Friday, December 31, 2010

Life in Your Writing

I had a discussion with a friend last night and it occurred to me that, in our effort to make our stories life-like, we endeavor to use all manner of tricks of the trade. 'Use all five senses to describe scenes', 'follow the order of notice in descriptions', 'not too many adjectives', 'avoid repetition'. Well, you know the list - it's a long one, but did you think to add bits and pieces of your life into your story? We all have different experiences, different opinions, different surroundings. Why not include some of that - in a way - into your story?

Lets say, you have a friend who is totally eccentric. Take a moment and analyze them. Hand movements, quirky habits, like what do they do when they get their mail, choice of wardrobe, speech habits. Now, I'm not saying you should put this person in your story, but you could pick one of those aspects and tack it to one of your characters, and since you already know the original, you are that much more attached to your character. It's that attachment that lends life to your character, and by association, to your story.

I happen to be watching the TV show, Monk, at the moment. I love that show, Monk is hilarious. I couldn't begin to have a character like Monk in one of my stories. I think a character such as Monk is unique. I don't care how many differences I put in, if I included his phobias, it would border on fan fiction, so you can't pick something easily attached to a well known someone, but there are so many little things you can use. Have you ever watched how someone uses their hands while they're talking? How about if they are really excited about something? How about if they're really worried about something?

In short, look at the people around you. Take note of what they do and use that information. Me, I am always including some kind of information on winter, anything from snowshoeing to cutting firewood, and if you've read any of my work, there may even be something about tracking or hunting, though not much will be modern day.

So tell me, what bits and pieces of your life have you dripped into your writing?

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 2010 Writing Contest winner - Guitar Chick - Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

Genres: Poetry and Romance
Winner: Guitar Chick

Title: Rag Doll
Rating: T, 'cause it's kind of creepy.
Genre Poetry
Synopsis: As I sat here to enter, I thought of a dream I had of being trapped in a doll house, a one eyed doll advancing towards me. I decided to turn it into a poem.


A frilly dress
Around my shoulders
I turn my head
There's nothing behind or below
But staring me down
Across the room
Is a doll with one eye

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
As she comes towards me
She wants to die

The things are small
The house of a doll
I feel trapped
As she comes forward

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
She comes toward me
She wants to die

I think of my situation
How do I get out of this mess
But as I fall into all my distress
Black blots out the rest

I wake in safety
But nevertheless I'm still shaking
Her face echos in my mind
The girl I won't be able to find

Her lips are red
A tear is shed
From that one single eye
She comes toward me
She wants to die

Friday, December 17, 2010


I have written about publishing before; back in October of 2009 - - where I remembered what it was like to finally get published for the very first time, and coincidentally last October - where I talked about becoming published again.

Trying to become published is something you need to decide just how much you really want. It is by no means easy. You can't just hand a stack of typing over to someone and 'poof' you have a book. There are a lot of things you need to consider and a lot of pit-falls along the way.

There must be a million publishers out there, and a good deal of them are more than willing to take your hard earned dollars in exchange for publishing your book, but you have to be careful. There are also all too many of them who just love to milk you for you very last penny and still not give you a real book. "Oh just go to this approved editor and purchase their services." "Oh and just pay this reader to read you book to judge what market your book will do best in." or "Pay this expert to decide on the best title and font to use on the cover." These examples are facetious but I did encounter a couple such publishers but I don't remember all the tasks they recommended I do. Their requests will all seem totally logical. The best you can do with a company like this is take notes, find readers and editors that you trust and hire them to do the job you're comfortable with. Be wary of any publisher who asks for money without some kind of solid promise like a contract.

The best way to do this is a google search for editors or joining a writing group where members exchange their work. A great resource to ensure your safety is a site called Preditors & Editors - - these fine people have done their homework and there can be found most any company involved in most any kind of publishing you might want to do. It's definitely worth a look-see. There are other sites - writer's beware, for instance, who devote themselves to writer's safety in the publishing world. By all means, lean on them hard. And if by chance what you're looking for isn't there, ask them about it - they answer, which is the greatest, if you ask me.

Book publishing is only part of the picture. Before you ever want to go that far, you need to make sure your book is the best it can be. Learn everything you can soak up about the writing art and then keep looking for more and better ideas - there are lots of people out there willing to share in their expertise. Some things won't work for you, and some things will, but never be so self-wise as to discard anything. Always be willing to make changes. Always be willing to take criticism and use it to make your writing clearer; you never want to confuse your reader. You want your story to flow, hopefully without notice, directly into your reader's heart.

