Over the weekend I attended the Double Impact Jeet Kune Do /Filipino Martial Arts Seminar. On Saturday, Sifu Kevin Seaman gave a master class on applying JKD concepts for boxing, Muay Thai, and self-protection. Then on Sunday, Guro Raffi Derderian gave a master class on advanced Kali and Silat (Indonesian) techniques and principles. An amazing weekend of martial arts was had by all! Great times with great people!
Category Archives: Martial Arts
Beat ‘Em & Treat ‘EM!
Last night I traveled to Coach Jeff Burger’s K.I.C.K. Karate in Salem, MA to attend Chris LaCava’s Beat ‘Em & Treat ‘Em Tour (Martial and Medical Seminars) 2023. Chris covered tips and tricks of filipino sword and knife. All the concepts and techniques came from Stockton Multi-Style Escrima. This was a comprehensive and enjoyable seminar. I got a lot of value out of the teachings. It was great training with Chris again.I think I last saw him on the 2017 tour. and it’s always great partnering with Coach Jeff burger. Highly recommended!
Old School Martial Arts…? But Why?
Had a great conversation about martial arts with host Dominick Izzo on Them’s Fightin’ Words! Podcast We talk traditional vs. modern and even express our love of martial arts cinema. This is an episode you don’t want to miss! While you’re at it, subscribe to his channel!
Year in Review: 2022
Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work my goals, track my progress, and commit to posting my top accomplishments. I hope to inspire others to do the same.
- My story, “The Midnight Club,” appeared in The Horror Zine’s Book of Werewolf Stories published by HorrorBound Press. I shared pages with Ramsey Campbell, Nancy Kilpatrik, JG Fraherty and other great writers.
- Received hard copies of the anthology.
- Received audio book on Audible.
Magic Moment: Review from Heather Miller:
…The Horror Zine’s Book of Werewolf Stories brings together twenty-five shirt-ripping, teeth-baring, guttural-snarling stories from names big and small. The collection includes tales written from both the victim’s and the wolf’s perspective. There are werewolves who are bloodthirsty monsters and those who try their hardest to retain some sense of humanity. There are stories which question whether their characters are werewolves at all or men suffering from psychiatric delusions. There are wolves at war, wolves at sea, wolves in the woods and wolves in the city. A few stories which stood out to me:
“The Change” by Ramsey Campbell – a psychological horror in which a writer becomes obsessed with – and then paranoid about – the strangers who gather just beyond his window in the blue glow of a bus stop lamp, and regresses to a primitive form of himself in his distress.
“Savages” by Trish Wilson – a feral child is found and held for observation, until the wolves who raised him come back for what’s theirs.
“The Midnight Club” by David North-Martino – a serial killer who lives for the thrill of the hunt gets what’s coming to him when his prey turns to predator.
“Origin of the Species” by JG Faherty – easily my favorite story in the whole collection, this one gives us a fascinating origin story for the werewolf race.
With an introduction by Stephen Graham Jones and a foreword by WD Gagliani, this anthology of moonlight metamorphosis is a great addition to any horror lover’s library, and a much-needed tome on a worthy but oft-overlooked horror character.
- Writer’s of the Future Honorable Mention 2nd Quarter 2022.
- Submitted to 11 markets.
- Wrote 1 new short story this year.
- Received my certificate for The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest Semi-Finalist for Expiation, 3rd Quarter 2021.
- Sent out novel to the Berkely Open Submission Program in January – “No decision has been made about your query at this time.” No news IS good news!
- Sent a novel submission to Cemetery Dance Books.
- Completed new novel and forwarded to 1st reader.
Radio/ Podcast/ Co-Host
- As heard on NBC News Radio in Los Angeles/Riverside/San Bernardino/Palm Springs/Seattle/Tacoma/Salt Lake City/Phoenix and online podcasts.
- House of Mystery Radio show on NBC in 2022 was the #3 most popular show in Los Angeles Market! It averaged a 2.4 market share (57,600 listeners per episode average) and had 2.9 million downloads/plays from our website!
- Interviewed Dean Koontz.
- Dean Koontz episode had a 4.4 market share with approximately 288,000 listeners.
- Completed my first show acting as main host interviewing Reb MacRath.
