Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Christmas Unremembered

 At this point, Derrick has no memories of a life in the real world - our world. He has no memory of Christmas or Christmases past.

From: Druid Derrick, Book 4

Derrick was observing his customary new moon quiet in the middle of December when a knock came at his door late that evening. Derrick thrilled with excitement; here was the invitation to moot he’d always hoped for. Instead, standing there in all his Robinhood glory plus a few layers, was Gamitch, and behind him was what looked like the entire gnome population. As soon as the door was open, they all filed in with their burdens and put them away in Derrick’s new lab. It was all things Derrick had used in the gnome’s lab. “Gamitch, what’s the meaning of this?”

“I fully intend to teach you everything I know. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be the next potions master.”

Though disappointed at once again not being invited to moot, Derrick was thoroughly flattered. “But this is all your things. Why are you bringing it here? I can still come up there for you to teach me.”

The old gnome waved the question away. Everything had been stowed and despite the cold, the women were preparing a feast outside.

Derrick stepped out to see that more than gnomes had gathered. The dwarves brought their share as did the centaurs and in no time at all there was much playing of music and dancing, telling of stories and laughing – a fine house warming party.

When the sun rose, Derrick’s house was his alone, and he was still in a happy kind of shock when Mariah showed up. She showed him a small box of decorations and then pulled him back along the trail a short distance. She pointed to a small tree, scarcely taller than she was and made a cutting motion with her hand.

Not understanding at first, Derrick was appalled that she wanted him to cut such a small tree. “No, I’m not cutting that. It’s way too small to be of any use. It’s only about five years old.”

She looked disappointed, but even when she pointed to a slightly larger tree, Derrick refused. “No. Why do you want me to cut a tree?”

She pointed back toward the cabin, shaping the box she’d brought with her hands, then she pulled an imaginary item from the box and mimed hanging it on the little tree’s branches and then putting the whole thing in Derrick’s house.

“What? You want to take this tree to the house and put all those things on it? Why?”

The question stumped her. For the first time, Mariah’s signs weren’t enough to explain her reasoning.

Derrick led her back to the house. Seeing that she was near tears about something she couldn’t explain, he tried to cheer her by going through the box she’d brought. It was full of silver fluffy ropes and colorful balls, some of which were decorated with shards of colorful beads. Since Derrick refused to have a tree, she ended up hanging them all around the house. She made Derrick participate too as some of the places were out of reach.

When all the decorations were out of the box, she presented Derrick with the last thing, a small box wrapped in red and green paper, and tied with a red ribbon. The gift reminded him that at roughly this time last winter, Anya had brought him a birthday present. He still didn’t remember what day was his birthday, and if Anya had found out his age she hadn’t passed the knowledge along.

The gift was another ornament after a fashion though it wasn’t made to hang from a hook like all the other decorations. It was a globe filled with water, and inside was a tiny cabin nestled among some very tall trees. Mariah shook it and then showed him the snow fly around the cabin in a miniature blizzard. Among the snowflakes was a few little white angels now swirling the cabin. She pointed them out with a swirling finger that traced their flight around the cabin, making wing motions with her arms so Derrick would notice which ones she was pointing out. Then she poked Derrick in the chest and pointed off toward her house, making the flying motions again – she was telling Derrick that he was the guardian angel that flew around their house.

Derrick set it in the middle of the table and they watched the flakes settle. Mariah gave the house one last look and smiled, then she pointed to herself and toward home. She had to go so she could get back before the dark.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Preparations for the Midwinter Ball

From: The Trials of the Youngest Princess

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As per appointment, I made another trip to town for my final fitting. It’s one thing to see a drawing and pick out the material; it’s quite another to see the finished product, or very nearly finished anyway.

Aimée helped me into the first layer. Made from the white satin, it was the undershirt that would show when the actual dress was added. It was long enough to reach down to my knees and had short sleeves. Its purpose was its white collar, which would lay over the blue of the dress. The collar was very wide, almost reaching my shoulders. In back it would stand up, holding my hair away from my neck. I watched in her mirror as she arranged the collar.

“There. Shows off your lovely neck. Don’t you think?” said Aimée with a smile.

I thought my neck looked rather skinny, but I suppose so. The line left open down the front was rather troubling though. The folded out collar left a V of skin down my chest bare. Not that I had anything to show off, but I’d never had so much bared skin in my life, not even for one of those paintings. I kept pushing it closed at the bottom, but it just fell open again.

Next Aimée helped me step into the dress, and then she laced it up the back. It took her a while, so when she was done, I turned to see the results and discovered a cascade all down my back of tiny white buttons, the line down my spine were what was holding my dress together, but in all, you’d never know.

Aimée spent some time with my front and that collar, but in the end decided to pin the bottom up another couple inches; she wanted the horizontal line of the blue to be undisturbed.

With me just standing there in front of the mirror, the dress looked rather plain.

“Move. Walk,” Aimée instructed with a hand on her chin.

The moment I took a step, the dress bloomed. It reminded me of some kind of lily. The dress had a wide pleat down in front of each leg, and behind too, and when I took a step, the white underneath flashed out. The sleeves from the elbow down were the same. I could lift my hand all the way to my chin and not lift the last of the material from my side. Laughing, I spun around and the pleats opened up. This dress was fantastic.

Aimée looked me up and down when I finished my spin. She of course was seeing her finished product, not some silly princess. “The picture you chose calls for the hem to be long and trailing on the floor in the back, but I think you are too young for that. I think it would be better if it merely brushed the floor all around. What do you think?”

I was a princess; she would do whatever I asked. I looked at the picture again; I’d forgotten about the flowing in back part. I looked at myself in the mirror again. The material was already there, and it was hard to get the quiet lines back after my spin. I liked those lines and the surprise they hid. “I like that idea too.”

Aimée had me kick off my shoes and stand on a pedestal. First she pinned the length of my sleeves so that only my fingers showed, and then she spent the next half hour trimming and pinning the hem. When she had come full circle, when I thought she was now done, she said, “Now for the last layer. I can’t figure out how to do the front.”

She brought out an armload of the sheer blue material; I’d forgotten all about it. This was made almost like a cape, only it was designed to go over this dress. It had very wide sleeves, but there were no pleats in this, just lots of see-through material. It was the same with what covered the skirt, though it didn’t cover the front panel. More of the white buttons trimmed the edges all around. The only unfinished part was the top in front.

“At first I was thinking about giving you a hood, but you wore your hair long last time I saw you. Will it be long again, do you think? If so, we can’t really do a hood.”

“I really don’t know what mother has planned for my hair,” I said. “Better not have a hood though, even if I don’t wear it up.”

She nodded and began tucking and folding, holding and pinning here and there, and quite by accident came up with something she liked. “Do you have a brooch? That’s a silly question. Pin it right here.” She poked her finger right between where my white collar came together and where the blue line of my dress was closest. She made a couple more tucks and flicks. “Yes. More pea buttons along the edge and curving down to your waist in the back. Perfect.”

It sure sounded good to me. I liked those little white buttons. I smiled and pulled her into a hug. I simply had to. If you ask me, she had worked magic. “Thank you so much.”

She blushed. “You really like it? It’ll be ready in a couple days. Would you like me to send it to the palace?”

“Yes, very very much, and yes again, if you would, please.”

She curtsied very low. No one had ever curtsied to me before. Now it was my turn to blush.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Top Model

Have you ever read one of those books where the writer can't quite figure out how to describe the main, first person, character?

Take the sentence: I slid my long slender legs out from under the covers.

Another example: I twined my long, auburn hair into a practical bun.

And another: I bared my straight white teeth in the mirror to make sure there was no food stuck between them.

When you do things like this, it comes off sounding sappy at best. Sickly-sweet is what comes to my mind nearly every time.

Try to remember, you never give a lot of thought about your own appearance unless you are trying to make sure things are perfect in preparation for meeting someone important. A model probably will think about everything listed above, though the hair style would be something different.

That makes it kind of difficult for a writer to tell you what their character looks like. There are ways though.

It's easier for a girl, because a girl is more likely to be more critical of her appearance. You just have to decide if such personal criticizing is fitting with your character's personality. I can tell you from personal experience that a rancher's caught probably isn't likely to care what she looks like much, not unless her mother is successful in girlifying her. My mother was far more successful with my older sister than she was with me.

There are men like this too, those who are incredibly self-conscious about about their appearance and those who are just lucky. My husband falls into the latter. I still don't look at clothes as anything more than a covering for modesty or warmth.

At any rate, how do you describe yourself without sounding shallow and selfish? There are all manner of subtle hints you can use, but basically it boils down to trusting your reader to develop a picture of your character that will do just fine.

