The Longest Road

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here at the Undiscovered Author, traffic-wise.  They’ve been my busiest weeks yet!  Some 370 hits last week, and almost as many this week already.

But, the funny thing is, although I’ve had some fairly popular posts these past few weeks (especially “What’s Hot, What’s Cool“, and my essay on Steampunk-inspired Societies, as well as my sci-fi flash, “Kathryn’s Child“) – but it hasn’t been the cool new things I’ve been talking about that have really driven my site stats up.

It’s been this.  In the past week alone, that page has gotten over 130 hits.  What’s driven that traffic has been a single phrase: “Settlers of Catan”.  I’ve gotten 102 hits from that search phrase in the past 7 days, and more from related search phrases (like “Settlers”, “Catan Board Game”, and “Settlers of Catan 3D”)

Frankly… I’m not sure why this is happening.  For one thing, my blog doesn’t appear anywhere in the Google search for that phrase for at least the first fifteen pages (I gave up looking for my blog after that), nor in the Bing search for at least ten (again, I gave up) [Note: I realize I may have actually increased my search ranking for these terms by posting this page, but hey, what’re you gonna do?).  Whoever these people are driving this traffic, they have to be desperate for some news on the game.  (Note, if you’re desperate for news on Settlers, I advise you check the official News page, here, which is easily in the first few hits for those sorts of search terms.)

Anyway, I’m just amused by this.  And a little sad that there’s clearly this hunger out there on the internet for something about Settlers of Catan, and here all I can do is say “yeah, I like the game.  My Dear Wife and I probably play it at least once a month.  It kicks the trash out of Monopoly.”

(Footnote: For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the title of today’s post is an in-joke that refers back to the game: specifically a sneaky way to snatch victory in the game suddenly, even if you’re behind.)

Friday Flash: Bright Hands

I don’t know if this is my strongest piece ever, it was a little experimental (on my part) and a little rushed (under the circumstances, vis-a-vis having virus-interrupted access this week), but here’s my answer to this week’s Author Aerobics challenge:

This week’s challenge: Write an action scene (1000 words or less). The theme “light”.

I wasn’t really clear on my direction, in this story.  I was struck by the idea in the opening paragraph, so I just kind of ran with it.  Frankly, for an action scene, I could do better…

Bright Hands

By: Stephen A. Watkins, Jr.

Taruth reached out and grabbed a beam of light.  It pulsed and writhed in his hands, glowing warm and incandescent.  Around him, beams and shards of light were dancing, shimmering, exploding.  The battle was not going well.  He ducked, gripping the beam tightly, trying to find a little cover in the long grass.  His hands worked quickly.  He bent the beam of light in his hands, twisted it, weaving it into a long oval shape, nearly the length of his body.  A shield.  Another shaft of light became a long spear. Continue reading

Daily Update and a “Birkman” Correction…

So, dear friends and regular readers, you’ll notice that there’s no story posted this morning for Friday Flash and the Author Aerobics.  It’s been quite the week here, but not in the normal way.  I got hit by a nasty virus – the digital kind, not the organic kind – first at home and then at work.  (Same one, incidentally, and several other people at work got hit by the same one.)  So that had me down-and-out, computer-wise for the past couple days.  Luckily I had finished writing the posts on using the Birkman as a writing tool over the past couple of weeks, so they were ready to go.  But whether I can get a story up today will depend on how the afternoon goes today – particularly around the lunchish time of day – now that I have a working computer again.

Speaking of those Birkman posts from earlier this week – I had a wonderful conversation with the folks at Birkman International yesterday, and I learned something regarding a part of the Birkman that I had expressed a little confusion over in those posts: specifically the “Action” score and how it relates to me.  I had expressed my feeling that I thought myAction score was too high – that I’m not impulsive by nature.  And it’s true that I’m not.  But after discussing this with the friendly people at Birkman, I realized that my “Needs” score on Action was very low – implying that I “Need” opportunities to reflect and plan before springing into action.  But, once I have a plan, I want to go and just do it, I don’t want to waste time.  The explanation hit home with this anecdote: “It’s like, when I go to the store, I’d rather park in a parking space farther away from the door and walk there than just drive around waiting for a closer spot.”  Bingo.  That’s me to a tee, for certain.  I do that all the time.  Basically, it suggests that I already have a “plan” to go to the store.  So, my “needs” are met, and now it’s time to do something about it.   Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it in that way, but with that helpful explanation, it’s a bit clearer to me, now, so I thought I should pass that on, lest I leave the same confusion with any of my readers here.  (To read my series on the Birkman, here is Part 1, and here is Part 2.)