- Completed my second show acting as main host with co-host D.W. Gillespie interviewing Meg Hafdahl Science of Stephen King.
- Completed my third show as main host interviewing Alex Gillis Taekwondo: A Killing Art.
- Promoted to main co-host September 9, 2022.
- Interviewed Simon Gervaise with Joe Goldberg co-hosting.
- Constantly co-hosted weekly throughout 2022. Over 100 shows!
- Assisted with edits, preproduction, and postproduction.
- Continued to write movie reviews and update the “Movies at a Glance” database.
- Read my reviews here: https://www.alanrwarren.com/martino-movie-reviews
Youtube and other Video Platforms
- Had a Kali knife video go semi-viral gaining over 9K views and 64 subscribers.
- Decided to focus my Youtube channel on martial arts videos.
- Achieved 100 subscriber and 300 subscriber milestones.
- Featured on Izzo’s Wing Chun gaining me at least 70 subscribers.
- 433 subscribers as of December.
- Gained 400 new subscribers this year.
- 80K total views, 33.5K watch-time minutes, and 1,268 total likes.
- Made new friends in the martial arts Youtube communtiy.
- Learned and began editing videos using iMovie.
- Learned and began creating thumbnails using Canva.
- Made Youtube Shorts.
- Posted short videos to Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram.
- Uploaded over 48 shorts with over 36.2K views.
- Top viewed shorts: Tae Kwon Do Sparring, 9 Sword Cuts.
- Top viewed videos: Solo Knife Drills, Sword to Knife, Chain Punching From Yip Man to Bruce Lee to Taky Kimura.
Check out my Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWAGfK61_Pc6vOlOmUD1sRg
- Celebrated 35 years of formal martial arts training and teaching.
- Joined The Korea Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan Association.
- The Korea Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan Association accepted me as a 3rd degree black belt and issued a backdated certificate to my original promotion and signed by the President of the Association.
- Made friends with members of the association.
- Set up Mook Jong.
- Home training 3x per week various arts.
- Attended “Drowning in Kali 2022” at the Derderian Academy of Martial Arts.
- Attended 2-day 14 hour weekend seminar Inosanto-Lacosta Blend/Presas Family (Modern) Arnis with teachers Guro Raffi Derderian and Guro Hock Hochheim at Chris Thompson – Just Train in North Kingston, RI.
- Achieved First Level in Guro W. Hock Hocheim’s Essential Filipino Martial Arts System.
Achieved 1st Level in W. Hock Hocheim’s Pacific Archipelago (Combatives) Concepts.
- I had a cracked tooth fixed and my 6 month cleanings.
- I had my booster.
- Colonoscopy (I’m officially old!).
- Eye Doctor – everything stable.
- Brought Diesel for his vet appointments.
- Annual physical – everything normal. All numbers good. I just need to lose a little weight.
- January after holiday (2021) get-together with the in-laws.
- Celebrated 27 years of marriage & 30 Years together!
- Helped my sister-in-law set up a Roku and Ooma Telo.
- Ate breakfast with parents at the North End Diner. I helped my Dad take down his tent from campsite. Went with my mother to a jeweler to consider resizing original wedding ring.
- Called my parents at least twice a week.
- Decided to get new wedding ring. Also got a groove ring for martial arts training.
- Chewy sent us a painting of Diesel and later sent him a Christmas gift.
- We began training Diesel on a harness.
- Attended local Independence Day Parade.
- Attended Patty’s work dinner.
- Thanksgiving and Christmas at home this year with sister-in-law.
- Cat-sat for our neighbor.
- Kept up with my friend and former English professor through email.
- Continued a great friendship with Al Warren.
- Both cars inspected.
- General maintenance on both cars.
Travel & Fun
- Quiet Riot, Slaughter, and Steve Pearcy (Ratt) at Mohegan Sun Arena. Summer Shack for dinner and drinks.
- Went to see Scream (2022)at the theater and dinner at the 110 Grill.
- NKOTB MixTape at Mohegan Sun Arena. Summer Shack for dinner and drinks.
- Kevin James at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, MA. Dinner at Chashu Ramen & Izakaya.
- Had old gas water heater disabled and blocked and a new electric water heater installed in the closet. The old water heater couldn’t be replaced and remain up to code so a new one had to be relocated. We got estimates from three companies.