Either gender might pick colors to accent eye color or at least not clash. A girl might do the same with makeup, maybe even selecting contacts to change her eye color to match her clothes. Hair color is another thing, but if your character is ever doing anything nefarious at night, they'd need to do something about light colored hair so it wouldn't show up. Having another character make a casual comment about hair color is another way.

The mirror thing works just fine, but you really have to be careful how you use it. Once again, you have to decide if your character is going to think about what he or she looks like or if they're just using the mirror for functional purposes.

Believe me, when it comes to self appearance, third person is best. I like third person close, it's very like first person, but it's outside of the body, rather like a gnome riding on your character's shoulder. Give it a try. You might like it. However, I do understand that some stories just hit better in first person.

Happy writing.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Eliciting Emotions

So how do you elicit emotion with your writing? The formula is somewhat ambiguous. What will work for one person might not work for another. However, we are all softies down in there somewhere, so you are the person whose emotions you need to jerk around.

This afternoon, I was reading The Hunger Games, book 2 for the first time. At one point my husband caught me crying complete with runny nose and real tears, and then like ten minutes later (or less), I couldn’t help but laugh, and I had to laugh out loud. And then of course I had to stop and try to explain why.

Speaking of The Hunger Games, this is the second time I read the first book, and I’m happy to say many of the issues I saw the first time around seem to have been fixed. It makes the reading much more pleasurable if I’m not backing up and trying to figure out what the point of some sentence or paragraph was making. Don’t be afraid of those nifty little squiggly green lines; they can tell you if your sentence is incomplete. Last time around, I was very nearly ready to strangle the writer by the time I was half way through the book, and it was already a movie by then, I think.

Back on track here. I have always been one of those who cries during sad movies, and I’ll cry every time I watch it. Being out here in the middle of nowhere, I may have a lot of movies, but with nine months of winter, we watch a lot of movies, and we might only get one or two new movies a year, unless we make the trip to town for long enough to go shopping. It’s a great time to browse the used movie bins.

Oops – let me try again. So how do you make yourself cry? It’s not easy. I’ve managed to do it once in all of the books I’ve written, and I know I’ve done a good job because I cry every time I read that part.

The trick is to show the agony – key word being SHOW. The whole ‘show vs. tell’ is a pretty big deal. You need to describe each tear, squeeze our chest with the broken heart, choke up our throats with the terror that won’t let us scream. Can you do that? Believe me, it’s not easy.

I’m in the process of rewriting the next book I intend to publish, and here in a few pages, I’ll be at a point where my princess becomes paralyzed with horror, but she doesn’t dare show the true depths of the horror in front of her. Can I bring chills to your spine? Can I choke you up with the tears she can’t afford to let fall? Only time will tell. Maybe someday when you read that book, you will remember reading this post and you might find it in your heart to let me know what you think.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Overlapping Scenes

I'm reading this book right now that is a very nice dystopian romance. Maybe it could use a little work but it's fine. The biggest issue I have with this book is the overlapping scenes. The author is telling the story from several different points of view, and while I have no problem with multiple POVs, even in first person, which is the case with this book, you really should avoid overlapping your scenes. Taking us through a dinner scene where the first two characters meet for the first time, first from one POV and then covering the same scene, to include the dialogue, from the other POV is a serious case of overkill if you ask me. I know, the writer was trying to introduce the background thoughts and feelings of each character, but there are better ways to do that.

What this writer did to help the reader know whose mind we were walking in was to title the chapters with the character's name plus a small hint about the subject. This is an excellent strategy when multiple POVs are being covered. What needs to be concentrated on is flow of the storyline. I can tell you first hand, it is incredibly annoying to be reading the same dialogue a second time. [Fortunately, so far, there has only been two characters to repeat any particular scene] Also fortunately, not every scene is overlapped, and each scene does advance the story.

What this writer needed to do is consider the information added in the overlapping scene and determine just how important that particular information is. Mere thoughts about how the other character looked or acted really aren't enough, if you ask me. Other important information could be added later at more appropriate times.

One thing I struggle with is repeated words and phrases; it's something I try to watch for and avoid - there is no point in covering the same ground more than once. Overlapping entire scenes is the ultimate repeat. I find it incredibly hard not to skip over the repeated wordings, but if I did, I might miss the information the writer is trying to show me.

Remember that every action, every reaction, needs to advance the story. In the case of overlapping scenes, it's like taking two steps forward, but before you can take the next two steps forward, you need to take a step or two back first. Try taking a stroll around the block like that. Yeah - I don't need to; I'm reading this book. 

I will not be recommending this book to anyone, and when I finish it, it won't get a glowing review. The story is good though. The characters are individual and seem to be strong.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

What Can Your Character See

I've talked about this before, but it's been a while. You have to be careful how you paint your scene. Most of the time, as you make your way through your book, someone is seeing this or noticing that along the way, but really, unless you're head-hopping (I hope not), one person might not notice all the details of their surroundings unless they're actively trying to.

Different kinds of characters will concentrate on different things. There's the painfully shy girl who probably couldn't tell you what anyone wore, ever, and could never identify a killer if their life depended on it, even if they were in the room and ostensibly witnessed the killing. She might be able to tell you if the floor had been swept though, or what color socks she wore yesterday, probably every day of the week. This kind of character might not even notice what color the walls were painted or whether the curtains were open or closed.

There is the guy who might notice a coat only if it could conceal a gun, like Bourne in Bourne Identity. He might be able to tell you such things as how many men are in the room and if any of them might be inclined toward fighting, if they were ever challenged and not given the chance to run away.

Police officers are trained to notice a lot in a short period of time. They notice people, colors, and environment. Don't get me wrong; I'm no cop, but don't make your cops supernatural in their visual acuity.

With these variations in mind, you now need to consider your character's setting. The instance I have in mind came from the book I'm reading at the moment. This guy, a police detective, was strapped to a bed. He had been drugged, and though I suppose it's possible, waking to instant alertness seems a little off to me. I'm not questioning that though. The first thing he did was look around. That's fine, but if you're strapped to a full sized bed (specified in the book) I'm thinking you're not going to notice anything about the floor. Also, since he was tarazed and then drugged prior to being brought here, taking note of the decor might not be at the top of his to-do list, but he's a cop and he was looking around. He noticed wall color, ceiling color, the fact that the overhead light was hooked up oddly. Now, the floor was also described, but really, strapped flat on your back, the floor can't be seen and a cop might not bother with the floor, even if he was standing on it. His concern with the floor would revolve around traction. You might be surprised at how few people really take note of floors.

Another thing he noticed, that the writer was trying to clue us into early (maybe too early), was that at least one wall was curved. Now unless that wall was VERY curved, meaning the dome was rather small, such an anomaly wouldn't have been noticed in that first look-around. There were other details that were there for the writer's benefit, that probably wouldn't have attracted a second thought, not right off the bat. I mean, he has other things far more pressing to worry about right in that moment. There were strange people in the room. He didn't know where he was. Not to mention the fact that they had him strapped down. Not exactly the circumstances where one mulls over the decor.

In this description of a curved wall, one wrong word turned the whole thing topsy-tervy. The wall was said to be the 'back' wall. Now, go back to the orientation of your character, flat on a bed. Where would this 'back' wall be? Where is the door? Where is the bed in relation to the door? Did he need to look down past his left foot to see the door? Was the 'back' wall, the wall behind his head? No, there wasn't any window, but he made no mention of that little detail. How many rooms have you been in that didn't have a window? Would you notice the lack if you found yourself waking up in such a room? Would you think 'basement' first and maybe test the air to see if it smelled like one?

So, just remember when describing your scene. Remember what you can see, and remember what isn't there as well. Remember what is within his range of view and filter it by importance to the moment. In the case of this book, there was plenty of time to reinforce the roundness of the location and why there was no windows. Just beyond the door was culvert-shaped halls leading to and from divided and undivided domes the place was made of. He got a tour pretty much first off, so telling us in the first scene that one wall was not flat was a bit of overkill in the wrong place.You have the whole book to cover all the bits and pieces of scene surrounding your character; you don't need to crowd it all in all at once.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

To Edit, or Not To Edit

That is the question, or at least it seems to be in some cases. In short, yes, you should. Have I? Yes, I have in all but two of my books. Those two, I edited myself. I didn't have the finances, but I did want to get them out there.

