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Everything posted by GMBrowning

  1. King is the exception to the rules. There will only be one King. Just like there will only be one of any great artist/athlete/performer who influences generations. All the rest of us passionate hopefuls need to do the work, learn from the pros, put in the time and develop ourselves to be exceptional writers in our genres so we can tell some damn good stories that people will enjoy and remember. I'll be honest, I think King is a horrible teacher. His way of writing is just that...his way. Imagine a martial arts instructor or professional athlete of any kind teaching a student to just "go with it." Are you kidding me? I'm reminded of the time I visited the chiropractor for several weeks. After every session, I'd leave with my body in so much pain. One day, after another series of brutal snaps to my neck and spine, I told him I was hurting and asked him what the goal was; what was the projected path for my treatment. He looked at me, confused and answered, "The goal? The goal is to feel better, man!" I grabbed my coat, walked out of his office and never returned. He expected me to "just go with it." (Ugh...where was I?) Writing can be taught. Like any other craft or discipline, it most certainly can be taught. I've been blessed to learn from highly skilled and qualified professionals and it's because of their true instruction, guidance and feedback that I've been able to grow. "Pantsing" is unorganized and undisciplined. In my opinion, it only leads to wasted time, countless rewrites and of course, rejections.
  2. STRANGE HIGHWAYS, Science Fiction- Gardner Browning Word Count: +50k, still in progress Log Line: Trekking a ghostly highway across a Void Land of hostile vagrants, mercenary Luna Briggs must save the man she loves from the death dealer he has become before he claims the power of a forgotten artificial intelligence and engineers an army of killers. Comps: Strange Highways captures the hostile journey of the Road with the techno-thrill of Robopocalypse. The Road – 2006- Cormac McCarthy. About the grueling journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed industrial civilization and almost all life. Robopocalypse – 2011- Daniel H. Wilson. Not far into our future, the dazzling technology that runs our world turns against us. Controlled by a powerful, artificial intelligence known as Archos, the global network of machines on which our world has grown dependent suddenly becomes a deadly foe. Pitch: Beyond the skyline of Karma City, a ghostly highway knifes across the Void Lands, a lawless backcountry of drifters and scavengers. Down this lonesome road, Jameson Shoals is a man on the run, desperate to keep the woman he loves, Luna Briggs, safe from the death-dealing alternate consciousness overtaking him. Brighton. Controlling Jameson’s mind and body, Brighton murders his way to dominance across the Void Lands seeking the ruins of Echo City—once a prosperous center of super-science, that now only few remember. Brighton, however, believes he knows the city’s location and with its abandoned technology, he can engineer a brood of hive-minded killers to supplant mankind. One night, while Brighton sleeps, Jameson deploys a cunning plan hoping to grant Luna the edge to survive the Void Lands and stop Brighton. As Luna and her allies—a scientist and a gun-slinging lawman—pursue Brighton, truths surrounding Echo City’s dark past emerge. Buried in its ruins, a powerful artificial intelligence waits for its chance at freedom. Will it surrender its technology to Brighton? Can Luna save the man she loves and prevent the engineering of an army of killers; or will she be lost down the Strange Highway like all who’ve come before? Prose Sample: All at once, his eyes became aware of the skeletons surrounding him. They lay along the curbs, slumped on the porches, hanging out of windows, face-down in the bushes. Many wore remnants of clothing with clumps of hair still clinging to their skulls. They didn’t need faces to tell their stories. Some of the skeletons lay on top of one another, with limbs entangled. Fighting. Others froze in huddled mounds behind fences and sheds. Hiding. He found the ruins of a burned car with the blackened bones of the driver scattered all over the vehicle. He passed several skeletons laying with boney hands gripping rusted guns. Killers. Suicides. Brighton chose homes at random and kicked open the doors. Each one was a tomb. The dead lay in their beds, crumpled on the stairs, or behind locked rooms. Dust filled their empty eye sockets and the permanent brown stains on the walls, ceilings and floors foretold ancient bloodshed. Having spent most of the night and all of the morning walking, his body called for rest with sore feet, aching legs and stiff back. Choosing a ranch style house with an intact roof and doors, he forced his way inside and walked into the living room. The floorboards creaked as he approached the armchair in the center of the room. There sat a man of bones wearing an old fedora. His necktie hung in ribbons and not much remained of his jacket. The bone-face seemed to stare at this intruder. “Good day, sir,” mocked Brighton. “Forgive my unannounced visit. You see, I’m very tired and need a place to rest a while.” He leaned forward pretending to hear a voice from the skeleton. “How rude. You want me to leave? Where is your wife, sir? Surely she’d be happy to have a dinner guest…I’m sorry…what did you just say?” Brighton straightened, looming over the remains of the dead. “How dare you!” With a backhand swipe, Brighton knocked the skeleton from the armchair. The bones scattered across the room. He snatched up the fedora and dropped it on his head, then plopped