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Stories about ponies are stories about people.

May
4th
2017

In 1821, U.S. Secretary of State (and later president) John Quincy Adams delivered one of the first great speeches on American foreign policy. In line with George Washington's warning against European entanglements, Adams announced that America was a friend to freedom-loving people around the world, but there were limits to what we would do for our friends. America stood for liberty, he said, but America would not crusade for liberty. America would stand for good, but it would not enforce good upon an unwilling world. America, he said, "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

It was not America's job to destroy evil. The tyrants of the world were not America's friends, but they had nothing to fear from us either. We would stick to our shores and preach liberty to those who would hear it, but we were not their sword or their shield.

It's been almost 200 years since Adams gave that speech. Some people would say we've forgotten Adams's warning; others would say we've freed ourselves from his cowardly self-interest. Whatever you say, we've definitely changed. For better or for worse, we're not the nation Adams proclaimed.

I've spent nearly three years of my life in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting the monsters Adams warned us not to destroy. We've killed a lot of them, but there seems to be a never-ending supply. Perhaps the Greeks were onto something with their myths about the hydra. Some monsters are immune to death.

I've been thinking about that a lot over the past few months. And like most things I think about, I ended up turning it into a story.

The World is Filled with Monsters

Vermilion didn’t join the Guard to be a hero. He just wanted to escape the farm and his old, boring life.

But now it seems he may have no choice – his unit is being sent to Hollow Shades, a tiny hamlet hidden in the depths of an endless forest, to fight monsters on behalf of Luna and Celestia. When the mission turns into a disaster and the town is lost, Vermilion finds himself at the forefront of an unexpected war, with all of Equestria at stake.

A new dark age has begun. Heroes must be found to guard the flickering lights of civilization. And Vermilion and his friends will discover that monsters are the least of their worries.

Set in the years before Nightmare Moon’s banishment, The World is Filled with Monsters follows a young hero and his friends as they struggle to protect a newfound nation – and discover the cost of greatness.


I meant to release this story back in January, but ironically world events have kept me busy with work. So instead I've just kept writing, and now there's nearly 50,000 words of this story already in the hopper, just waiting for me to publish. And there's quite a bit more still to write.

Long form stories are scary for me – they're a huge investment of time, and they don't get as much attention as my shorter stories. But sometimes there are things you can only say with a novel, and I've been thinking a lot lately about monsters.

I'd like for you to think about them with me.

Also, have some more art. Here's Vermilion, the hero and main character of The World is Filled with Monsters:

Apr
20th
2017

So, some of you probably know that I'm currently living in Japan, stationed in Tokyo with the U.S. military. I'm studying Japanese, and you may have seen me post some of my digital paintings here in this blog. Well, last year I started studying a new hobby that combined my love of art with my love of writing with my love of Japanese: Shodo, aka Japanese Calligraphy!

So, here's something that has nothing to do with ponies: three works of mine from a recent shodo exhibit at our base.

1. 足るを知る (taru wo shiru), "To know being satisfied."

This Zen Buddhist saying, rendered as 知足, describes the joy of simple satisfaction with one's life. The red seal is my name, stamped with a hanko.

2. 桃花春に咲く (touka haru ni saku), "The peach blossom flowers in spring."

Another Buddhist saying, rendered here as 桃花咲春. Many Japanese phrases focus on nature and the turning of seasons. I didn't get a chance to stamp this one before they had to frame it, unfortunately.

3. 恕 (jo)、"Compassion."

This is a common Chinese character that rarely appears in Japanese (my Japanese girlfriend had never seen it before). It is, by pure coincidence, the first character of my name (John) when rendered in kanji. Compassion is considered the most important human attribute in Confucianism.


Expect a new story out in a week or so.

Apr
10th
2017

Hey folks,

Been a little while since I posted a new story to the site. Life got busy around the New Year, and I didn't have as much time to spend on my favorite hobby as usual.

But I haven't been completely slacking off. In addition to about 40,000 words of a new adventure story already written and undergoing final edits, I was able to participate in the most recent WriteOff, and managed to do well in it. So, I'm happy to publish my first new story in almost six months, The Color of the Stars:

Starlight Glimmer never thought much about the map table in Twilight Sparkle's throne room, except to consider taking it apart to learn its secrets. It didn't have much use for her. But all that changes when the table selects her and Twilight Sparkle for a mission in Las Pegasus. Now they're in pursuit of a crazed villain and a magic spell that threatens to undo their entire timeline.

Starlight Glimmer knows a thing or two about timelines. But the dreams she's been having? They're the deepest mystery yet.

The Color of the Stars


So, about that other new story.

In a few weeks I'll start publishing a new adventure that's been haunting my brain since last fall. It's the first new long-form story I've had the guts to start since Salvation, and I'm more nervous than usual about publishing it, which is why it's been sitting through numerous rounds of edits while more and more chapters pile up. At this point I'll have nearly a full novel of completely written chapters ready to go before it's even ready to submit, with more written every week. I've even commissioned artwork for it, which I've never done before!