However, it has come to my attention that more than likely, the problem of whether to edit or not has been the same for a very long time. One of the books I'm reading at the moment was published back in 1847. Now it's not a book I would just pick up, mostly because I'm fairly certain I'd never run across it where I look for books, but I am enjoying it even though the writing style is drawn out and flowery, making some of the dialogue seem rather tedious. What I find odd about this book is the sprinkling of editorial mistakes I have occasionally noticed. Now, don't get me wrong, the spelling is European, but I'm familiar with most of those discrepancies. I'm about three-quarters of the way to the end and I've noticed a handful of dropped words as well as a few typos. Giving when the book was published, I have no idea what kind of editorial services were available back then, nor do I know if the book was published traditionally (or as traditionally as was possible back then), or if it made it to cover by some other means.

Now I know how hard it can be to hire an editor. I'm not rich; in fact I probably live well below the poverty level. It is my hope that one day my writing will help me do something about that. Until then, I'm comfortable enough, but it also means that my hiring an editor is directly linked to whatever work I can find where payments can be brought in through my PayPal account, be it the sale of a book or two during the summer, or paying for my help with your writing. I don't claim to be an expert because I did all my learning here on line rather than from some expert in some sort of school. I simply don't have the money to pay for the luxury of going back to school.

Editing though - who do you trust? That's a good question. With the advent of self publishing, independent editors abound, and I'm sure the field will continue to grow. With all these editors out there, the choice is incredibly hard. Trusting your manuscript to just anyone is also very risky, or it can be. While I run across more and more editors, I suppose it is fortunate that I have heard very little about pirating of manuscripts.

So how do you choose? For myself, you have my most solemn promise that I will treat your manuscript with the same care I would my own, and I believe in keeping promises. For all those others - do your homework. Look them up. See if there is anyone who has used them in the past and ask them for their opinion. Heck, if you can, use the 'Look Inside' feature (if there is one) and read something they've claimed to edit. Sometimes authors will list who edited the book and sometimes not. Reading is the ultimate test.

There are different kinds of editors too. There's the guy who does little more then run your manuscript through his grammar and spell-checker. I firmly believe my very first editor did something of the sort, though he may have done a little more than that. As a writer hungry to learn more about writing, I learned nothing from him. That's probably at the bottom end of the spectrum of editors though. Don't scoff at the spelling bee champion out there, there are so many screwy words in the english language.

There are three main kinds of editors out there:
  • The copy-editor, the guy who checks your spelling, sentence structure, and such, isn't the only kind of editor out there. 
  • There is also the content editor, the guy who goes to the next level by scrutinizing your paragraph structure and story flow. This person looks at the story as a whole. They look for loopholes and inconsistencies. They also might look for loose ends, I know I certainly try to. 
  • And then there's the proofreader. This guy reads through the work looking for whatever mistakes they might be able to find. 
I guess I try to do it all. I know when I'm reading through some book, any of these issues will jump out at me anymore - too much editing my own stuff, I guess. Even formatting will annoy me if it's just all over the place. Appearance is just as important to me and a misspelled word.

So, in case you haven't caught on yet, I'm trying to break into the field in a minor sort of way. I'll never claim to be an expert, because I consider an expert...well...just that, someone with far more education than I had in the field. However, I do think I've gotten pretty darn good at what I do. Be careful out there as you surf around looking for an editor. Thar's sharks in them thar waters.

Happy writing.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Timeline

How do you manage your timeline? If your story covers several days, as most stories do, keeping track of timeline is pretty important – there’s only so many things you can do during the course of a day. Everything we do takes an allotted number of seconds, minutes, or hours.

Keeping track of some kind of timeline is even more important if your character is out and about, traversing the world in some way shape or form. Most of the time, my characters live in a relatively non-mechanized world. If your character gets around by car, Google maps helps by telling how long it takes to get from point A to point B at the applicable speed limit.

During my time as a dungeon master, playing the game, Dungeons and Dragons, there were times when we needed to calculate how long it took to get to and from the dungeon. Though there were not a lot of things to worry about during such a journey, things did need to be marked off and accounted for. Supplies were consumed and monsters were checked for day and night. Higher level dungeons always had a map to follow, and even in my writing I go by some kind of map, even if it isn't published along with the book. This is the chart and rules I followed then, and I use it now for my books; it's close enough for what I need, and it helps me keep things consistent.

Travel Rates per Day

                                                            Miles Covered per Day
Travel Mode                        Trail     Clear     Hills     Mountains     Desert
Foot, no encumbrance*         36         24         16            12               16
Foot, light encumbrance**    24         12          8               6                8
Foot, heavy encumbrance†    12           8          6               4                6
Camel                                     48         32        24            16               32
Elephant                                 36         24        12              8                 8
Riding horse††                       72         48        36            24              16
Donkey or Mule                     36         24        16            12              16
War horse                               36         24        16            12                8
Draft horse                             24         16        12              8                8
Ox                                          16         12        10              8                6

*This is a character with a 120’ normal speed; he can carry no more than 40 lb.
**This is a character with a 90’ normal speed; he can carry between 41 and 80 lb.
† This is a character with a 60’ normal speed; he can carry between 81 and 120 lb.
†† The travel rates listed here are possible, but it will kill the horse if only one is used for the entire trip. Typically, a rider only manages to achieve these rates by riding one-third the distance listed and trading his horse in twice at way stations for fresh mounts. At the end of the day, he and the three horses are exhausted, but all are alive. If a rider does not intend to kill or exhaust his horse, he should use the travel rates listed for the warhorse instead.
Characters and mounts must rest one full day for every six days they spend traveling. Those who do not rest suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls and damage rolls until they do rest. If they go more than six days without resting, they suffer an additional -1 penalty per six days until they do rest, and they must rest one full day for each six days they spent traveling if they are to lose the penalty.

Why do I talk about timeline? I'm reading a book where at one point the timeline seems to have not been carefully thought through. For most of the book chunks of time are simply skipped over and days are not counted. Weather comes and goes, and for the most part that is just fine. It makes it hard to judge the changing of the seasons or guess at the time past, but such is only background and not important to the story. However, at one point they are sailing across either an ocean or a vast lake, the journey takes days and days, and they get caught in at least a couple nasty storms. The last storm comes near to sinking the ship, but just as it blows off, they see the shore they're heading for so they make for the closest beach. Now here's where the timeline goes a little wonky. After a night or two camping on the beach, men step out of the jumble, and you all have seen enough movies, you know how jungles can be, so understandably they need to hack a path back to where they are going.

Problem #1: How did these men know where to find them? I'm still working on this one. Maybe there's an explanation in the book, but she hasn't had a chance to speak to another character who'll answer her questions. As it is, I seriously doubt she'll ask though. It's one of those insignificant things she won't think of, I'm sure.

Problem #2: They had the girl (the main character) riding in a wagon, which is fine for what it's worth, but moving a wagon through the jungle would be a logistical nightmare. Now apparently this was done from time to time because they ended up on a road, but this was a terribly overgrown road and they still had to hack their way along. Have you spotted the anomaly yet? If they came this way, with a wagon, to find them, why do they need to work so hard to hack their way back? And if they came by another route, initiated by the need to do some kind of search by chance, why didn't they return by the already cleared route? Even if the miles were longer, the time needed to cover the distance might have been shorter.

And here is problem #3: They were camped, waiting for someone to come find them, for two nights - it says so in the book. Their journey to where they were headed took days, maybe even a couple weeks, or at least something of a dreary eternity - in other words, much longer than two days. Let's do the math. For the sake of argument, let's say it took two weeks to make this one-way trip. If it took two weeks to go one way, it needs to take two weeks for the party to make the first trip to find them - at the very least - not counting the randomness necessary to conduct a search, unless they knew exactly where to look - still the distance covered would be the same, and just from the tone of what was written, even though no clear count of days was given, it had to be much longer than the two days they'd waited on the beach. Let's even give them a little advantage. Let's say some alert someone on some high tower spotted the ship out to sea. Since they just came out of the storm and land was this obscure cloud on the low horizon, that would still only give the search party three, maybe three and a half days to find them. Why would they take so long to return with their finds?

As you can see, this timeline anomaly fairly jumped out at me and slapped me in the face. Be careful with your timeline, and remember that it affects everyone in your world, even if you know absolutely nothing about them until after they stumble across your path. It still takes them X amount of time to cover Y distance, and they'll be restricted to when they can start.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Solve the Problem

Druid Derrick

Derrick has a problem. It seems there’s a plane crash; it’s one of those small planes and it crashed in a ravine, now mostly hidden by brush and soon the coming darkness. Now, Derrick has a problem. He’d really rather not have search parties flying over and combing the woods looking for this aircraft.

I know. This post is really short, but my hand is a little screwed up and I’ve only been able to start typing again today (day 3).