- Had outlet replaced.
- Replaced smoke alarms.
- Replaced thermostat that stopped working. I was able to do this myself!
- Had upstairs fill-valve etc. replaced.
- Had downstairs toilet replaced. The old one was from 1955!
- The condo association provided us with a dumpster for spring cleaning.
- Management company fixed damage on front stoop.
- Management company fixed woodpecker damage on our Townhouse.
- Installed coat rack in foyer.
Whisk(e)y, Spirits & Cocktails
- Greenspot Irish Whisky.
- Black Saddle 12 – smooth, sweet rum raisin, cinnamon, carmel.
- Kaiyo Mizunara Oak Japanese Whisky.
- Lagavulin 8 – cough sweets, rum raisin, plumb, peppery spice, smoke, dry finish, like a white wine.
- Meiomi Pinot Noir.
- Kohi Martini – Casamigos Reposado, espresso, brew, coffee liquor, simple syrup.
- Dublin Smash cocktail – Irish whiskey, mint, lemon, simple syrup.
- Bourbon Cherry Bomb cocktail.
A/V & Tech
- Free subscription to Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu with Ads from Verizon.
- Free year of AMC+.
- Got a subscription to Friendly TV to supplement antenna.
- Patty Replaced ear pads on cinema headphones.
That’s all I can remember for now. See you in 2023!
Korea Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan Association 3rd-degree black belt certificate.
Look what came in the mail! The Korea Taekwondo Moo Duk Kwan Association has accepted me as a 3rd degree black belt and issued this certificate backdated to my original promotion date. They are the original TKD MDK organization established by members of the MDK who unified into the KTA in 1965. Rank is an obligation, not a privilege. As such, I will endever to live up to the trust they have put in me and will represent them to my hightest ability.
The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of an Indie Novel—Wolves of Vengeance Part 2
As an organic writer, I firmly believe in letting the characters dictate the narrative within the plot structure. To that end, I created the first three main characters.
Jack, much like his real-life counterpart, was a former bully in high school, a drug user, and a problem drinker. Turning his life around, he moves out of the fictional Wellington, Massachusetts, and gets a job in construction in the equally fictional Farmington, MA. When he hears about his old friends dying from wild animal attacks, he remembers the curse Michael Matheson put on all of them. A curse they had laughed off. He returns to Wellington to attend a funeral and to investigate the real reasons his old classmates are dying. Writers often use the name Jack for the quintessential hero, but I also had another reason. As I mentioned in part 1, I received partial inspiration from Flatliners (1988), and Kiefer Sunderland’s character in the film. The TV show 24 made me think of Sunderland as Jack Bauer. I decided Jack would be a good first name. In high school, I loved King Diamond’s horror concept albums and took Jack’s surname from the house (Amon) in the albums, Them and Conspiracy.
Michael was bullied which eventually led to him attending Gold’s Tae Kwon Do to protect himself. But Michael had a dark side, dabbling in black magic and the occult. Finding a spell in an old grimoire, he performed a ritual to awaken the Wolves of Vengeance, a corporal curse to attack his bullies. After performing the ritual, nothing happened. Michael chalked it up as a failure. Twenty-something years later the Wolves finally arrive and begin killing their marks. Michael never left Wellington and took over the school when Gold retired. Michael comes from my middle name and Matheson as an homage to Richard Matheson, the author of such works as I am Legend. Like Jack, he’s a composite character, drawn from more than one person, but he’s somewhat based on me.
Katty was an aspiring musician in high school (a guitarist to be exact) and a self-described rocker chick. She, like Jack, has a problem with alcohol. Unlike Jack, she’s a full-blown alcoholic. Her pet name derives from her high school persona (catty) and Andy LaRoche’s (King Diamond guitarist) last name. She’s based on various musicians I knew in high school and a real-life rocker chick from my high school.
Welcome to Hell: A working Guide for the Beginning Writer
I had read Tom Piccirilli’s Welcome to Hell: A Working Guide for the Beginning Writer. Pic suggested newer novelists lightly outline the first half of their novels. I took his advice. Once the outline was complete, I realized the manuscript would only reach novella length. Needing to beef up the manuscript, I asked myself this question:
What characters do I need to tell this story?
