Friday, August 26, 2011

How do you write?

Do you plan your book? Do you write up an outline? Or are you like me and simply sit down and start telling a story, making it up as you go? I'm a pantser.

I start out with the barest plan - a character, a problem, and a goal. After that, it's anyone's guess what will happen and who you will meet along the way. In my published book, King by Right of Blood and Might, I have a list of characters at the end that is 68 members long. For this story, I created a prince, and then I figured the story would end with him becoming king, but you know, that's kind of a given, a birth right, so I had to have a problem. What kinds of problems can a prince have? I wanted it to be something out of the ordinary.

Whenever we think of a royal family, large or small, we think of 'popular' and 'being involved', so I took all that away. My prince was raised by a father who was terrified of the great outdoors. You've all heard of recluses. So what kind of life would that be? And I made it even worse by fracturing the family within the home. The king saw a few of the villagers and took the occasional report from one or another member of his very small staff, but the queen seldom left her room.

Ok, now the problem had to be solved, and thus began the journey. Yes, he did become king but my what a journey it was, leading much farther than I ever thought.

It was a journey for me too. I'd never written a book before. haha Now I've got over twenty stories, most of them full length novels.

Not too long ago, I met a man (on line) who was also a publisher. I asked if he was interested in a book of mine that could be turned into a trilogy. He said he'd take a look at it, and the greatest part is, he loved it. Book one will be coming out in October.

I created this story in the same way. My prince this time didn't know he was a prince. Not only that, he wasn't living with his real parents, but then he didn't know that little fact either, and the biggest thing, his kingdom was in a different dimension or on a different world - who knows - not even I do. How does he get there? Well, magic of course. How does it end? He becomes king of course, but he doesn't sit on his own throne until the end of book three.

So tell me, how do you write? Are you a pantser like me?


Friday, August 19, 2011

To Become Whole - Prologue

In King by Right of Blood and Might, the book starts with a prologue describing the destruction of our way of life. An asteroid runs into the moon and the two heavenly bodies blow apart and come raining down on the world.

In book 2, To Become Whole (the first five pages is here), I felt it only proper to keep with the format, but I needed a different point of view on the tragedy.


The year was 2012 and the world was coming apart. An asteroid had collided with the moon and both bodies were breaking apart with the impact. Unable to continue their experiments, the scientists had ordered them destroyed and then fled.

Brian was supposed to destroy them and burn all the records, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill them. They were good kids, and so fascinating. They were so beautiful, so innocent and far more intelligent than anyone cared to know.

A meteor crashed into the ground somewhere close. Half the complex had already been smashed by another such impact. A beam supporting the ceiling came crashing down, knocking him to the ground and pinning him to the floor. The pain robbed him of breath. He couldn’t leave them in those cells. They deserved better than that. He threw the keys towards them, hoping they made it close enough for them to reach.

Another impact shook the place and more of the ceiling came crashing down. He didn’t hear the jangling of the keys. He didn’t feel the hand that brushed his eyes closed.

She sat on a rock, holding her knees close to her chest, feeling cold in the night air. Tears ran down her cheeks. Her daddy wasn’t coming home. In her heart, she knew this was true. The rain of burning destruction told her she would never see him again. Behind her was the crater that used to be her house. Her mother and her baby brother had been in there. She had been playing in the barn. It was the best playhouse in the world. It had been shoved all sideways when the meteor hit the house and a flying piece of wood had cut her cheek.

Movement on the road caught her attention. It was almost completely dark now, and everywhere she looked was glittering with thousands of fires. Something white caught her eye down on what was left of the road, the road that should have brought her father home. Those white spots almost glowed in the shadow that surrounded them. They just kept moving; they didn’t seem to notice the fire falling from the sky. Once she spotted the movement, she could pick out quite a few of them. But something else was there too; she couldn’t make out what from this distance. They were all moving up the road towards her.

They gathered around her, the noses of the . . . well, she’d seen pictures of wolves, but these were way too big, though they seemed nice enough. Person or giant wolf, they mingled together like they were all one group, all the same family. None of the people looked older than twelve or so. Some of the older ones leaned heavily on others, some carried infants and toddlers, and others carried puppies.