So, here’s the question. What do you think Derrick would do? As I see it he has two choices. Hide the crash completely or perform the rescue himself, thus shortening the search. Do you have another idea? Let me know. This is your chance to help me sculpt this book.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Evolution

Originating in the early 17th century, coming from the Latin evolutio(n) meaning 'unrolling'. Current senses stem from a notion of 'opining out' and 'unfolding', giving rise to a general sense of development.

So why am I talking about evolution? Because my writing life has done some major unfolding over the years.

For the first 40-45 years of my life, such a think as writing, by any accepted definition, was the farthest thing from my mind. I was a voracious reader, but writing one of those book - never in a million years.

Seemingly rather suddenly I had a published book, and then there was another. Now I have a trilogy, a collection of two, and two stand-alones. There will be more to come one day soon.

But that's not all. Though I fully expected to be happy, thrilled even, with having published books, friends and family have repeatedly made such comments as, "So when does the movie come out?" What a wonderful idea. I mean, look at the Harry Potter movies, The Erigon movies, and of course, The Lord of the Rings, and now The Hobbit movies - all my favorites. So I had a moment of hope when my first book actually crossed the desk of a movie director, but it crossed very quickly and made it into the hands of a couple girls - there all movie hopes died. Back to waiting.

Well, I have a lot of patience, but really I don't expect to live forever, so I decided to get my butt in gear and see what I could do. Next summer, I'm planning to buy me a book on how to write a movie script. I stumbled across this great site called the Writer's Store, and is that place jam packed with all sorts of things. Not only can I get my book there, but I truly believe I may have a chance of a half-way descent launch into the business as well.

That's not all though. While advertising on one of my forums, I saw a post about a narrator. I have always thought they must be very expensive, but what the heck, it never hurts to ask. George was very approachable. His rates depend on a long list of questions, but even so, they are very affordable. Best of all, I just had a listen to his voice. These kinds of things, videos and such, generally don't work well for me. Too much lag, since my signal bounces through a satellite. I'd hear two or three words, and then there was a pause, and then another two or three words, but let me tell you, he had a very rich voice. I think I will be very pleased.

Because of that, there is no way I will ever be able to download a book. Unlike a kindle book, which might take a minute to download from Amazon, something like a music video can take up to a half an hour to load up enough for me to listen to it all in one piece. Listening to his audio sample tells me that would work about the same way.

There's also the marketing to consider. Just like with my books, I see to it that both a paperback and an e-copy are available. I have always accepted the fact that e-readers are a growing popular item, but also there will always be those who treasure the real book. And since I live out here in the middle of nowhere, there is no way I can sell eBooks from here, so I have boxes of books I can sell to whoever wants them around here. That means guests from the lodge, or friends and neighbors. It also allows me to sell them from my website where I can sign them before mailing them.

It only makes sense to do the same thing with audio books. Have them available to download instantly to those who can and want to, but also have the CDs available for those who are low tech enough to prefer to listen from a CD player. I have one; I love the few audio books I have, and I wish I had more, but I don't have anything like my kindle for audio books. Plus, CDs I can also offer from my website as well as sell here. Since the guests at the lodge where I work all speak English as a secondary language, and therefore don't always read English as well, they might actually prefer the CDs as opposed to the books.

I hope to get that ball rolling next summer too. Maybe I should run a poll and see which book people would like to see go audio first. Which would you like?

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Centaur's Mating

Druid Derrick

I'm sure you've heard me talking about this book before - my longest-living work in progress, and very likely my longest work in progress when all is said and done.

Anyway, I recently had something of a small problem. In an effort to help another, which my character always tries to do if he can and if it's logical, I threw him into a second wedding - an unofficial one - one he has no intention of consummating (though I might decide to mess with him there too - haven't decided).

Anyway, Derrick waltzed into the centaur village carrying the fruits of his latest hunt intending to trade the meat for someone to turn the pelt into a winter coat, and the only way he was going to be able to carry the carcass for half a day was, logically, in the form of a centaur. 

Unbeknownst to him, young male centaurs do such things when they are in the market for a mate. If the filly of his desire is in his own village, he presents the kill at or near the front door of her father's door (proximity might be an indication of how open he was to other advances). Yes, centaurs can take in more than one mate - the average is two or three. Though it happens, both mates are seldom selected at the same time.

If the young suitor can't find anyone in his home village, he goes to another village to look and presents his kill in the center of the clearing. Eligible fillies are quick to help him unload and present his kill to the leader of the clan. If he's impressed, enough the young hunter gets to choose a mate. The meat is not given away, not to the leader of the clan or to the filly's father, it is to be the young couple's first supplies in their house.

There's another part of this mating that is of importance. It is a father's responsibility to see to it his daughter has a home to move into as soon as she accepts a mate, and it is the wives in her father's house, commonly all acknowledged as her mothers, who are responsible for furnishing the house with the basics at the very least.

The filly's mothers and other female friends will take her aside and make sure she's all prettied up for her special day. If the young male is new to the village, the village leader will take him around to meet all the families. During these meetings, he is treated to a taste of whatever the man of the house is most willing to show off - usually some kind of food or drink. The women in the house will add a small decoration to the visitor by braiding in a colorful strip of leather and/or combing an aromatic oil into his mane and tale.

The end of the day is crowned by the filly's father throwing a feast. During this feast, the young couple is on display in all their splendor, in the very center. If they ate at a table, they would be in the center of the table. Centaurs don't sit at tables though, instead, rugs or pelts are spread out on the ground, the males rest on them with their first wives beside them. Second wives serve their seniors before settling themselves. The lowest wife generally manages the children, though some are allowed to attend if they can behave properly. Since the young couple is the center of the event, they are expected to be the very last to leave the 'table'. Also, for the duration of the feast, they feed each other. Yes, they are expected to eat and drink until everyone else has asked to be excused or until the host has run out of food. It is a huge embarrassment if the host runs out of food, but those gathered generally try to avoid such an occurrence. Just like in every other small village, everyone knows everyone's at least somewhat. For instance at a poor couple's feast, guests would start to beg off after the first plate. However, a rich couple's feast might be more fun, as everyone is doing their best to test the new couple's endurance to the limit. Yeah, they gotta keep eating and drinking to the very last. How big is your bladder? Am I evil or what?

After the feast, the young couple go home and start their life. Have I missed anything? Please let me know if you have any ideas to add. It's all fun.

My druid, Derrick, took a girl, when it became clear that she would no longer be accepted back into the home of her father. All her life she had been blamed for the death of her mother, who died in childbirth when her twin was born wrong. Since her birth mother was dead and her father basically rejected her, her 'mothers' allowed her to run wild most of the time, giving her the minimum attention that would keep her alive. Terrified of dieing in childbirth like her mother, she had rejected too many previous advances to mate. For a filly to be kicked out of her father's house wasn't really all that bad; she could still carve her own home out of the hillside and take care of herself. She is generally not cold-shouldered by anyone just because she was single and on her own. It also didn't mean that she stopped getting advances, but such an act was still an insult perpetrated upon her by her father. There are many forms of insult, but bullying isn't very common at all.

Derrick's accepting this mating enable the girl to use the home her father was required to build for her. But since he is already married to a human woman who lives in the city, his intentions are pure. Besides, how will he explain to his wife that he married a centaur? I'm going to have fun with that one too. At least now he has someone who will make the coat he needs. I'm sorry, his city wife wouldn't have a clue. Can you see her if he was to come to the door with some kind of carcass, in this case a mountain goat? "Here honey, I need you to tan up this hide and stitch me up a coat." She'd be like, "What?" And yes, she is fully away of who and what he is, but I'm thinking this would be going a bit too far.

So now Derrick has someone else to be responsible for. His world is becoming more complicated by the year. Just wait until he finds out his (city) wife is pregnant.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Words We Use

I read an article heading the other day about cussing in your writing. I've always had a fairly low opinion of using cuss words in average dialogue, but I am a writer now, and I know that some people do talk like that. I do avoid the hugely colorful examples, I'd prefer to get on with the story rather than try to make my reader translate what this one guy is trying to say, or not say, as the case may be.

I will put in the occasional cuss word, but for the most part, I write in worlds and times and societies where such language is either nonexistent or not very classy, which it isn't in any world, if you ask me. Webster went to great lengths to write a dictionary; some of these people should take a look at it once in a while, they might actually be able to get their point across better. Okay so now you know how I feel about cussing, and it has nothing to do with religion; it's just stupid. Rant over. Please accept my apologies.

No, my writing is not all lilly white, but I strive for my words to be as invisible as possible so the story can come through, and whenever your reader has to stop and try to figure out what someone said or what is happening, that effort has failed.