Police involvement was a given. Adding a detective made sense.
The only thing I worried about was voluminous research. What experience did I have that I could transfer to the character to make him believable? Turns out, I had more than I thought.
I had worked a decade in private security, part of the criminal justice field. First, as a patrol officer, then as a security manager, and finally as a human resources recruiter. Security work put me in regular contact with police, fire, and EMS. As a security manager, I had performed investigations and later worked for a security and investigations firm, picking up interesting information directly from private investigators.
My dad had also worked in private investigations, safety & security, special police, and fire, along with being one of the first EMTs in Massachusetts. He had been in charge of makeup and effects for emergency response training. When I was a kid he’d sometime practice the makeup effects on me. I grew up with this stuff!
I had also recently visited my local PD to renew a license and got the nickel tour. I used my hometown police station as a model for the one in the book.
The Writer’s Digest Howdunit series filled in many of the gaps.
Police Procedural: a Writers Guide to the Police and how they work
With the research and experience in mind, I set about creating Detective Adrian Callahan. Originally, he was nothing more than a generic Irish cop. My wife would later express an idea that would help flesh out his character. More on that later.
All in all, I consider my detective a success. I had a former law enforcement officer say as much. He felt my detective was accurate and believable. You can’t get much better than that.
With the decision to include a detective, I then decided that the military in some form might also be involved. I thought about adding a grizzled military captain but not wanting to include another generic character, I cast a woman as my military captain. At that moment, Captain Amanda Rann was born.
Next time, I’ll discuss how Callahan’s changes made him a controversial character, and how Rann becomes a driving force in the novel.
Get Wolves of Vengeance here!
The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of an Indie Novel—Wolves of Vengeance Part 1
Note: Since most people are sheltering in place, I figured I’d make my first novel FREE for as long as Amazon lets me. You can get Wolves of Vengeance here. If you read it, and you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to post a review on Amazon. Just a few sentences and whatever star rating you feel it deserves would be perfect. Thanks!
Back in 2006, I abandoned my first novel. I had spent four long years trying to wrangle that mess of a manuscript into a cohesive whole, and by the time I figured out how to save it—I had a big problem. My skill level at the time was no match for the complexity of the story. I stepped away from the project.
I decided to develop an idea originally envisioned as a screenplay.
The seed of that idea came from an incident in high school and the aftermath that would stay with me forever.
The “stranger comes to town” motif of Stephen King’s novels, along with the “man and woman come together to defeat a great evil while healing themselves in the process” motif, often seen in Dean Koontz novels, inspired my approach to this story.
Also, the film Flatliners, where Kiefer Sunderland’s character “flatlines” and has a confrontation with the “ghost” of the child he bullied when he was younger, was very influential.
Here’s some background information:
In 1987, after dealing with bullies in my freshman year, I attended an old school Tae Kwon Do dojang (training hall). Our teacher ran the place like a fight gym. The students were motivated adults, mostly working-class men who liked to beat the crap out of each other for fun. It was a rough tutelage. We maintained military bearing, conditioned ourselves like fighters, and lived for continuous contact sparring practiced every night without safety equipment.
Within a short time, the fierce reputation of the dojang, along with winning a few school fights, ended the bullying.
In my senior year, I slacked off a little with my training. Without the constant need to defend myself, I lost my motivation.
Then providence intervened.
Without going into the details, I had an altercation with a student. We’ll call him Jack. After the encounter, he said he would beat me up after school.
I waited for him in the parking lot, but he never showed. That should have ended it.
Instead, the next day, a female student asked if Jack and I had fought. I told her he never showed. And then, stupidly, I added: “He must have been too scared to fight me.”
My comment didn’t allow Jack to save face. I had just been afflicted by the symptoms of foot-in-mouth disease. My remark made it back to him, and this time he was waiting for me after school.
We had a standoff and a shouting match. The principle broke it up. Although we threw no punches, we both declared victory.
Of course, neither of us wanted to fight and is the reason we ended up in a stalemate. But from that point on, I needed to train just in case we ended up throwing down. I went straight back to hard training at the dojang. Two years later, I would earn a black belt. You can watch the highlights of that test here. Skip to near the end for sparring.