The boy with the white hair - she was sure he was the one she had spotted first, knelt directly in front of her. He had a brown blotch on his right temple and pale blue eyes just like his ‘wolf’ had. His ‘wolf’ was probably the prettiest one in the bunch - all silver and bluish.

The boy pushed a lock of copper-red hair out of her cut. The blood had dried in the cool breeze and it pulled a bit. “She is his,” he said, in a calm rumble of a voice that didn’t fit his age.

“Leave her, she is one of them, she will slow us down,” said someone behind him in a similar deep voice.

“She is Brian’s. He was always kind to us. He set us free. We owe him our lives, our freedom. The least we can do for him is try to protect his young.” With his thumb, he brushed at the smudge between her eyebrows, but it did not come away, and then he brushed her tears away with a dry palm.

There was some grumbling at his words, but no real dissension, so the boy with the white hair picked up the little girl and they were off again, heading deeper into the mountains. Massive rocks fell all around them, spraying fire everywhere. They ran on. They had no choice.

The girl with the copper-red hair could not run with them, so she was passed among the strongest of them, as were the youngest of their own. Some seemed to be ill, and some were injured, but they struggled on between others. All they could do was keep moving and hope to avoid the falling sky . . . some didn’t.

The clan never knew the years were counted and they never thought to start. Their concern was preparing for the next hunt, or the next birth. Only by preparing, could they survive the winter that never went away.

Young as she was, Brian’s daughter provided them with the foundation that carried them through.

And one small child must carve a place for himself in his world.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Speed of Dreams - I'd like to see this as an eBook someday soon

Opening chapter - Taking Pictures - Tell me what you think.

Kaz took pictures of everything and everyone around him, even total strangers, all laughing, drinking and dancing - celebrating the peace. Strangers introduced themselves, or not, and toasted along with everyone else. Everyone was giddy with the prospect of peace and freedom so close. Rumor had it that the negotiations were going well. There was going to be peace for the first time. He’d never heard of there being no war. What would they do with themselves if they stopped fighting? But this moment, this possibility - he wanted to record every second.

The long, triangular spaceships were everywhere he looked - the eye of his camera allowing him to see the guns that bristled from every vantage point along their surface. The small two-man surface-to-space scouts and fighters were scattered across the ground or on the lower horizon at any of a hundred different levels, and the cruisers that shipped thousands were very visible as they hung low above the atmosphere. Everyone waited for the outcome of the peace talks. They all kept an eye on the single earthbound complex in the center of the valley.

A runner came up to him with a sheaf of flimsies. “Aaitt’Kaz?”

Kaz waved and took pictures of him as he approached, and the runner danced a jig for the camera before handing Kaz one of the sheets from his file. Using a runner was an unusual occurrence, but what with all the ships gathered around, communications and single man runabouts may have been curtailed.

Kaz glanced at the flimsy he’d been handed; he was being assigned to a new ship. “Where is it?” he called after the man as he danced off to find someone else.

“It just arrived.” The runner pointed to a ship now resting on the hill behind him; it had found one of the few patches of green grass. Each ship was keyed to the pilot’s orders and would have been simple to locate, but following a pointed finger was easier, and it gave Kaz a chance to take another picture of him.

Kaz looked up at the new ship with admiration; it was sleek, made for speed, though not defenseless by any means. It might hold a crew of ten, or even twenty if they were cozy. It looked like a new design so, after adding its image to his growing collection, he panned his camera around, looking for more. He found a few, maybe twenty or more, but ships littered the horizon. It would be impossible to tell how many new ships there were without careful analysis of the crystal some other time, definitely, some other time. Right now, it was time for a beer, if he could find some still in a bottle.

His sub-dermal receiver came to life. “Bad news, people; Ssark left the table. The talks have failed. Get to your ships; this is going to be bad.”