There's another aspect of this. Accent. There's the southern accent, the New York accent, the northern accent, the Texas accent. Those are the ones I can think of in this country, and then there's the foreign accents of people coming to this country from wherever around the world. And of course, if you have an extra-global society, there's that accent too. Spelling these accents can be very distracting. My advice would be to keep it simple. Too many tweaks on the spelling, and once again your words are getting in the way of your story. In reality, most foreigners probably speak better than the average American.

Spelling isn't the only cue to a different language foundation. Sentence structure is a biggie.

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play”
 Yoda is probably the most famous of those who twisted sentence structure. If you've ever studied any other language, that is much closer to the norm; ours would seem twisted by comparison.

So, how do you show where your character comes from, or do you bother? For me, most of the time, it's one of those get-to-know bits of information that's introduced somewhere along the line. I seldom use accent spelling, though I might use dropped endings replaced by an apostrophe most of the time. Most of the poor or low class people in my books have little education and so talk like their parents did, and probably for generations before that, but they would never dare to be so rude as to cuss openly shy of what might come out if they smashed a thumb with a hammer. There's always those kinds of incidents to watch out for. I've nothing against a little spice now and then.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Flights of Fantasies

So where does your fantasies wander? Mine have wandered into the far future, into another dimension, even into space. Many of my stories take place in some kind of alternate reality, where the history is very different. Currently I'm working on the one thing I haven't tested yet - this world.

This world is tricky. I try to mix in major events as they happen, to kind of anchor the story in time. I must confess however, that I didn't think to do that for the first four or five years within the book, so you'll have to forgive me if I missed something. I don't recall any huge natural events that might have affected my character from 2008-2012/13. I suppose I could ask a friend though. Eh - maybe I will and maybe I won't.

Let me tell you, creating a world in some other dimension or time, or even some other world, is far easier. It's not that you don't have to keep track of the same kinds of events, the turning of the seasons, earthquakes, or major weather events, but you can put them in where you want, make them what you want - as such, they become convenient. In the real world, such events are set in concrete and your character needs to react to them, provided he is close enough to be affected.

However, if you blast your fantasies off into space, you need to remember such mundane things as plate tectonics and the creations of mountains and valleys. Believe it or not, they affect weather a lot more than you might think, as does orbital velocity and proximity to the sun.

So, where is your favorite world to write in?

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

What is a Series?

The dictionary that came with my computer says:

series |ˈsi(ə)rēz|
noun ( pl. same)
a number of things, events, or people of a similar kind or related nature coming one after another : the explosion was the latest in a series of accidents | he gave a series of lectures on modern art.
  • [usu. with adj. ] a set of related television or radio programs, esp. of a specified kind : a new drama series.
  • a set of books, maps, periodicals, or other documents published in a common format or under a common title.
and definitions go on from there varying farther from the written word into math and electronics, but you get the idea.

I recently bought three books billed as a series, and I do love a series, otherwise I might not have bought the last two. Now there was nothing really wrong with the books, except that they were way too short for my liking. Anything I can read in an afternoon is too short; I don't get enough time to get to know the characters or get into the story.

These three books did show the progression of a writer; each story far better than the last. They, however, were not a series. There was no connection between the stories other than the country and perhaps time in which they occurred - not the same town - not the same road - not the same characters. There were other issues with these books that won them a less than glowing review, but I have had a favorable discussion with the writer. One must remember not to post a review while we are still pissed off about whatever the issue is.

In our discussion I told him about my three books - no, not my series - my other three books talked about here. The titles of those books have been changed since that post, and I'm not really promoting them as a collection anymore, but they do still take place in the same world, at the same time, and follow the same rules. The third book is still unwritten. I'll get to it one of these days. Just now, I gotta catch up with the timeline on my current work in progress. Major events that happen in this country sometimes have an effect on the happenings in the book. Now don't that sound like fun. Anyway, I'm more than half a year behind on that so I gotta get busy.

So - do you have a series? Or is it more of a collection? What are your definitions?

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Movie Remakes

We've all seen remakes of one sort or another, well I just got done watching this one. I have the original with Arnold Schwarzenegger too.

The original one was about a man who had his memory wiped and a new one implanted. I'm not exactly sure why they would do that, but if they just killed the guy, there wouldn't be any story. Anyway, his day job is boring him to the max and he wants a little excitement in his life so he goes to a place called Recall. This is a place where they give you some kind of canned memory at a much more affordable price than going on a vacation, plus you can choose something exotic like go to Mars.

Now the remake is a lot the same. The big difference is that Mars might be a possible memory destination but that's all. In this one, it's not a Mars colony they're trying to save, nor is it the lack of air they need to rescue them from. In this version we've cut travel from London to Australia to fifteen minutes by going through the core and Australia is the colony in need of rescuing. In this version, Australia is the slave labor force and the powers that be would like to replace all that man power with robot power.

With the significant story-line change, they should have given it the chance it deserved by giving the movie its own title, character names, and dialogue. Instead, they tried to follow the same line of events, sticking in identical dialogue here and there. Now, if you'd never seen the first one, you wouldn't know the difference; it's just fine all by itself. Full of action, adventure, and even love, not to mention the awesome future world setting. It's great. But if you're at all familiar with the first edition... Well, it's just kind of sad that so many things are identical.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Just How Careful Are You?

Are you self-published? Meaning do you publish your books yourself, either through Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, NookBooks, or any of the other publishing formats accessible directly to the writer. If you are, how careful are you about the product you turn out?

Since I started reading whatever tweaked my interest, especially within the environment I've currently been swimming, meaning the different on line forums where books are advertised by my friends and acquaintances and other people who frequent the same sites, I've noticed the product has improved over the last few years. In the beginning, the documents and PDFs I read were really quite bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about the story itself (most of the time), I'm talking about the product, the document, the book. Of course, most of the time, editing was the biggest issue in those early days, or at least that's what I noticed, and in those first days, if I noticed it, it was pretty bad.

Now, since I've had my Kindle, I see other things most of the time, not that editing isn't still something of an issue upon occasion, but usually it's just carelessness that grates my teeth these days. Nowadays, the eBook without a variety of formatting, or spacing, or paragraph indenting problems, is few and far between, and really very nice when I run across one.

To date, I've published two books all on my lonesome using CreateSpace (for paperback) as well as KDP for Kindle. Both allow me to look at what my book will look like as a finished product. Things I check for are:
  • Are the chapter headings at the beginning of the page?
  • Are my paragraphs all indented the way I like them to be?
  • If I used graphics, are they where I want them to be?
  • Is everything inside the margins prescribed by them?
  • Is anything at all out of place? (I once found a random line that didn't belong)
  • How about the header? (I once had to fix the indent there cause it was off center from the title)
  • How about the footer? Are your page numbers where you want them? I don't put page numbers in my eBooks.
That's not all though, that's just the kinds of things I look for while I'm there, but before I get there, I do a spelling and grammar recheck of my document. That clears all those things you've opted to ignore in the past. Now there's all those nice little red and green squiggly lines. Going through this step would have helped the book I'm reading right now quite a lot, because frequently the space is before the comma or period rather than after it. This is a byproduct of some formatting work that created more problems. I'm not sure what it is or how it got past the editor, but I've seen it more than just this time.

You also have to understand that those nifty little squiggly red lines won't find all typos. There are a lot of words that are official words, but they are not the word you want in that spot. One I've noticed in this book is a word I happen to like - belying - meaning 'to put a lie to' or 'show something as false or impossible' - in this case spelled 'bellying'. As you can see, the spelling isn't far off and they are both in the dictionary. Believe it or not, I even found a 'there/their' mistake. I was really quite surprised to find that one.

I do know that some of these typos are rather hard to spot. That's what makes a beta reader so valuable. There's nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to read through your manuscript, especially if they happen to be good with spelling. But in lieu of a fresh pair of eyes, you could accumulate a list of these kinds of typos and manually check for them. I strongly suggest you do this. At the very least, develop a list of your own writing weaknesses. I have one.

So writing your story is the fun part, but if you really care about your work, making sure the finished product is all it can be is the work part of your project, and none of it can be neglected. Take great care, and be very picky. The harder you work on this, the better the finished product will be. The byproduct of that will be a happy reader who just might tell a friend or two about your book, and that should put a smile on your face.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Dreams that Move Me

I went up the stairs toward the second story apartment. It was just like I remembered that day when I came here with my girlfriend, deep dark wooden banisters and carpet runners designed to fit each step, not the full sized carpet cut to run down the steps nailed into the contours. The wood was still published to a high shine.

