Archive for July, 2013

“Why Pete?”: The Making of a Story

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Last summer I got word from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest that my short story, “Why Pete?” had been awarded an Honourable Mention in the second quarter of their quarterly international short story contest. I was ecstatic. I had an Honourable Mention from their Illustrators of the Future Contest from the early 90s, and this latest one completed the set.

Honourable Mention for "Why Pete?"

Writers of the Future Honourable Mention, 2nd Quarter 2012, for “Why Pete?” by Tim Reynolds.

“Why Pete?” is a pure science fiction piece written during a year of writing horror, fantasy, vampyre, zombie, and steampunk short stories. It tells the tale of Space Ark Commander Lily Rayn when she awakens from cryosleep near the end of her journey to a new star system with a load of colonists.

The Honourable Mention is a terrific honour and all, but there was no cash prize and the story didn’t get published, unlike the first-place winners. With stories, publication is what it’s all about, with hopefully a little cash thrown my way as a symbolic gesture.

So I submitted “Why Pete?” to Lightspeed Magazine. It was rejected. Next there was another competition at Arc. Nope. Then it was off to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (a perfect fit, or what?!). They liked it, but it wasn’t for them. Then the story made its way to Clarkesworld and it was rejected so fast it almost bounced. That’s fine, though. Rejection is okay.

Story rejections happen for a number of reasons. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  1. The story really does suck. (This was not a problem with “Why Pete?” because the judges at WOTF are very picky.)
  2. The story is of a type which doesn’t appeal to the editor. (He/she hates space operas, or whatever.)
  3. The story is not a good fit for the publication. (The story is science fiction, the publication is Homes & Gardens.)
  4. The publisher has recently purchased and/or published a similar story. (Just bad timing.)

And then came the much-anticipated call for submissions from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing’s Tesseracts Seventeen. Tesseracts is THE Canadian annual speculative fiction anthology. There is often a theme and the only requirement is that the author(s) must be Canadian, in one form or another. Authors whose works have appeared in past editions include Margaret Atwood and Robert J. Sawyer. I have quite a few friends who have had their terrific stories grace the pages of one or more editions of Tesseracts, so I was eager to join their esteemed company. Also, one of my all-time favourite short stories (of mine) was rejected by Tesseracts Sixteen last year, and I was ready for the wind to change.

So I submitted, with fingers and toes crossed. I love all of the stories I write, at least once they’re finished, but “Why Pete?” has a special place in my heart because Lily isn’t based on me whatsoever and yet she came alive for me like few other characters have. I read the story now and I still smile at the way she handles the situation. Yes, I wrote the situation and her reaction, but when a story is written really well, it can separate itself from the author and become its own entity. “Why Pete?” has done that, for me, at least.

“Why Pete?” came about because I wanted to write about fear.  I wanted to write a dark story that made readers shiver, but I wanted to do it without a single monster or creature. I needed a phobia. My own fears aren’t of a phobia level so I stole one from my wife, Sue. She has a fear of being buried alive. Ooh! A good one! I suppose I do, too, once I think about it. Anyone who doesn’t, is crazy as far as I’m concerned.

I’d found my story’s fear factor. Now I just needed to find an original way to tell it. Well, there are no original ideas, just different voices telling the same stories. I wanted something set in space, to become part of a larger literary canvas I’m weaving with a series of novels, and this might just be the right fit. How could I bury someone alive in space? Well, aren’t spaceships just like submarines and simply sealed coffins waiting to be cracked open at the end of a journey? You betcha!

Now for my hero, Pete. Yes, Pete was the original hero during the concept stage. The problem is that I know so many strong women that I thought that it was time I gave them a hero of their own. Enter Lily. Lily Bianca Rayn. Lily (White) Rayn. It has such a cool sound to it. ‘Rayn’ is rain… a purification. Lily and Bianca/White are symbols of innocence. I wanted a character whose very name screamed “innocence and rebirth!!” The story is really about starting fresh, with a blank slate, and that’s what Lily ends up doing.

The science of the story wasn’t too difficult to research. I allowed for the fantasy of cryosleep for a year and travel through a worm hole and then based all of the remaining science on submarines and various previous and existing space missions. By the way, the International Space Ark Mayhew is not named after Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, but rather after my own ancestor, Thomas Mayhew, Governor of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket & the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the mid-to-late 17th century. Many-Greats Grandpa Tom was an explorer and colonizer in his own right (and had the longest continuous Christian missionary effort in history).

The planet I sent Lily and the ark to is actually one in the Exoplanet Database, and is one of possibly habitable planets discovered by the Kepler telescope.