Stunned, all thoughts of a beer were wiped from his mind, shattered on a rock along with someone’s dropped bottle. “No!” Many of the gathered ships were beginning to shoot at each other already. People ran. At this range, it would be wholesale slaughter. Had it all been just a trap?

He ran for his new ship. He charged into the open hatch yelling, “Where is everyone?” He hoped the crew was close.

“Everyone is present and accounted for, Pilot Aaitt’Kaz,” replied the calm voice of the ship.

He slapped the panel that closed the hatch. “Ship wide. Everyone, buckle up. Gunners, prepare to return fire. Lift off in five . . . four,” as he counted, he vaulted into his seat, which automatically enfolded him with its padded arms and slid him to within reach of the controls. “. . . Three,” he flipped the array of switches; turning on force fields, gun ports, grav-plating. “. . . Two,” sensors, life-support and a number of other ship systems. “. . . One.” The controls came into his hands and he boosted hard, dodging lasers and solid rounds. His gunners returned fire smoothly, doing a fair job of keeping anyone off their tail and out of their immediate path. “Ship, enhance inertial dampers; we need to go faster. How are you doing back there, gunners?”

“Inertial dampers, enhanced,” said the ship. He always found it amazing that the voices of these ships were so calm. None of the gunners answered, but they were all still shooting.

He kicked his thrusters and they leapt into high overdrive, whipping past the last of the cruisers in the upper atmosphere and into clear space. At least his little piece of it was clear at the moment. He allowed himself a moment to marvel at the maneuverability and speed of this new design. “Captain, what’re our orders? What’s our heading?” He waited for a response but none came. “Captain. Captain? Ship, you said everyone was present and accounted for. Why can’t I talk to anyone?”

“I have fed your course into your navigation system, Pilot,” said the ship.

He glanced at the coordinates. It must be some kind of prearranged meeting place - somewhere to regroup. “Where is the rest of the crew, ship?” he asked again as he boosted onto the new course. That is where his control ended.

The ship began to accelerate beyond his parameters. It went faster and faster. It was running.

“Ship, I’ve lost control. Ship?”

“Good night, Pilot Aaitt’Kaz; sweet dreams,” said the ship; her voice sounding quite condescending just now, though nothing about it had changed, or ever would.

“What are you doing? Ship, explain.”

He didn’t know whether the ship replied or not. He didn’t know anything anymore.

The ship encased him and his seat in a force field, and once conditions were right within that shell, all other systems shut down. All that was left was speed.

Kaz dreamed; he dreamed of taking pictures, of people laughing and drinking, toasting the peace. He was taking pictures - lots of pictures.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Trials of the Youngest Princess - coming out someday

They say the worst thing you can do is start out a book with a lot of back story, but in this instance I can't really find anything I want to do without. The bulk of the story is about sixteen-year-old Anella, but so much goes into the sculpting of the young woman that doing without this information would be hard. I know there are different strategies of working this information into the story in bits and pieces later on, but I like chronology. Am I being stubborn? Probably. Here is the first chapter. What do you think? Work it in later? Leave it out entirely? Leave it the way it is?

Once a Princess

King Arden and queen Leasl loved each other and they loved their people. Peace and prosperity abounded across the land just at it did within the royal palace itself. Five children were born to the royal couple. First came two boys, straight and strong. Born two years apart they were neigh on inseparable. Born soon after were three daughters, and then the queen could have no more. But the palace echoed with the sound of children’s running feet and the laughter of play. It was a fairytale story with only one tiny blotch, not enough to blotch the entire story.

As they grew Princes Franklin and Claudius were groomed into their positions in life. Prince Franklin would be the next king and Prince Claudius would be the commander of his armed forces. Of course they would; it was the way things were done.

It was a different story for the royal daughters, though no less customary just the same. There would be no throne for them. Their neighbors were few and mostly across a mean sea or a meaner mountain range, and those royal families had daughters of their own and much closer neighbors to worry about. Queen Leasl came from across the mountains; her words still carried the lilt of a different language under them. Princess Maria, named after a grandmother she never met, and Princess Janine, named after her other grandmother, were everything their parents expected. They were lovely, graceful and colorful, and they flirted with all the young men at court.