I was just in time to meet a woman as she burst from the door above and ran down the stairs past me pulling a sweater on. Her path past me told the man that another person stood here. He hadn’t noticed that detail last time.

He looked over the rail. I backed up but I knew he could still see my feet. “Who are you?” he asked. The smell of alcohol was so strong, I could smell it from where I stood.

I went on up the stairs; this was why I was here.

As soon as I entered the apartment, he was pulling another glass from the cupboard. He handed it to me and turned for the fridge.

I turned to set the wine glass on the counter and saw two others sitting there already full. “You already have some here. Have you lost count? We can’t have that. We’ll start over.” I poured those two drinks down the drain.

He turned back from rummaging in the fridge and reached past me to fill my glass. This was his first time actually facing me. He looked at me with his bloodshot eyes. His hair was disheveled to say the least, and he probably hadn’t shaved in a couple days. His striped pajama shirt was buttoned with only two of its buttons and they weren’t lined up, and his bottoms might very well be on backwards. I found it odd, despite how obviously drunk he was, that he only had one black sock on.

Puzzled, he studied my face. “Do I know you?” He set the wine bottle down on the counter behind me.

Now I know I am no up town looker like the girl who had just left, not even like my girlfriend. I wasn’t his style at all. “We’ve met,” I said. “I heard you were drinking. In fact I heard several different accountings of your inebriation. Once upon a time you meant something to my girlfriend. Sandy. You do remember Sandy, don’t you? Since you meant something to her, I thought I’d come see for myself. You know, she still talks about you. I think if she were standing here instead of me, she’d be crying. I’d hate to see Sandy cry.”

I turned around to retrieve my drink. “I don’t much care for wine.” I poured it down the drain.

“Ah, well, um, that wine really needs to go back in the fridge.” He reached for the bottle.

“Well then, we can’t let it get cold.” I scooped the bottle out of his reach and poured it down the drain too. “Pretty bottle. I might have to keep that.” It was too. The cut glass would make a beautiful vase. I set it on the counter.

He turned back to the fridge. “Well then, can I interest you in some beer?” Drunk as he obviously was, he was quick with the bottle opener and had them flipped open and steaming cold in front of me, already one on the way to his lips. I snatched it from him and washed the wine down the drain with them.

“You’ve changed. Or have you? Maybe this is the you Sandy left. I admired you though.”

He headed for the bedroom. There were likely other drinks in there since the contents of his fridge were going down the drain so fast.

“You want to know what I admired about you? I thought you were almost perfect. You reminded me of what’s-his-name in that movie. Pretty Woman. You look a lot like him, you know. Heck, you almost have the same name. Dick Gear. You are the reason I even half remember his name. What is his first name anyway? I’ll have to look it up again one of these days.”

Dick headed directly for the bedside table and the half full bottle waiting there. In the dim light of the room, it looked like a bomb had gone off – a clothes bomb anyway. All the way around the large center of attraction, the rumpled bed that looked like it hadn’t been made in a month or more, were piles and drifts of clothes that looked like they’d been kicked there.

Even though the curtains were closed, blocking out the morning light, I could spot at least three empty bottles and more wine glassed among the clothes, and at least one more empty bottle under the bed – and yes, there was another glass down there too. What did he do when he ran out of glasses in the cupboard, order some more online? If he was this drunk, he wasn’t going to any store.

He turned around with his find and I was there to relieve him of it. “I remember that first day I saw you. You were so slick. I don’t think Sandy ever saw the girl you slipped past her. ‘Course you didn’t know I was down there on the stairs so I saw her. Sandy was so happy to be home; I couldn’t spoil it for her.”

He made a grab for the bottle, but I went back to the kitchen and upended it in the sink, leaving it to empty itself down the drain.

“You were the handsomest man, even with gray hair, I’d ever seen, I think. Your hair was immaculate. You were perfectly dressed, even your tie was centered – perfect. Sandy didn’t suspect a thing. How could she? That girl could have been a magazine salesgirl. But I saw. I saw how you snuck her out. I saw the utterly guilty look on her face when she saw me. But let’s get back to you. You had a beautiful smile. You want to know what was wrong with that smile though? That beautiful, charming smile, showing those perfect white teeth, never made it to your eyes, not even when you looked as Sandy. I knew, that first day, that Sandy was just another of your girls. The fact that she lived with you didn’t make any difference.”

I opened the refrigerator and started dumping the liquid contents down the drain as quickly as I could open the bottles.

“When was the last time you actually ate any real food?” I started in on the beer bottles. He had something for every possible occasion, and I knew there had to be more bottles in the cupboards, or somewhere.

He just stood there watching me.

“You mean something to her, therefore you mean something to me.”

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So yeah, my dreams take an odd turn sometimes. Where this one came from, I have no idea. I've been watching the Burn Notice series recently, and I haven't watched Pretty Woman in maybe a couple years now. The guy, Dick, really did remind me of Richard Gere in that movie; he could have been his twin or a stunt double, but the name was also given to me in the dream so the two were definitely not the same at all. My girlfriend's name was too, and I do have a girlfriend by that name, my longest standing girlfriend, and the only one of her kind. The picture in my head for this girlfriend, however, was the perfect model image of her - something neither of us were anywhere close to in all of our lives. She also never had any such an affair, and I never had the chance to meet any of her chosen mates. Her life has always been on the other end of the country from mine. We were fast friends in Junior High and stayed connected through collage. We lost contact after that as I went east and she went north. Then I went way north and she went south. We reconnected through my mom and would exchange whole books for letters. Now we stay in touch through Facebook. Her life and interests now are very different from mine, but I still love her. I can see myself doing something like this for her, even though she would never know.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Where to Begin

I've heard this question rather frequently recently. People think they have a story in mind but they just don't know how to start.

My reply is to pick a beginning >just pick one< Two of the people who approached me wanted to do something of a memoir, and in one case it was important to paint an early foundation behind a family relationship so that later issues would be fully understood. The other one, I think, simply wants people to understand him, and so a beginning might be kind of hard to nail down, but still, a beginning needs to be THE beginning - first thoughts - first realizations - first conflicts.

This holds for starting a fictional story too, no matter the genre you choose to write in. Pick a beginning - somewhere where the crux of the matter starts - somewhere where you first understand that a certain chain of events has come together.

I've picked several different points of beginning: A voluntary medical procedure which changes everything - a chain of deaths that forces my character to make hard choices - love at first sight - murder - the fall of the royal family, though my character did his best to avoid stepping into his responsibilities. Those are just a few, but you get the idea.

For me, starting a story was always rather easy. Some idea would give me a scene and then I would simply have a suitable character work out the details of getting to or from that scene. The biggest issue is agreeing on an ending. Sometimes my characters decide on something else, but it's still a goal.

Some people like to do a story outline. I prefer to drive in the dark with the headlights on high, but something of an outline might be useful as something like mini-goals to achieve within the bigger story. Whatever works for you, by all means have at it, but don't spend so much time on your outline that you get tired of the story before you start writing.

Recently I've offered my services for hire, but I do also try to be available just to help out. I do enjoy helping other writers however I can.

How do you come up with your beginnings? Inquiring minds wanna know.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Other Side

Things have been really crazy this month and my brain went rather dead. I was working on little more than caffeine and functioning on routine. There was little room for anything else.

But

Had a dream last night. Here it is:

People can drop into another dimension. It can happen to a handful a day or a handful a year. One man set himself up as king and he rules his little corner of the world with an iron hand; you either join his delusion or, well, lets just say bad things may happen to you.