Jack and I never had words again. We ended up at the same party once, not long after high school, but we kept to ourselves.
The last time I saw him, he was walking around the downtown area. I was driving my girlfriend’s (now my wife) brand-new car. We made eye contact. That moment seemed like a little victory.
I never forgot about our skirmish, though. Without a resolution, the incident nestled insidiously in my subconscious.
A few years later, my dad called to tell me Jack had died of a drug overdose.
I began to wonder what would have happened if he had turned his life around. That gave me an idea. I could give him a new life in the screenplay idea I had always meant to write. In that instant, Jack Amon and Wolves of Vengeance were born.
In 2006, I decided to develop that idea into a novel.
Next time, I’ll explain how I expanded the idea into novel form and how I developed the main cast of characters.
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Black Magic Bullets: Chapter 17
I have finally returned to Black Magic Bullets. This chapter is very short, but after so long a wait, I wanted to post something. I’m sorry for the delay. Before I present this next chapter, let me explain what led up to the previous chapter.
I had no idea what would happen when Kenzi and Harrison entered the basement. Usually, I’d just write out of order and go to a scene a little further along in the narrative, but since I’m posting the first draft publicly, I didn’t want to leave the audience hanging. By moving on, the next scene usually tells me what needs to come before. In that way, I can become unstuck and move on. Since I wasn’t going to do that, I had reached an impasse. Luckily, an idea arrived quickly.
Everything I read, watch, and experience tends to inform how the story develops. Black Magic Bullets is no exception.
Interestingly enough, we ended up putting on Bright with Will Smith on Netflix one night. Not a great movie, even when just streaming in the background.
Bright reminded me of Alienation meets Lord of the Rings in an Urban Fantasy world. I thought it interesting how close the orcs and elves were to J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations. After the movie ended, I realized I wanted to put orcs in the basement level of the building in Black Magic Bullets. I was intrigued but didn’t want my story to be derivative of Tolkien’s world.
Then I remembered Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony, a novel set in his Xanth series. I hadn’t thought of that novel since the mid-80s. Using an ogre appealed to me more since they’re derived directly from world mythology. And that’s how ogre’s ended up in my manuscript.
Now, without further ado, here’s the 1st draft of Chapter Seventeen.
BLACK MAGIC BULLETS
An Urban Fantasy
Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…
BLACK MAGIC BULLETS
The next location went much the same way as the first, this time—thankfully— with no ogres. That was a relief. But all this searching was eating up time.
Cyber contacted us not long after we dejectedly left the second abandoned structure. She had an idea for a place to check out that I would never have imagined. I supposed that was why Dreadstone employed her. She had thought through the situation and trusted her, but I still didn’t have much hope of finding Dedra’s body.
When we arrived at the maze of small buildings, the sun had reached its zenith.
“Take another hit,” Kenzi said.
I already hated this part of the job. I couldn’t wait until my mystical abilities matured.
I took the hit of the gas and stepped out of the BMW.
Entering the maze, we snaked our way through squat metal buildings. Kenzi followed my lead. Each unit painted blue reminding me of the identical prefab houses in the culdesacs of the middle-class and the ubiquitous brick government housing of the underprivileged.
Then I saw the signature and told Kenzi as much. I wish I hadn’t.
The storage locker looked the same as any other, but this one was different. Would the locker contain Dedra’s body? I didn’t want to know.
Kenzi stepped in front of the locker, raising a crowbar.
Metal struck metal. Once, twice, a third time. Finally, the padlock gave way. Plucking from its resting place, Kenzi tossed it. The padlock bounced once off concrete and came to rest.
Squatting, Kenzi lifted the gate and immediately turned her head.
Foul air escaped the confines. Now I knew the odor of the dead.
Kenzi turned her head as if slapped. I suspected once we found the body, I’d turn green and throw up. Unlike the male body in the basement, this one had succumbed to heat and cold and was generally worse for wear.
Although I felt queasy, my stomach didn’t betray me. I was grateful. The last thing I wanted was to lose my cookies in front of Kenzi.
“If this is her,” Kenzi said, examining the body. “We won’t be needing that shovel.”
“How will we know?”
Kenzi grabbed a body bag from the trunk and then returned.