The queen worked as hard to groom them for their position in life as the king worked on his sons. She made sure they were pleasing to look at and graceful to watch. She saw to their instruction in color coordination and sewing, hairstyle and makeup, dancing and music, and even some singing. But being colorful and entertaining wasn’t the only thing she made sure they knew how to do; she made sure they learned how to manage the household and all of its servants and staff. Since it was very important that the royal daughters married into the best families in the land, thus strengthening the king’s power and influence, they must also become a valuable addition to their future husbands’ houses regardless of his title. The peace they all enjoyed needed constant attention lest it deteriorate into petty squabbles.

The youngest princess, Anella, was the family thorn. Her hair was less than golden and habitually unruly, and though she wasn’t an ugly child, she was not the dainty princess her mother would have liked. She wasn’t particularly graceful, but she couldn’t be called clumsy either; she just didn’t care about dancing and it showed. Lack of interest wasn’t an excuse her mother tolerated; she preferred to blame her big feet, though they weren’t all that big really.

Her feet weren’t the only signs of difference between Anella and her sisters. Long before reaching the age of six, she was already taller, sturdier and far more stubborn than either of her sisters.

Though the queen insisted she learn it, Anella was not interested in sewing or embroidery, and poetry was quite beyond her grasp. In fact, she was quite unruly in almost every way conceivable to the queen.

The first big event in Anella’s life was the announcement and celebration of her betrothal to the second son of Duke Seville. Seville was a powerful man himself, and though he was a cousin, he was a distant cousin and the king thought it desirable to bind him a little closer to the throne.

Anella, her mother, and her mother’s servants spent days making her a special dress for the occasion. On the day of her betrothal, she stood with her father in front of all the court for the first time as the duke and his son crossed the crowded audience chamber to meet them. All the negotiating was completed, and the necessary papers were signed and sealed; all that remained was the formal announcement and ceremony, and the inevitable ball to follow. At sixteen, Prince Franklin was there too, he stood with the king in all things now, and just now, he was standing directly behind his littlest sister, lending his silent support for this frightening affair. As Duke Seville and his eight-year-old son came to a stop in front of Anella and her father, his strong frame was there for her to back into. Then the king took his youngest daughter’s hand and placed it in the hand of the boy who would one day be her husband.

Anella wasn’t afraid anymore; she was mesmerized. Somewhere overhead, the king and the duke said their oaths and promises aloud for the entire court to hear, but Anella wasn’t paying attention. She was more interested in the boy who now held her hand. She had been told that his name was Paul and that he was the second and last child in his family. She had also been warned against talking during the ceremony, and since he didn’t say anything either, he must have been warned too.

He was taller than she was, of course, he was two years older after all, but he had such a nice face, wavy black hair and big beautiful blue eyes. Anella thought he was very good looking for a boy. She couldn’t help but gloat a little to herself, he’s much better looking than either of the two boys betrothed to my sisters. He was looking at her too, the whole time. Is he thinking about me like I’m thinking about him? Does he think I’m at all pretty?

Since the ceremony was more about the alliance between the king and the duke than it was about two young people coming together, and since Anella and Paul were both quite young, they were sent away in their separate directions to go to bed as soon as the ceremony was over, missing the celebration that came after completely. Then, early the next morning, the duke and his entourage left to return to their home and Anella never got another opportunity to meet or speak with Paul.

After all the excitement was over, life at the palace returned to normal with one small addition, every year, on her birthday, Anella dutifully received a birthday present and a letter from Paul, and she was required to do the same in time for his birthday. They also exchanged presents and letters on their anniversary and on Christmas; it was all very dull and boring. His letters told of daily happenings in his life, like the birth of a new colt that would be his to train, or some lesson he was to begin soon. His letters were always a little dry, but then she was sure hers were too, after all, what do you write to a stranger?