So, I'm excited. Hopefully anyone who likes the other long-form stories I've written is excited too. I'll try not to disappoint!

Dec
31st
2016

That went fast. Time for another Year in Review!

2016 didn't feel like a particularly productive year, but when I look at the numbers it seems to have held its own with previous years.

2016 By the Numbers

New Stories:

- The Adventuring Type

- The Instruments of Our Surrender

- Completely Safe in the Reference Section

- The Riddle of the Sphinx

- Childhood's End

- Shall I Compare Thee

- The Lamia

- A bunch of short stories

- Finally finished Salvation! (after only four years)

Total pony wordcount for 2016: 103,000

But! That's not the whole story! Thanks to the Original Fiction Writeoff contests, 2016 also saw five completely original short stories and another five minifics, adding around 40,000 words to that total.

But but! There's more! See below if you're interested!



So, that announcement.

For the past month I've been chugging away at a completely new, long-form adventure, the first one since The Wind Thief. I've got something like five chapters and 25,000 words already in the bank, and I can't remember the last time I was so excited to be working on a story. It got me so excited that I actually went and created artwork for each of the main characters, with more to come (and I'll probably be commissioning some actual, no-kidding real artists to illustrate some parts as well). Although I sometimes do my own cover artwork for stories, this is the first time I've ever really attempted to integrate my painting and writing.

So, in that spirit, have a look at Rose Quartz, one of the main characters in this new adventure.

Publication is expected to start in January, 2017! Excited noises!

Report Cold in Gardez · 536 views ·
Nov
14th
2016

Apropos of nothing · 9:56am

Sometimes I need to take a break from writing, and I can't ignore the siren-call of my Intuos graphics tablet. So, because it rained here on Sunday, have a portrait of Sly, from The Wind Thief:

That is all.

Oct
28th
2016

Hey folks,

I just hit the Submit button on my latest comedy, a story about the difficulty of overcoming addiction and its toll on your friends and family.

Or something like that. I mean, look, this isn't a science.

The Lamia

Oriole has a problem. She can't stop eating stallions.

Rarity has a problem. Her new friend can't stop eating stallions.

Twilight Sparkle has a problem. A stallion-eating monster has moved into her town.

Spike's just glad he's not a stallion.

Sometimes people ask me where I get ideas for my comedies.

I don't know, man. I don't know.


In other news, I'll be appearing on The Good HiE List Podcast in about 12 hours!

"But Gardez," you say, "you've never written an HiE fic!"

And, er, yes. That's technically correct. But fortunately I'll be on the podcast to talk about writing in general, and ponies in particular. And, of course, you know my saying: Stories about ponies are stories about people. So, really, every pony story is an HiE.

Catch the madness at https://www.twitch.tv/mikesnipe on Friday at 6:00PM CST / 4:00PM PST. There's a thread going here where people are posting questions. Your mileage may vary.

Sep
29th
2016

Not much to report this week. I finally published a story that's been sitting in my files for a few weeks: Childhood's End, a WriteOff entry from the last pony short story round.

I've been accused of abusing dreams as a vehicle for storytelling. To this accusation, I say: you are correct. Dreams are the lazy author's way of inventing a fantastical scene that could never otherwise exist.

But damn me, I love writing them. They overflow with potential for story ideas.

What happens when a pony earns their cutie mark in a dream, but can't remember what the dream was about?

Childhood's End

It's every young filly and colt's dream -- the moment they get their cutie mark. It is the instant they leave childhood behind.

For Firecracker, getting his cutie mark was a dream come true. Literally: he woke up, and there it was.

Now if only he could remember what his dream was about.

Aug
26th
2016

Hey friends,

I'm going to beat the same drum I always beat -- if you want to be a better writer, you need to do three things:

1. Write (duh)

2. Get feedback on your writing

3. Adjust your writing based on the feedback

Repeat until you're happy with your writing.

That's it! Usually people with accounts here don't have any trouble with step 1 -- they're already writing their hearts out for a fandom they love. And they would adjust their writing (step 3) based on high-quality feedback, if only they could get it! So the sticky widget is that second point: getting feedback.

Now, there's a bunch of ways to get feedback on your writing. You could attend a workshop, or sign up for a writing seminar at your local community college, or just hope people give you comments on your story. But there's a better way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the next pony minific round of The Writeoff is about to begin!

Stories of mine that started as Writeoff Minifics:

The Riddle of the Sphinx

The Adventuring Type

Babel

The Destruction of the Self

Love and Other Bandages

Reminiscent

And nine stories in my shorts collection, I'm Afraid of Changeling (and other short stories)

If you've ever wanted to dip your toes into the Writeoff, this is the round to do it. Pony minifics are 400-750 words, and you have 24 hours to write them based on whatever prompt gets announced in... 30 hours, it looks like.

The process is fairly easy. You go to the Writeoff website, create an account, and at 1200 UTC Saturday the prompt will appear on the website. Write a minific based on that prompt, submit it through the anonymous submission form, and in 24 hours you'll get a slate of 10 or so minifics by other authors. Read them and rank them, and if you're really cool write a quick review, letting the author know what you thought worked and didn't work. At that point in the process no one knows who wrote what fic, so you can say whatever you want (but please be polite).

