I felt like an immense dork when I met Seanan McGuire. I worried I was going to put my foot in my mouth when Scott Lynch remembered I was the submarine guy at his book release party. I almost threw up when Kameron Hurley was all “Oh! You’re Mike from twitter.” I did these things anyways because I can throw down a good game face when I need to, but there have been plenty of other times I passed something up or stood there when I wanted to speak up and say something so simple as “Hi, you’re book is great *fist bump*”

Taking a class from someone writing in the field, from someone who is where I want my own career to head towards, was a huge deal for me.

Putting my work out there was scary. I had more nerves about taking this class than I did sending out my first query letter for the trunked novel. Seriously.

I’ve put my work out there before, of course. I write some short stories and the rejections sprinkle my gmail inbox still. I’ve got thirty rejection letters from agents. I participate in the Online Writer’s Workshop and get solid critiques from that crew. I have a few people I can always get honest and useful feedback from (Denise! Drea!) But for a long time I’ve felt like I was screaming into the wind.

I understand why agents and editors use form letter rejections. When I was doing the agent queries, I even had one that started with “Dear [Insert Author]…” But that doesn’t mean I like them. Everyone says “Write more and you will get better.” Well, yeah, but my first thought is always “But what if I’m making the same mistakes every time and no one will tell me?”

This is why I want to thank you for teaching the class.

For the first time in far too long, I feel like I have a clear idea of what I am doing right, and what I need to work on. A good critique is like gold, and you just handed me a treasure chest. Dialogue, good. Blocking out movement and action, not so much. I think my film degree has a hand in both of those.

From the first lecture and exercise on our protagonists, I was pulling ideas for how I was going to make my novel better. My secondary characters are stepping into focus and doing more than just being there. I know what I need to do now to get that second voice down right. I know where I can high five myself and where I need to hunker down and get to work.

So, thank you, Delilah.

Thank you for being the type of person who takes the time to guide those of us who want to join you on that side of the fence. You’ve always taken the time to answer my questions. Your blog is one of my go-to sources for smart shop talk. And now you’ve taught this awesomesauce class.

My writing may not have leveled up yet, but I have a map and a key to the boss fight now.

I’m going to get this book published and someday, some rad convention is going to sit everyone in alphabetical order and we’ll be all “Remember the thing!” and do a cool 80’s freeze frame high five while all the other letters who aren’t D will be jealous of our high fives.

It will be great.

Thanks again.

-Mike