His presents were just as uninteresting as his letters. The first such gift was a bolt of cloth in his family house colors, some of which was added to any new dress from that point on. For Christmas that year, he sent her a little gold harp that migrated to the farthest edge of her dresser rather quickly. When she turned nine, he sent some jewelry obviously intended to match the cloth; it was added to her jewelry box and then all but forgotten, the ring didn’t fit anyway. Admittedly, they were all things Anella thought were quite lovely, but she just couldn’t get excited over them.

The queen picked out most of the presents she sent to Paul; the only thing she picked out was a fancy saddle for his colt to use someday. “A girl shouldn’t think of something leathery,” said the queen indignantly.

“But mother, see here,” said Anella. She points out the letter she had just read. “This whole letter is about his colt and he even mentions wanting a saddle that matches him. There’s silver all over this thing, and what goes better with black than silver? You wouldn’t want me to send him a sample of my sewing now, would you?” The saddle was bought and sent, along with an extra long letter telling about all the plans she had for the use of the material he had sent her. As the list of ideas grew, she feared he just might send another bolt. “Mother, stop adding things, it’s long enough.” Her mother left the room in a huff. Anella recopied the letter one more time and then handed it to the waiting messenger.

Even at a young age, Anella tried to be very logical about the things she did, and now that she was betrothed, it was logical for her to do the things her mother expected. She worked at her sewing until her eyes wouldn’t focus anymore and her mother dismissed her when fingers started to bleed; it wouldn’t do to have a bodice that was stained with blood.

Though her fingers hurt, there was one good thing about that; it got her out of her music lessons too. And, since the palace bard cringed every time he saw her, skipping those lessons altogether was simple, leaving her afternoons mostly free.

Shortly before dinner, her sisters, and sometimes her mother, practiced their skill with makeup and hairstyle in preparation for the evening meal. These sessions were especially long when a new merchant who sold such things was in town, something that happened all too often in Anella’s opinion. Ah but, this too fell under the things she needed to learn, so Anella tried her best and eventually she was able to apply makeup to her sisters’ eyes without poking an eye out. Too bad her sisters’ eyes were so pale; her own eyelashes were rather dark so she never bothered with eye makeup on herself, not unless her mother was there to see to it. The first time she poked her own eye out, she figured her mother made her do it as punishment for what she put her sisters through.

Every summer as part of the midsummer’s celebration, the king hosted the Grand Tournament, and when Anella reached the age of ten, her mother allowed her to accompany her father. She fell in love with the whole thing. First was the jousting contest; she thought it was very exciting to watch these big men, some of whom she knew from the palace guard, charging at each other on their big horses. She didn’t so much care for the way they tried to stab at each other with those really long poles, but that was the point of it all. The whole stadium cheered whenever there was a good hit, and if a rider was unseated entirely, the place rocked with the stamping of feet and the blaring of horns too. One day, she asked, “Father, when can I learn to ride like that?”

He was leaning forward, paying attention to nuances he didn’t explain, but he had enough attention for his daughter to say, “women shouldn’t ride; it’s bad for them.”

The next day, she was with her mother and her sisters. They were walking the thoroughfare and sampling the sweets. Anella saw a man with a small pony – it was barely as tall as his waist and on it was sitting a little girl. That wouldn’t be bad, would it? “Mother, that man is giving all the children a ride on his pony. May I? Please?”

Leasl took one look and suddenly her ever-present hanky was in her hand and she was fanning her face with it. “Oh heavens no. Oh no.” She turned to look again and then waved for the royal carriage to take them home.

The next day Anella followed her brothers and discovered other competitions. Claudius was especially interested in the single horse and the sword competitions; the horses did some pretty amazing tricks but Anella didn’t understand why they were taught to do them. The issue was further confused by the fact that the riders were dressed in armor, though not such heavy armor as those in the jousting competitions. When she asked, “Claudius, why are they doing that?” Her question was forgotten when the horse did a fancy jump and everyone in the stands stood up and cheered.

Francis lost interest after the single horse competition and left the stadium but Claudius remained and so Anella stayed with him. The sword competition was the best she’d seen so far but it was still confusing, though Claudius seemed to understand it just fine. Admittedly, it was rather pretty to watch but she didn’t see the point.

