The First Time

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There is a first time for everything. The first time most of us rode a bike without training wheels, we fell. That very first cup of coffee tasted bitter to a lot of us. Some people remember their first time experiences from long ago, others do not.

SJBrown Weather VaneI have had some interesting firsts as a wildlife photographer. The first time I saw a male moose in the wild I didn’t get the shot, but in my defense it was 4 am and pitch black out.

The first time I saw wolf in the wild I was in Minnesota. Jay and I had just finished lunch and were heading to a nearby refuge. As he drove Jay began yelling “Wolf, Wolf”. Silly me I was wondering why he was barking. As he brought the truck to a stop I realized he was pointing at a wolf on the edge of a nearby field. No I didn’t get a shot of him before he disappeared.

You might think you are seeing a pattern here, but the first time I saw an alligator in the wild I got the shot.

SJBrown AlligatorWhen Jay and I were in South Dakota I saw Big Horn sheep for the first time and got some nice shots.

SJBrown Big HornI have had other firsts because I am in the field photographing wildlife. I still remember the first time I held a wild duck. I was banning ducks with the refuge staff in Minnesota; Yes I had a few firsts on that trip.

SJBrown MallardThe first time I went to a writers conference I had more than one first. Before going to the conference I filled out my first grant application, and I got my first grant. This was also the first time I attended a workshop on character development, and sat in on a panel discussion about publishing.

Yes I took some time to hang out with the local critters while I was there.

SJBrown GooseThe first time I exhibited my work to the public led to my first published manuscript. Keeping your life filled with firsts keeps it interesting, and fun. Now it is time for you to go out and experience a few firsts of your own.

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That’s a whole lot of reviews

Mike Staton
The post was written by Mike Staton.

Sometimes a number can stun a guy.

For example, 1,009.

That’s how many review of fellow writers’ chapters I’ve done since joining an online writers’ workshop back in 2003. And I’ve gotten many, many reviews from other writers for my novels’ chapters. How many novels? Let’s see – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin, Assassins’ Lair, Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep, and my current WIP, Deepening Homefront Shadows.

My OWW Page
Here’s my homepage on the online workshop. Reviewing other writers’ chapters earns me points I can spend to post my own chapters.

A friend told me about the Online Writers’ Workshop of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror back in early 2003. I checked it out and joined. It’s hard to believe it has been fifteen years. The workshop has been a godsend for me. My writing has improved tremendously, and mainly because of the wonderful reviewers on the OWW.

Reviewers have come and gone. Some have even died. It’s been fifteen years after all. The ones I have now are priceless. They do quality reviews. I like to keep the number of reviewers at a manageable number – four or five. Now four men and women consistently critique my chapters for Deepening Homefront Shadows – Michael Keyton, Larry Pinaire, David Kernot and Robyn Wescombe.

Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep Front Cover-Final
I ran this Civil War novel through the Online Writers Workshop of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, getting the manuscript ready to submit to my publisher.

Currently, Keyton is writing an alternate history novel where Lucifer and his horde of demons are trying to use World War II to plunge the human race into an age of darkness. Pinaire is running a science fiction novel through the OWW, the story of the initial colonization of Mars. Pinaire is doing a traditional sword-and-sorcery novel where the hero is snatched from our world and dropped into a medieval one where sorcerers cast magic spells. Robyn Wescombe, my newest reviewer, is doing an alternate history novel where Immortals are copulating with human women to breed immortal children. I enjoy reviewing them, trying to help my online friends improve their writing – plot, characterization, setting and dialogue.

It’s really hard to believe that I’ve done more than 1,000 reviews over the last fifteen years. In 2014, I joined the Henderson Writers Group and tried a couple of in-person reviews. Someone would read a portion of a chapter for five minutes and fellow group members would critique as he or she read. I read a partial chapter once, and found the results unsatisfying. On the OWW, they review the entire chapter.

Larenia's Shadow Trilogy5
I also workshopped my fantasy trilogy.

When I joined the OWW, I was 51 years old. Today, I’m 66. Over those fifteen years, I managed to write four books and find a small publisher to publish them for me. Now I’m working on my fifth novel and currently running the chapters through the OWW. The first three novels turned out to be a fantasy trilogy. Now I’m writing another trilogy – this one a Civil War saga with fantasy and romance subplots. I’m really enjoying my novel-writing career.

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I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.