Well, now I return you to your regularly-scheduled blogging.  Maybe I’ll even have a story for you all, later!

Personality Tests: “Birkman” for Writers (Part 2)

So, yesterday (link goes to Part 1, yesterday; there is also an addendum here) I began by talking about this personality test I learned about during my MBA called the “Birkman”.  I think from that post it’s pretty clear that I’m generally dubious of personality tests, in general, but I’ve discovered in the Birkman a tool with a lot of flexibility and a little more honesty about the complex creatures that we are.  And I said I’d go into more detail about how this tool can be used by a writer.

I’ve been excited to write this post for weeks now, but I knew it would be a big topic, and one that would require a lot of background and explanation.  With as busy as I’ve been these past few weeks, I just hadn’t had the opportunity to do this topic justice.  But here it is, at last!  Warning… this is a massive post… with a lot of detail.  Good luck reading it! Continue reading

Personality Tests: “Birkman” for Writers (Part 1)

Note: this is part one.  Read Part two here, and an additional addendum here.

Personality Tests

One of the interesting sidelights of the MBA experience, for me, has been my new exposure (and newfound appreciation for) Personality Tests.  Most of you have heard of the Myers-Briggs test, and the different types.  Most of us even use Myers-Briggs terminology when we describe ourselves: that being whether we are an extrovert or an introvert (though we typically use the terms differently from the way Myers-Briggs means it).  

I don’t know about  you, but I personally have a love-hate relationship with the Myers-Briggs.  I find the concepts intriguing, but the execution and classification to be dense and misleading.  Considering how popular it is, the somewhat misleading nature of the test can be dangerous if employed in the workplace, for instance.  It’s also been my experience that the Myers-Briggs is not, shall we say, as fixed as the creators would have you believe.  I’ve seen my MBTI-type change over time, depending on my mood at the time of the test.  There is just something left to be desired by this overly simplistic classification system.

Introducing the Birkman

So, I was initially skeptical when introduced to the “Birkman Method” in connection with the MBA program I’m in.  It’s just another way for someone to think they know me when they don’t know me, I reasoned.  But, I’ll be honest again, with my Birkman report in hand, I think I’m converted to the potential value of tests like this.  I can even see how this would be useful if deployed within a proper context within the workplace.  I can even see how I can use this tool as a writer. Continue reading

Stephen likes Weekend Assignment

This week, our assignment asks us about writing “fan” letters.  (The title, in case you missed the joke, is a riff on Facebook’s “like” button and fan pages – the modern and sophisticated way to express your fanaticism.)  Here’s the Weekend Assignment:

How about a lighter topic this week? Let’s talk about FAN LETTERS. I have never personally written one, because the one time I attempted to, it came off, well, sounding kinda weird! LOL. Apparently I have NO talent for them at all! Nope. Nope. Nope. But how about you? Have you ever written a successful FAN LETTER? If so, tell us about your experience. Did you hear back from the celebrity? Was it a positive experience? Tell us all about it.

I almost didn’t answer this one.  Because to answer it truthfully is to expose to the world a deep, dark secret that I buried in past.  I thought I could escape what I did that day.  I thought I could move on with my life.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Writing Quote: Eat Its Head Off

It’s that time of week, again: time for another dose of Writing Quotes.  I’ve quoted Isaac Asimov here, before, so I won’t belabor you with his biography or lists of accomplishments.  I’ll let the link to his previous quote do that.  So, what does Uncle Isaac have to tell us today?

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.