down onto the rotting chair. A plume of dust blew from the cushions and he fanned it away, laughing softly, amused by his little game. He leaned back and closed his eyes, thinking of Jameson. “Come out and play a while, old friend.” Jameson’s consciousness rose to the surface of their shared mind. Brighton could feel his presence. “What’s wrong, Jameson. Nothing to say?” “You’re losing.” “Am I?” “Yes. You have nothing. No gunmen. No collateral. And worse, no food or water.” “Look at this place, you fool. Do you know where we are?” “This is not Echo City.” “No. But close. These human remains are two hundred years old. They all went crazy. Malady. We are on the threshold of ground zero, the epicenter of the original outbreak. I can smell it.” He inhaled slowly, nose curling in disgust. “Worry not over provisions, Jameson. I’m sure there’s plenty worth scavenging in this dead place.” “I’m surprised you’re so confident. The truth is, you don’t know where to go. You’ve lost track of Luna and now you know that Albert is on your trail and you bet he’s got a syringe full of Quell. And what about those goddamn robot things? You have no idea what they are. That’s a new variable, a wild card. You’re scared.” “Those androids could have only come from a place of super science. Thus, Echo can’t be far.” “That’s an assumption, worm. Making assumptions means making mistakes.” Brighton rubbed the corners of his eyes. “I don’t know why I bother letting you out of your cage. All you ever do is piss me off.” “Glad to hear it.” “Jameson, you know the adage ‘dead men tell no tales.’ Indeed, that’s a load of shit. The dead have said a great deal and their bones will lead me to Echo City. I’m not following a highway any longer. It’s a trail of death that guides me. There’s more death in the Void Lands than anything else. I can’t lose.” Author Bio/Credentials: Gardner Browning is a multi-published science fiction and fantasy writer. He was the recipient of the 2014 New Hampshire Writer's Project "Readers' Choice Award" and two of his novels were featured in an international English literacy program. His most recent novel, KARMA CITY, was published by Del Sol Press in 2019. Browning works as an assistant editor for the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference.
  3. Write Away by: Elizabeth George I found the section of Character Analysis to be thought-provoking. I liked the concept of a Prompt Sheet and I plan to use this tool whenever I’m out traveling, stuck in a work meeting or maybe trapped at a family function I can’t escape. With this, I can quickly sketch out character frames that I can later return to, like a bank of possible characters to use in later stories. This tool is also very helpful to reference when getting in touch with a character’s voice. George’s chapter on voice was helpful because it reinforced the importance of setting and how the characters will speak as products of their environment and how they react to it. I didn’t notice anything in her book that conflicts with the AAS Writing Program lessons. Her discipline echoes the lesson materials. She does not detail anything like the SATG structure, rather she provides a list of her organizational methods for drafting out her work. The Art of Fiction by: John Gardner Reading this was helpful when I needed the text book or grumpy old kung-fu teacher approach. Gardner’s mastery of the craft is vibrantly obvious and conveyed in a very technical, blunt, lecture style manner. To be honest, there were times that I got bored and this book took me the longest to read through. There was a particular moment that spoke to me, so much so that I wrote the following quote down and hung it over my desk. “In great fiction, we are moved by what happens, not by the whimpering or bawling of the writer’s presentation of what happens. That is, in great fiction, we are moved by the characters and events, not by the emotion of the person who happens to be telling the story.” This book is full of great lines like that one. Also, there is a tremendous amount of value in the list of exercises he challenges writers and writer groups to complete. They are similar to the modules of the AAS Writing Program. The Writing Life by: Anne Dillard Did not find any value in this book at all. It is a collection of anecdotes that are poetic and flowery. I don’t feel that this book should be required reading in this program. I passed over several pages, searching for anything that would benefit me. Instead, I found stories that spoke of what it feels like to be a writer, how hard it is to be a writer, how the world feels to a writer, and on and on. Blah! Zero value. I went back to Winesburg, Ohio just to cleanse this stuff from my brain. Then, I had to wash the lingering poetic fluff off of me with potent magic waters of Donald Maass. Writing the Breakout Novel by: Donald Maass Possibly the best book ever written for the aspiring commercial fiction writer. If one wants to write a manuscript with the intention to sell it and launch a career, then every word of Donald Maass needs to be fully absorbed and applied to the project. The best sections for me as they related to my work were about: premise, stakes, conflict, building a cast, and time and place. Each chapter of the book ends with a checklist, which I found myself referring to a lot. I also highlighted and tabbed many sections to return to quickly. This book and the AAS Writing Program are a perfectly married couple. This, and Winesburg, Ohio, are the best places for any writer to start. I wish I had found this book years ago, but then again, the AAS Writing Program helped me to really understand the value because the lessons were fully supported in it.
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