“The body’s female,” she said. “We bring her back to Dreadstone.”
“And if it is her?” I asked.
“Then we have a murderer to find.”
To be continued…
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The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 2
In part 1, I examined the inspiration that led to writing Blade of the Vagabond (you can read that here). In Part 2, we’ll continue as I turn BOTV into a novelette and send it out to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.
Originally, Blade of the Vagabond had a subtitle. The first 20,000-word version was called Blade of the Vagabond: Heaven, Earth, and Woman. The subtitle is a play on a Confucian concept of Heaven, Earth, and Man where, in very simplistic terms, man acts as the harmonizing force between the spiritual and material realms or perhaps between the opposites of Yin and Yang. The place in-between where truth resides. That’s close enough for a laymen’s understanding, but I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for it. If you have a more succinct explanation, feel free to post in the comments. I welcome your thoughts.
Anyway, I changed Man to Woman in the subtitle as my main character is female.
I was introduced to the term through my martial arts practice and have been fascinated ever since. The concept became the central focus of the story.
Once I had finished the first draft, I put the story away, awaiting a viable market. As I mentioned in Part 1, the open submission period ended before I completed the first draft. Luckily, soon after, the original publisher reopened for submissions.
I edited my draft and then gave it to Patty for a proofread. After reading the initial draft, Patty dubbed this story her favorite of any I had written. After a polish edit, I felt satisfied enough to send it and await a response.
Feeling this story represented my best work, I was convinced it had a good chance of selling. I sent it to them with high hopes. What happened next would change the course of how I submitted the story.
The editorial team from the publishing house contacted me and their response surprised me. Originally, the story had a prologue. In the opening, we see one villain, a henchman to the Big Bad, not the protagonist, as he prepares for infiltration and assassination. It was a long opening filled with action and intrigue. The idea was to pull the reader into the action before we reached the first chapter and met the protagonist. I felt this high action opening increased the danger and tension, setting up the story for the final confrontation.
The editors, however, had mistaken my prologue (which was clearly labeled) with the first chapter and the villain’s henchman with my main protagonist. They felt too separated from the “protagonist” as if watching a movie and weren’t fully engaged by the writing. I found this odd since my story’s subtitle was Heaven, Earth, and Woman, how could they mistake my male antagonist for my female protagonist?
Here’s what they wrote:
I appreciated how this began in media res, watching someone on a mission , but there was a lot of action with no motivation. Movies often open this way and perhaps it works better in cinema because camera angles and music can create emotional sensations in the audience, but with prose our connection is a little more difficult to forge. I spend too much of this story following the protagonist without sharing the feelings, which hamstrings our ability to anticipate or experience true tension. This is subjective and another editorial team may feel differently, so I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.
Pro Tip: Editors are overworked and if they’re confused by your submission, they’ll reject you. They won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t have time.
Yet, there’s more to learn. Many wannabe writers base their stories on films and TV shows and use a cinematic technique throughout the whole book. Because of this, the cinematic technique may brand you as an amateur. It’s unfortunate but understandable.
Also, there’s an important reason I didn’t share the antagonist’s feelings: he doesn’t have any. Using a potion and mind-altering meditative techniques, the antagonist blots out his feelings.
What I thought was obvious wasn’t. Would every editor feel the same? There was no way to know. Removing the Prologue didn’t hurt the story. With a few tweaks, I annexed it. Cutting the story lowered the word count making it more marketable.
Pro Tip: Novellas and novelettes are a harder sell for newer and less established writers.
I also wondered if readers who liked the prologue would enjoy the main story and vice versa. Both sections had a different tone.
Next, I sent a modified version to a top pro magazine. The response I received was encouraging. This editor enjoyed the writing. He wrote, “some really good writing here,” personalizing the rejection letter.
Pro Tip: Getting compliments from professional editors at top magazines is a very good sign. It may mean you’re writing at a professional level or are close.
Here’s the thing: did I think a top magazine would buy a 16,000-word novella from a virtual unknown? No, but it was worth a try and gave me valuable feedback. You can’t win if you don’t play.
Encouraged by the pro editor’s response, I sent the story to L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest. The 16,000-word version didn’t win.