Since horses were out of bounds and the events they were involved with made no sense, Anella wandered off on her own. It didn’t take her long to discover many, less formal, events took place outside of the stadium and away from the promenade. She discovered wrestling and boxing matches, but soon lost interest in them; they were much too sweaty and brutal for her tastes. She also found sword and staff fights. These things she could understand; one man competing against another to be best was a simple concept and it was far more than a single strike at a time; a fighter had to avoid or block being hit and try to hit back at the same time – it was really very intricate. She liked the sword matches best; they were almost like a dance with death, though from the amount of jeering and laughter, she knew no such danger existed. For her, they were an ever-changing, never-ending excitement and she went to the tournament grounds every day just to watch them. She soaked up every match, reliving and remixing them in her head, imagining sword contests of all sorts where she was the victor.

Not long after the tournament was over, she found a spot where she could watch her brothers at their sword lessons. She of course knew that her brothers did this, but it never occurred to her to watch before, not until she had seen what could be done with the skill. Drawn like a moth to a candle flame, she took every opportunity she could find to skip her afternoon of music so she could watch the sword master try to teach her brothers the intricate skill of the sword. She had no idea it was such a puzzle.

Watching the sword master work with her brothers, and reliving the duels she had seen at the tournament, lasted Anella for almost the entire year, but it was inevitable that it would become inadequate; she simply had to discover the secret for herself. So, late one evening, when no one was around, she sneaked down to the armory. She had no plan for what she would do when she got there, but as soon as her eyes rested on a rack full of all manner of different swords, she had to have one. She handled each one until she found one she liked. She had no idea whether it was suitable for her size or strength; the thought prompted by a comment she’d overheard the sword master say “You’re outgrowing this sword, Claudius. You should choose another” a few days ago, but she liked it. It was shiny and it wasn’t the smallest sword on the rack, but she could lift it.

She stepped out onto the training ground and started trying some of the moves the master had been teaching her brothers. Her moves were noticeably awkward and weak, and her arm grew tired depressingly soon. To her eye, it didn’t look like anything the sword master was teaching. Far from ready to stop, she did the only logical thing; she switched the sword to her left hand and continued to try to grasp the moves. It never occurred to her that she had never seen anyone else do this; she just wasn’t ready to stop, not yet, and her arm was tired so why not? She did it with every thing else she did.

She continued to struggle with the forms, switching hands until both of her arms were totally leaden before giving it up for the night and replacing the sword where she found it. She erased all the other signs of her presence and returned to her room to dream of fighting in some glorious battle or other of which she had only seen pictures. This time she had the memory of the weight of real steel in her hands and the aches in her arms to make it more real.

The library was filled with old tomes and their pages were covered with flowery letters and fantastic pictures. Anella’s mother would never let her read the stories that accompanied those pictures; the only books she was allowed to read were the ledgers where she was carefully schooled in the writing of various supplies and the accounting of numbers. Anella tried hoarding some of those books in her room once, but the servants found them and then her mother cried and fanned herself again. Unknown to the queen though, Anella managed quick glimpses from time to time.

The books in the library weren’t the only source of such pictures though; there were tapestries depicting battles hanging around on nearly every wall, especially on the main floor where visitors could be reminded of the glories of past ancestors. She saw those every day; she just couldn’t stop and study them unless she was sure she was alone.

Day after day, she did much the same thing; she’d watch her brothers at their lessons, soaking up every detail she could, and then she would return later that night when no one was around and try to figure it out for herself, using first one hand, and then the other, and then back again. She knew she was getting stronger when she heard the shift change out in the hall; dawn would be soon. She mustn’t be caught here when the sword master returned for his morning classes with the soldiers.

Even as her endurance increased, the puzzle remained tantalizingly out of reach. In her imagination, someone was always able to get past her defenses and her attacks were always too slow to score a hit. With stubborn determination, she would try again, and again, and again.

As time went on, she grew overconfident in her ritual and less careful about making sure she was alone. There came a day when the sword master remained in the classroom behind the training room much longer than usual.