~Isaac Asimov

It’s an important lesson for we writers.  We hear it time and time again, and yet it bears repeating, if getting published is our goal.  I, myself, am planning soon (as soon as I get a little time to address a large manila envelope) to send out that story I wrote.  And, when I have time again, I’ll be spending a little time working on a first (and very rough) draft of my next story (or two… I’m contemplating taking some of my old Friday Flash/Author Aerobics stories here and fleshing them out a bit).  It’s sloooooooooooooowwww going for me.  But that’s to be expected, under the circumstances.

Mostly, though, I picked this quote not because it’s such good advice (it is, but that’s not why I picked it).  Mostly, I picked it because I loved the metaphor embedded in this one: “never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer”.  Fantastic.

Happy Writing.

I Write Like…

Many of you have probably already seen the “I Write Like” site and played with it.  Initially I wasn’t interested, because I didn’t think it would tell me anything interesting.  Well… I’m still not interested, and no, it didn’t tell me anything interesting, except perhaps that there’s nothing meaningful there to tell.  I “analyzed” nine different stories, and here were my results: one was like H.P. Lovecraft, one like Cory Doctorow, one like Ursula K. LeGuin, three were like James Joyce, and one each were like David Foster Wallace, Harry Harrison, and Raymond Chandler all three of whom I’ve never even heard of (although I should have heard of Harrison, since he’s a sci fi writer who’s story was the basis for the film “Soylent Green”).

If there were any remotely truthful grain to this silly little internet meme, I’d have to worry about myself.  Nobody reads James Joyce by choice – so writing like James Joyce is  hardly a compliment.  On the other hand… is it good that of my nine stories, four said I was like a sci fi, fantasy, or horror author?  I imagine… if I wrote a dozen more stories and “analyzed” them, I’d come up with at least a half-dozen more authors not already on this list. 

Of course… I suspect nothing but amusement was meant to be gained from this… I just take some things too seriously, I guess.


Friday Flash: Kathryn’s Child

This week, T.S. Bazelli’s “Author Aerobics” challenge is on internal monologues.  Here it is:

This week’s challenge: Write a piece of fiction (1000 words or less) that includes moments of internal dialogue. The theme: “fireworks”.

Well, after two straight epic-fantasy stories and a contemporary fantasy story, last week I decided I’d put up something a little more sci-fi for my next short story.  And thus, this story.  At first, I didn’t have any particular purpose to this story, but as I wrote it, I decided I wanted to set it in the space opera-themed world I had created several years ago that I called, at the time, “The Alchemist” (and that I don’t currently call anything, yet).  How this story fits in with that setting, I’m unsure.  Several elements in this story didn’t appear in my original write-ups.  Anyway, I’ll get out of the way, now, and let you read.  It’s a tiny bit shorter than what I’ve been doing lately – only 1,066 words – and I’m calling it:

Kathryn’s Child

By: Stephen A. Watkins, Jr.

“Time for the fireworks to begin.”  Kathryn gazed through the wide window at the tiny red, yellow and brown orb suspended in a sea of blackness beneath her.   In the distance, a pale red light glimmered, the shell of a dying star.  Doctor Vanwick shuffled his feet on the deck beside her. Continue reading

A Steampunk Society

So, writer Juanita McConnachie (alias Writer’s Block NZ) sent me an interesting question last week:

I was wondering if I could pick your brains on steampunk… Do you know if a ‘steampunk’ society would have any particular values?

Frankly, I was intrigued by the question.  I’m not really sure I’ve seen something like this addressed anywhere before.  On the contrary, I’ve seen some work out there that has refuted the idea that steampunk can inherrently be tied to any specific values or themes at all.  But, I thought a full and fair answer to that question requires a little bit of thinking about the history and development of the steampunk genre, and an identification of what it is.

First of all, Steampunk has been described by people smarter than I in the subject not as a genre but as an “aesthetic” (see: “Steampunk Scholar“).  I’ve even seen the steampunk aesthetic described as “goth discovers brown“.  The idea behind defining it thus is that you can skin the steampunk look on something from virtually any other genre – fantasy or sci fi and beyond – and describe the result as “steampunk”.  This is a half-truth, though, because you can skin the components of advanced technology and space exploration over anything and call it sci-fi or of magic and pointy-eared humans over anything and call it fantasy.  But the thrust of this argument is that a proper “genre” of fiction touches on certain consistent and discernable thematic elements. Continue reading