I've been doing the Writeoff for almost two years now, and I think it's brought a level of creativity and discipline to my writing that I struggled with before. It teaches you to write on a deadline, under pressure, and to create stories that will appeal to your fellow authors. That's hard to beat.

So if becoming a better writer is something you've always wanted to do, and you've got some free time this Saturday, give it a shot.



So, Salvation?

Those of you who read Chris's blog over at One Man's Pony Ramblings already know that he's one of the more prolific and insightful reviewers in the fandom. He's reviewed a bunch of my stuff in the past, and he has always, always given me 4 out of 5 stars.

Now, that isn't bad. I'm happy with those stars. But it was always a little galling that even what I thought were my best stories didn't get his highest score. But, as far as I know, Chris doesn't accept bribes, so there was nothing I could do to extinguish this sense of inadequacy.

But! Lo and behold! This week Chris finally reviewed Salvation, my longest published story, and he gave it that elusive, long-sought 5 out of 5 stars. Seeing that made my day.

It also brought something to my attention: Salvation is currently sitting at 986 upvotes. That's a lot! It's also, you know, 14 shy of 1000.

Now, I'm not saying you should go run off right now to read Salvation and give it an upvote. That would shallow and petty of me. I'm just, you know, pointing out that it's a mere 14 upvotes shy of the 1000 club. Just sayin'.

That's all.

Just sayin'.

Aug
8th
2016

Hey folks,

Signal boost first -- a great author and a great friend, GaPJaxie, just pulled the trigger on his latest adventure, Around the World in 81 Days (And Other Problems Caused by Leap Years). So if you like tragic adventures featuring Twilight and Spike (and really, who doesn't?), there's something new on the site for you!

By the way, when GaPJaxie clicks on the 'Tragedy' tag, he's using it a bit differently than most of us. To Jaxie, 'Tragedy' doesn't just mean, "Hey guys, this is a super sad story." He uses it in the original, Greek sense – that we are witnessing the fall of a hero because, although they are heroic and greater than us, they also possess a particular flaw that will, in the end, be responsible for their destruction. His story Modern Medicine, which wasn't really sad at all, thus got the Tragedy tag, even though it wasn't particularly sad.

And in an odd coincidence, I did the artwork for both Modern Medicine and Around the World. So, that's pretty cool.

Around the World in 81 Days (And Other Problems Caused by Leap Years)

When Twilight and Celestia have an argument about the existence of leap years, there’s only possible way to settle their differences: a race around the world!

With the full benefit of hindsight, there may have been other ways.



In other news, I hit the 3 Kilopone follower mark the other day. The winner was ChappedPenguinLips, who hangs out in the WriteOff chat.

Speaking of the WriteOff, we just started judging the latest round, an Original Fiction minific contest. The next round, MLP minific, starts on Aug. 24, for folks who are interested. It's a great time and guaranteed to improve your writing, and chances are you'll get a publishable story out of it. Hard to turn all that down.

Check it out at the WriteOff website.

Aug
5th
2016

How's that for a blog title? Gotta hook the eyeballs, I always say.

Contra the title, we'll start with art. I've been messing around with my Wacom tablet lately, and started doing some landscapes! Spoiler: I'm bad at landscapes.

I Have Dreamed a Dream

One of the things I always found amusing about the fandom is the great instrumental music that brony musicians pump out. I have countless songs in this style on my YouTube playlist, but probably my favorite is this:

It's No String's Attached, by Jeffthestrider, and it's an imagining of what Octavia's theme would be in a fighting game. But here's the great thing about pony music -- if you played this song for someone who wasn't in the fandom, and didn't tell them it had anything to do with ponies, they'd never be any wiser. Your 'fandom' music is perfectly capable of masquerading as non-derivative music.

Fanfiction can't do that, or at least not very easily. I can't send Salvation off to a publisher and expect them to be like "Yeah, this is a great story, guy really likes ponies for some reason, though." Fanfiction is too obviously tied to its source material to stand on its own. But music? That's yours to do whatever you want with.

And as with music, so with landscapes! If you take Spike out of that painting above (which I can do, because he's on his own layer) I can replace him with, I dunno, Steven from Steven Universe, and suddenly I've got SU artwork! Maybe I need to do more landscapes.


Anyway, on to the other half of the title. I can't link to it, but I just published what is only my third mature story with adult content. I think I can tag it, though? Look over on the right and tell me if you see a story.

As always, it's never enough to just write about sex; I have to go and make it complicated. In this case, it's by exploring the anxieties, fears and inadequacies that plague us all (or, at least, plague me) when it comes to sex. There's a lot to be afraid of, there! And I don't just mean dentata. Our culture piles heaps and heaps of expectations on both men and women when it comes to the bedroom, and nowhere are we more vulnerable than when we're naked with another human being.

But fears are made to be overcome, right? At least, I hope so. That's what the story's about, anyway.