Then I heard about another contest at a very large and popular SF and Fantasy Independent press. The problem? Their upper word count was 8,000 words. If I wanted to send them Blade of the Vagabond, I’d have to cut the story in half. Could I trim the story to its essence, reducing it to the low end of novelette form, while keeping enough plot for the story to make sense? That was a good question. Some poignant moments and a subplot or two would need to be removed, but I believed it could be done. I set out on a mission.
I whittled it down to 9,000 words without losing the main plot, but I had to do without some poignant moments and some of what made the first two versions of the story unique.
Now to shave the manuscript to 8,000 words, I had to lose a connector scene. The story still worked well enough, but I wasn’t happy with the transition between one chapter. If I wanted to submit to the contest, I’d have to live with it.
Once sent, I returned to my novel (working title: The Tower) already in progress.
When the contest ended, and they announced winners, it was time to send Blade of the Vagabond somewhere else.
L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. 35*
I received an email notification from the director of Writers of the Future that there was still time to submit a story for the 3rd quarter. Could I send a different version of the same story to the contest? I’d have to find out. If allowed, I figured it was worth a shot.
Next time I’ll tell you what happened, how I edited my manuscript into shape, and what I learned in the process. I’ll see you then.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a Writers of the Future Honorable Mention—Blade of the Vagabond Part 1
Today I’d like to discuss how my story, Blade of the Vagabond, was created and how it was ultimately awarded an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.
The idea to write Blade of the Vagabond came when I noticed an open call from a major science fiction and fantasy publisher. They were looking for fantasy novellas inspired by non-European cultures. An idea hit me so powerfully that I stopped work on my novel in progress to focus on this new project.
At the time I had no hope of making the deadline, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I put everything aside and pushed on.
The first inkling of a concept for this story began to sprout while taking an Arthurian Literature class at UMASS Lowell. The professor, Dr. Archer, assigned a paper where we were to write about any topic on the Middle Ages we wanted to explore. I knew exactly what I wanted to research and became excited by the prospect.
Having been a martial artist all my life, and having years of training in a system centered on Japanese Feudal combat, I decided to research Medieval fighting systems. My focus was on sword schools as there was ample woodcut evidence through surviving woodcuts that depicted the techniques.
I used books like Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Arts of Combat: Sword and Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor by David Lidholm.
Knightly Arts of Combat: Sword-and-Buckler Fighting, Wrestling, and Fighting in Armor
As I crafted the paper, I thought about how interesting it would be to include realistic combat dynamics into fantasy fiction. The concept stayed in the back of my mind but remained just a potential idea jotted down in my notebook.
When I learned about the open call for non-European inspired fantasy fiction, I thought it would be fun to create a world based on ancient Japan. Although, I also drew from ancient Korea and China.
The Comming of Conan The Cimmerian*
Wanting to create a swashbuckling sword and sorcery epic fantasy drama, I drew upon many inspirations including Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conquer series of stories. Inspiration also came from the Seven Samurai (1954) and the Jidaigeki (period dramas) and chanbara (sword fighting Amurai cinema).
However, I didn’t want to include the samurai or the ninja as this had been done to death. Instead, I used an obscure book as my inspiration for a fighting wizard character: Leung Ting’s Skills of the Vagabonds. The book had capitalized on the 1980s ninja boom comparing the Chinese Vagabond assassins to Japan’s ninja assassins. Marketing at its finest! The glowing eyes on the cover of the book had stayed with me over the years and I thought it would be great fodder for fantasy fiction.
Skills of the Vagabonds
Delving deeply into Japanese mythology, I began to craft the story into a 20,000-word novella, the low end of the word count required for submission.
For the title, I decided on a mixture of Skills of the Vagabond and a variant of the “Swords” titles prevalent in the fantasy genre like Swords against Wizardry (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser sequence) by Fritz Leiber and Sword of Destiny (Witcher Saga) by Andrzej Sapkowski. Blade of the Vagabond sounded like a fantasy story to my ear.
Sword of Destiny (The Witcher)*
Despite the open call ending before I finished, I soldiered on completing the first draft and then shelving the project until, six months later, they opened for submissions once again.
Next time, I’ll delve into the submission process that led to receiving an Honorable Mention. I’ll also reveal the original title and how and why it changed. I hope you’ll follow my blog to find out what happened.
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