My character comes across, and though he doesn't find anything wrong with the medieval society, he thinks the tyrant was simply too much.

~~~

Well, that was the dream. We'll see what my muse will want to do with it. The alarm went off before I learned anything else.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fallen Angel

Here is my second stab at first person. I wrote it some time ago. There's more to the story, but it stalled. Maybe I'll rewrite it as a short. I'll get to it one of these days. In the mean time, enjoy. My brain does go to strange places sometimes.

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Who am I? I am a black man and I have never been anyone that someone would be proud to know or meet, including myself. When they say life has its ups and downs, well my life had been so down for so long I could see absolutely no hope for me or my future. With that outlook on life, I’m sure no one would be too surprised that I submitted myself for experimental surgeries in cybernetics, not that anyone would care.

I didn’t care what they did to me, it was my next meal and a roof over my head and I could drift in my depression without being disturbed very often, they even paid me some money, but I didn’t care much about that either. When they asked me to fill out this form that asked for next of kin and who to notify in case of death or disability, all I could do was hand it back to them blank saving my signature on the bottom; I had no family or friends who would be the slightest bit interested in me or my fate. When they were reluctant to accept that, I filled in the name of the head doctor here; it was the only name I knew so far and I figure the only person who might be interested in what happened to me since he was accepting my application.

So that’s how I became a lab rat. Over the next few years, pieces and parts of me were replaced with mechanical pieces and parts, and over time, they were improved and upgraded until they almost looked normal. These scientists were constantly trying new ideas, so it’s not surprising that I had a mechanical eye as well as a mechanical ear. Any piece or part that might replace a nonfunctioning piece or part of the human body, I had at least one of them implanted in me.

Somewhere along the line, I found my way out of my funk and could function again, if only within the orbit of the medical community in which I was now completely buried.

One day, I noticed new scientists were beginning to show up to replace the older men in our group of doctors. No longer, were they solely concerned with improving the life of the disabled; there was now an interest in such things as flight or seeing great distances. It almost sounded like some kind of military application, but then I have always been a little paranoid.

The new series of surgeries I was subjected to, began with reinforcing and restructuring the bones in my back and shoulders so that I could support the weight of the wings as well as my own weight while in flight; there were also plans that it would ultimately need to support an assortment of mechanics needed for navigation that they planned to install at some later time. All of this would be tied into my nervous system, and it would draw on my energy reserves. The sensitivity of my eye implant and my ear implant were increased, it seemed like, a hundred fold.

In between surgeries, they had me on an exercise regime that would make an Olympian proud. Though I have always been, for the most part, healthy, and I was used the physical therapy they had me do almost all the time, I have never been a runner or a weight lifter. Now they had me committing at least four hours a day every day to a variety of sweat-wringing exercises, to include aerobics and karate exercises as well as kung fu, not to mention the running and weight lifting. The list of things they had me do was a long one and they all had some kind of name, I’m sure, but I stopped trying to keep track of them; I just did whatever they told me to do each day. If I didn’t know what was coming tomorrow, it made getting up in the morning that much easier.

Eventually they started me doing exercises associated with flight. They put me in this thing; I think they called it a gyro, or something like that anyway. I was supposed to learn how to control my own equilibrium with no outside help. On command I was supposed to lay horizontal or move to vertical, then it was on my head or on one side or the other, and I was supposed to do it in this thing that spun around in any and all directions at the slightest twitch. As soon as I thought I was getting the hang of it, they started to throw things like wind and rain and other distractions at me. Now, understand, I don’t have any wings yet, so I had to balance myself in driving rain and lightning while being over balanced with all that extra weight in my shoulders. I don’t know how those men did it but somehow they devised a way to approximate the worst Mother Nature could deal out to any unwary bird on this earth. I was the only one who seemed to realize that you never saw a bird flying in that kind of weather.

Finally, the day arrived when they thought that I was agile and strong enough to earn my wings. They hinted to the fact that I would have to do it all over again after I recovered from the last of my surgeries, but what I had accomplished once couldn’t possibly be so hard to accomplish a second time. Besides, what else did I have to do with my life?

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Who or What Peoples Your World

Most of my worlds are peopled by 'people' just like you and me, more or less. I mean, it's the simple thing to do; everyone can relate to the descriptions. I've given a couple of my peoples wings in one way or another, and I've made some shapeshifters, but in one of my stories I've taken it a bit farther.

I took a race, humanoid in basic form, and fragmented it into four groups that, because of the life habits they chose to lead, they evolved in four drastically different directions.

Like all bipedal creatures we are most familiar with (humans), they farmed crops, herded an assortment of livestock, lived in wooden structures of a log cabin design, and so on - your average very early western settlement, so to speak.

On this world, the trees are immensely tall - maybe something like our redwoods, only rather than being only something akin to a spruce tree, they all were this tall, even the fruit trees. SO - one quarter of the people took to the trees in search of the fruit up there, and since it took so long to climb up there and back, not to mention hauling their harvest around, they took to living in the trees all the time.

And as we all know, there are those people who simply must climb mountains, so I made the mountains in my world viscous crags that were much easier to attain on the wing. Now since wings aren't really an evolutionary trait I can see spontaneously developing, the root race of this planet may have been winged to begin with and only those who remained in the mountains retained their flight ability. I did make them all egg-layers with many of the nesting characteristics of birds. Who knows, maybe severe mountain cold drove many of the people out of the mountains and only the hardiest remained. Then, after generations of life on the ground, wings atrophied away.

That leaves the fourth and last quarter of this fragmented race. As in all peoples there are those who might be called the criminal element. As life becomes rather specialized, the selfish and mean, the greedy brutes, bullies and other such personalities were ostracized. Unwilling to do the work to pick the fruit or till the fields, they took to hunting within the fringes of the great forests, and they hunted anything that moved, to include any of the other humanoid members of their world.

The tree-dwellers I came to call Eanders. They were frail but very strong and ghostly white in appearance with an elven beauty.

The people of the mountains I call Winders. They were tall, fine-boned people with an average wingspan of around fifty feet. They built grand open stone structures and hunted the tops of the trees or the open plains.

The farmers of course were named Landers. They lived near the fringe of the forests walking a fine line between the demons who stole their livestock or the unwary citizen and the plains where the Winders hunted whatever they could swoop down on and carry away.

Then there was the Honders. Raised in such a way that only the strongest of their young survived to procreate, they were heavier than any of the others. They were the most brutish and unforgiving of all the peoples.

Despite all these physical differences, and the obvious hate or fear each has for the others, they all have quite a few similarities.

They all have bony stingers located on the inside of their wrists at the base of their palm. Per race, these had also evolved differently. The Winders were highly poisonous; prey needed to die instantly if they were to successfully hunt on the wing. Eanders poison wasn't so vital to their survival but it did paralyze. Being blood-drinkers rather than water-drinkers, Honders' venom was a strong anticoagulant, which in itself was fatal enough. The Landers also had the barbs but their poison cause a wasting infection that might cost a victim to lose a limb if the sting went untended too long.

They also had spinnerets located between their thumb and first finger, but the uses of their webbing was drastically different per race. The Eanders were by far the most talented:their homes were spun into a hollow ball, which they camouflaged with the leaves of their host tree. It lasted a lifetime unless damaged. The Landers were next in proficiency; they spun all their clothing and material. The Winders could also weave but they did little more than create their sleeping nests. The Honders used their webbing to bind their prey until they were no longer of use alive, or they make sacks to transport or store meat.

As I mentioned before, they all laid eggs that looked something like a turtle egg, about the size of a softball. At first the outer membrane is transparent and the yellow yoke is clearly visible. As soon as the male fertilizes it (after being laid) the membrane turns white. How the egg is tended after fertilization is drastically different per race.

At any rate, I had a lot of fun creating these divergent races, while at the same time tying them closely together. You see, the plan for the story is to end up with one young man who can claim blood ties to all four of the races, and then just maybe bring them all back together, maybe not to live, but at least to work together rather than hunt or prey on each other.

So how did I do that? Well, when I finally get it all written, you'll find out.

Out of curiosity, how would you manage to pair these four races together? You gotta have two of them somehow create a girl and the other two somehow create a boy, at about the same time, and somehow this girl and boy should fall in love (an important step, I think) and create the child who will try to bring peace and understanding, or at least cooperation between all four of the races. Who knows what that will start.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Connecting the Dots

Have you ever read one of those books where there's this character that just pops in once in a while with some cryptic message or vague clue? They can be fun to work with, and of course they can add to the puzzle of what is coming in the book. That is they can be if the dots are properly connected.

If the dots are poorly connected, the reader can get used to the character and learn to recognize their touch, but you as the writer really shouldn't make your reader work for these connections. It robs them of some of the joy if they have to stop and wonder if the person in the second scene is maybe the same person as showed up in the first scene.