Because I’m all about using humour to break or bend tension, the Pete in the story became the personality overlay of the artificial intelligence that keeps Lily company during her ordeal. The original Pete who was the basis for the personality overlay, was Lily’s husband at the time of the AI’s programming. To say any more will give away some of the fun of the story, so I won’t. I’ll just add that the although I often start a story with the title, this one didn’t come to me until after the first draft was written and the original title, “One Hand Clapping” just didn’t fit the finished story.

Tesseracts Seventeen

The cover of Tesseracts Seventeen, from Edge Publishing.

I suppose I should tie this post up by adding that “Why Pete?” was selected by editors Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon for TESSERACTS Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast. It’s due out in October and is available now for pre-order from Amazon.com. For anthologies containing any of my other published stories, here’s my Amazon Author’s page.

Like so many of my short stories, I have an idea where the story starts and some of the things I need to have happen, but quite often I just let the characters and narrative voice start talking and plotting and acting and see where it takes the tale. Sometimes a character will make a simple statement (“I hate dogs.”) and that will lead the story to a place where dogs become important. Maybe she’ll even become a werewolf. Ooo! I like that! ‘Scuse me while I jot that idea down… a cat person becoming a werewolf!

Anyway, without dropping any spoilers, that’s how “Why Pete?” came to be written, awarded, and eventually sold. Next up for the story will be an option by Sony for a Hollywood film starring Mrs. Pitt or  some other tough-as-nails, tender-as-a-kitten woman. Yah. Right.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

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Simple Digital Art: A Specific How-To

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Photography How to... with tags , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Good evening.

It’s a dark, windy, rainy night here and I have just finished a piece of art-as-a-gift I thought I’d share with you. Not only will I share the finished piece, but because it was all done with photographs and Photoshop, I thought it might be fun to share the process, to show how simple it can all be.

Here’s the finished, yet untitled piece. It is for my guitar-playing nephew, for his birthday.

Rock and roll!

Rock and Roll, the heavy way.

This finished piece is actually a compilation of multiple, manipulated photos taken in my basement within the space of ten minutes. Canon EOS 60D on a tripod. No flash. Electronic remote control.

The first shot taken was the headshot. This is simply me making an angry face while wearing my wife’s steampunk wig.

It's the hair, man!

Heavy Metal Timmy!

Next came the skull. Much easier than you think, because in my vast collection of shit and paraphernalia, I have a skull or two. This one is actually an aquarium prop from Walmart and cost less than $20. I made sure to take the skull at the same angle and in the same light as the face shot. I also had to blacken in a hole in the back of the skull where it looks like a large calibre bullet passed through. Yes, it’s one of my favourite props. 🙂

Aquarium prop skull

Aquarium skull

Since I wanted the face in the image had to be younger than my 53 and have a full, black goatee (and not just my greying red Beatnik chin fuzz), this had to be added. I knew that fine detail would be lost in the final piece, so rather than spend months getting each strand of hair perfect like the animators at Pixar would, I went for the quick and easy fill-it-in solution.

Angry rocker with beard

Making the beard black and full.

This next part is my favourite part because whenever I do it the images freak out my friends and family. The effect is very cool. I copied the image of the skull and superimposed it over the angry, bearded face. A few easy adjustments were necessary to find the right scale and placement and by playing with the opacity, I was able to find just the right mix of skull and face to let both come through. I then used the digital eraser to carve back the skull to look like the hair draped over it.

skull overlay on face

Skull overlay on the face

Since my nephew plays guitar, I needed to incorporate an axe in the image. Since my own guitar is a hollow-body jazz guitar, it wouldn’t have worked, so I used one of the miniatures in my collection. Yah, I know, you want to know where I got this cool little prop. Unfortunately, the only place to get them is from an Ontario merchant at the Calgary Stampede or the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. He does not have a website so it’s in-person shopping only. It’s a pain in the ass.

Clapton Miniature

A miniature of one of Clapton’s guitars

First I had to erase my hand, and whiten the background. Once that was done, the skull/face were added and the parts not overlapping with the guitar were erased. Also, because I wanted the rocker to look much more gaunt than my own chubbiness, I drew some hair in to make his face look thinner.

Compilation of the images

Combing the guitar and the rocker

It looks kind cool and haunting here, but I wanted the final piece to look like it was hand sketched in black ink, like a band member had done it on the road, lounging in the bus between gigs. I used the sketch filter of Photoshop to find just the right brush length and contrast. Once I found that balance I signed it, textured the signature, and was done.

The end result.

The finished piece.

Not exactly wild and exciting, but it has taken me longer to write this blog than it did to create the artwork, once I knew what I wanted.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

UPDATE: After an editor asked for something with a bit more to it, I created these two for her to choose between, using parts from the other piece plus an image I took years ago of Tyler from the Barenaked Ladies…

Rock is Death, Baby!

Rock is Death, Baby!

DEath MEtal MAsk

Putting the Black back in Sabbath.