Remember, you're showing a blind person a movie he has never seen so you need to use your words to see for him.

Your clues can be as blatant as having this person be the one and only Gothic student in the school - an object of interest but not someone easily approachable, or you can use clues as small as a facial scar - something that doesn't disfigure but still attracts attention, while at the same time be hard to inquire after. By clues, I mean something you can mention, something you notice each time this character appears.
The girl passed me a note as she shoved on past. I noticed that she only had a gold hoop in one ear, and then I noticed why; her other ear had no earlobe, just a blue line where the scar cupped her lower ear and dripped down her neck. Did she have that tattooed? I couldn't tell before she was gone.
Now the next time this girl appears, you might want to take a closer look at that ear but she's facing the wrong direction. And the next time you see her, you might take a moment to make sure you cross paths in such a manner so you can get that look.

The ear is the dots. You mentioning them is the connections. What she does is the important part of the story, be it pass a note or give some dark warning, or even something more up front.

Eventually this person might develop a name and maybe she will become a topic of conversation. She might even become a major character in your story, but if you go that far, the 'dot' part of her should remain one of those cryptic mysteries. I mean, what's the fun in revealing ALL her secrets.

The character I used in my trilogy wasn't even a character, in fact he scarcely qualified as a ghost, and he might have been one of two ghosts, it was sometimes hard to tell. The clues he left were indecipherable compulsions and confusing dreams and visions. He did his best to keep us all confused throughout the story. hahaha Did he keep you guessing too?

So what are the 'dots' in your story, and how have you connected them?

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Life in a Harry Potter World

Thus is the direction of my thoughts upon occasion as I make the fifteen minuted drive to work on a quiet river early in the morning. The other day I watched a special about a new Harry Potter attraction at Disney Land in Florida. Some time ago I saw a cool picture of a witch's broom on Facebook and made the comment about how it would be nice to just hop on and buzz over to work, and not have to worry about launching the boat or all the rest of that jazz. Put this all together and I begin to wonder what it might be like. So here goes:

As already mentioned, a broom would be awesome if all I had to do was pop over to the lodge and back. Heck, disapparateion would be even better. However, just going back and forth isn't all I do. There's the year's worth of food and fuel ordered through the lodge that I need to haul home, and in my little boat, this takes many trips. I'm not exactly sure how Reducto works, and there's Hermiony's purse that seemed to hold everything they needed while they were on the run. That might work for the food, but I'm not sure the fuel would be so easy.

At work, I set the tables for breakfast, which will be at 8:00 - a simple wave of the wand would do that; I'm sure Molly would be able to teach me everything I need to know. After the tables are cleared, I sweep the floor and occasionally mop, then it's off to clean the bathhouse at about 9:00, and whatever cabins and rooms that happen to be occupied. Here again, I would need to take lessons from Molly, but it sure would be cool to wave my wand and have the beds make themselves properly and the floors swept. It doesn't take long to begin with, but you know how it is. Anything that takes a ten minute job and turns it into a five minute job would be awesome. Same with when the guests leave. Just wave my wand and the beds are stripped and remade; I wouldn't mind if it took a few more minutes. I'd have to come back with a mop, but that's not too bad. 

Then it's back to the lodge to run the vacuum, start the laundry, and set the tables for lunch. I can see it happening all at once, of course the washing machine and the drier can handle the laundry. Woohoo!!!

Now, since there are eight cabins and four rooms, the possibility of not being able to get to them all before lunch exists. Of course, if I've cut the time in half, that possibility is slim, but sometimes people go back to sleep after breakfast, so after the tables are all cleared and the floor swept again, it's back to any cabins or rooms that were skipped in the morning. After that, not much is happening until it's time to set the table for dinner at 7:00. 

Hanging around after dinner to clear the tables is probably the hardest part for me; it makes my trip home rather late, but the guys have been spoiling me by letting me go after desert is out, and then they clear the tables for me later.

So with a wave of a wand, my life would be a little easier, but many things would still be much the same. We'd still have to run a generator in order to keep the freezer going. There might be a spell to deal with that, but I'm rather certain there's no spell that can ensure my internet connection. hahaha So, since muggles go to great lengths to invent machines to make life simple, there's no reason I shouldn't take advantage of that.

Where will my thoughts go next time? Time will tell. hahaha

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Laughter is the Key

I was the only human for miles and miles around. He was elven, as were his two wives. I’ve never seen elves who were so evil. They’d come visit from time to time, to make my life miserable. The fairies would all hide. One day they brought their kids, or at least I figured it was their kids, the boy was trying so very hard to be like daddy, cruel and evil.

I knew I would never regain my peace, so I started packing my things or giving them away. The fairies had brought me many tiny treasures over the years, and I was giving them all back; they were such delightful creatures, always able to make me laugh. When the elves came this time, there weren’t many elves left – maybe a dozen or so.

I was talking with the wives, and it occurred to me that they weren’t really evil; they had simply been twisted somehow. When asked for any reasoning for anything they did, they got really confused, and then they’d try to cover it up by laughing, but it was all wrong somehow.

I was terrified for myself, but now I was afraid for them too. Then a special little fairy I’d named Dawn, popped into view behind the two wives, who were, by the way always holding or touching each other, maybe for mutual support in their evil environment. Dawn made a face behind them, baring her tiny pointy teeth and sticking out her tongue. She was being serious; it was probably the one serious moment in her entire life, but for some reason it struck me as really funny.

Of course, the wives were stunned. They had just been making fun of me, trying to laugh at me about something. I’m sure it was something the fairies laughed at me about all the time, but Dawn was telling these elves that it was one thing for the fairies to laugh at my antics, quite another for some evil bitches to do. Of course, tiny Dawn wouldn’t dare do such a thing to the face of any elves, let alone these evil creatures.

And then suddenly Dawn vanished from my sight, down behind the two women. The boy had her by her feet. Oh he was so happy with himself. He ran, me chasing him, but he wouldn’t let go. I tackled him and started hitting him; calling him an evil little cockroach. He might have been half my size, but he was an elf; he was nearly as strong as I was and easily twice as durable. Taken by surprise, I got in good solid hits, keeping him stunned, but still he didn’t let go. Finally, my hand found his knife, a thin, curved, bone-handled thing; it looked as evil as his soul.

My first inclination was to drive it into his evil heart, but I’d never killed anything before. Instead, I drove it into his wrist, pinning his arm to the floor with my fury, the thin blade allowing me to penetrate the wooden floor pretty deep.

He screamed, which of course brought his daddy from away from his pilfering, but he also let Dawn go. She couldn’t walk, and she could scarcely fly, but she made it out of sight before the elf saw her.

I backed away, my goal achieved, and not a little horrified at what I’d done. The elf unpinned the boy and started to go, half carrying him. The wives, now they were a puzzle. One would assume one of them was the boy’s mother, but both of them, standing shoulder to shoulder, merely looked at me with a stunned, confused, hopeful look on their faces as they followed their husband.

As soon as they were gone, as soon as I felt their evil aura had left, I turned to find Dawn. She was so tiny; I knew there was no way I could set her bones, but I wanted to try, I had to try something. I called for her, searching every hiding place, crying and tearing the rest of my place apart.

When I finally found her, she was just lying there; two others were with her. Her lower legs were mushed out of shape. “Oh Dawn, I’m so sorry. What can I do?”

I don’t know that they understand what I say; I certainly can’t understand what they say, not in so many words. Mostly we just try to make each other laugh. The signals I got in reply to my question were pretty clear. Dawn pointed at me. She pointed at her mouth and chomped her teeth, and then she drew a line across her throat.

The other two looked from her to me. I could see the sadness and horror in their tiny faces. But Dawn was saying something to them, and they seemed to understand and agree. Somehow, this horrible act would be a good thing. How could I do such a thing to such a sweet creature? The only good thing I could see was I would be ending her suffering by a few minutes. I looked at her legs; it was such horrible suffering.

As Dawn began to swoon, and was no longer able to press her argument, the other took over. For some reason, this was urgent. They wanted me to do this thing before she died.

For the first time in many, many years, I prayed for guidance, and then I carefully picked up Dawn’s fragile body; she was no bigger than my first finger and her wings were as transparent as a dragonfly’s. I heard myself saying, “I’m so sorry” over and over again.

Dawn opened her eyes one last time and smiled, nodding. Just to make sure, I held my other finger up between us for a moment, then touched her with my nail, held it up again and then made as if to bite the end of my finger off. She nodded again, smiling painfully. I looked at the other two and saw that others can come to watch. They nodded, waving me to do it, to get over with.

I closed my eyes and did their bidding, certain it would be every bit as gruesome as my mind was telling me it should be, but it wasn’t. There was no neck to bite into, no head left in my mouth that belonged to a sweet adorable Dawn, no broken body left in my hand.

Where I had pictured myself with a head in my mouth, not knowing what to do with it, whether to swallow it or spit it out, not wanting to spit it out, spitting was insulting. Where I had pictured myself holding a now headless body, not knowing what to do with that either, not knowing what the fairies did with their dead. All those issues vanished in a shower of sparks which carried no heat, just a burst of colorful lights, lights that sank into my skin, and then she was there, as if resting on my cheekbone only on the inside. I touched my cheek just to make sure. The two fairies were smiling now, and the others were catching on. Dawn wasn’t dead. She had given herself to me. She was part of me now. Now all I had to do was figure out why.

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Why do you think Dawn would do such a thing?

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