A fabulous place I've found for very helpful feedback is - It's a writing contest - one I've never made it better than mid-level, but even mid-level is great. Winners get free professional editing and publishing by a top publishing house. But for the purpose of this blog, it's the feedback that's important. You will be swimming in the company of a lot of writers in all degrees of professionalism, and they are all very nice and very helpful in their comments. I learned a lot there.

Finally, after you've done the best you can with your work, you need to find a professional editor, again one you trust. These people know their job - it's their life. I've met a couple and I've been able to learn even from them, and that with only a sample edit. Never trust that you've caught everything - you never will. Without a professional editor, you risk publishing a work that will ultimately disappoint your reader and tarnish the reputation you want to build.

And don't forget, during all this work, it might be advisable to search for a good agent. This person will find you a publisher and can ensure all the legal stuff is as in-your-favor as humanly possible. I have been watching for an agent ever since I came on line April before last. I haven't found one to fit yet, but that doesn't mean I'll stop looking.

Do you still want to get published? Do you want to self-publish or would you rather go traditional? Do you want your book available as an e-book or a book-book, or both, or hard cover? An agent can help you with all of this though he or she probably won't be interested in promoting your self publishing career. That's not to say you can't make a successful career out of self-publishing, but it isn't an easy road. However, the road to traditional publishing is no easier.

To become published is a long hard haul, and that is totally not counting the writing of the book you want to publish. So, if it's what you want, be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

Happy writing and good luck with your publishing endeavors

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review

If any of you have kept up with my 'Anna of Alaska' blog, or my Facebook profile, you know we're running out of fuel, and without fuel, there will be no internet, or even much writing, unfortunately. Ultimately, I may have to resort to paper and pencil. Gee, I wonder if I remember how to write with a pencil (without grammar and spell-check).

At any rate, in an effort to stretch what we have for as long as possible, the generator has been off for a serious chunk of the day, and though I have a fabulous battery on my computer, it doesn't quite bridge the gap. That 'dark' time does, however, leave room for my second, and much neglected, passion - reading.

Last winter I won four books. It was really quite amazing - I've never really won anything before (nothing worth mentioning anyway). I started one of them right away, but what with the crush of work, it took me a LONG time to finish it.



Since I'm a fiction/science fiction fan, I'm afraid my review will be a little biased. However I did like the story. Hanna Ford is a woman, a police officer, and in this story, she is working undercover. She is also recovering from having been raped - a serious blow not only to her body, but also to her self confidence as a police officer.

Her undercover job was supposed to be fairly simple. Look into a drug smuggling operation in a small town and try to figure out how it was being done. Being an investigative story, clues and problems were dripped in, keeping me delightfully strung along as Hanna met people and asked questions. Threaded through the story is a second mystery, one that hit much closer to home in more ways than one. A popular local barmaid had been raped and murdered brutally, and the woman happened to be a cousin. Well, I won't give the whole story away. Suffice it to say, Hanna did her best to investigate both crimes, which, thanks to the so small town that housed both affairs, were closely intertwined.

As I said before, I liked the story and I would recommend it. There was one thing that bothered me about it. I'm going to blame it on the genre though. The ending climax seemed hurried. Yes, the events were intense, and there was a rush to save lives and capture the bad guys before they got away, but I felt it was all tumbled together in a rush. What with all the methodical care with details that the rest of the book was filled with, the ending felt jerky. Aw well, that's the writer in me talking.


The second book I read is a collection of three shorter stories. In BENEATH A CHRISTMAS MOON the stories all took place on Christmas eve. These stories tip toward romance, another one of my not-so-favorite genre. That said, once again I liked all three of these stories. They weren't too terribly cheesy like some I've read.

The first story, LANDER'S MOON by Eden Robins should not have been the first story in this book. Though the story was sweet, the writer made so many of the beginner writer's mistakes, it nearly spoiled the plot all together. The point of view drifted. The two main characters were nearly carbon copies of each other in their actions and reactions to each other. And repeats abounded. If this story was edited, the editor should be fired. Though I didn't see any typos, such mistakes should have long since been weeded out.

The second story, PARADISE DESIGNS by Ariana Dupre was much better. It was a really cool twist on mythology brought to reality. But still, there were actions that were physically impossible and certain details noticed that certainly shouldn't have been. Who looks for compassion in the eyes of a lion when the lion is only inches away. There were minor discrepancies in background details that might be missed by the casual reader. In a house that had a staff, only one such person was ever seen. Maybe that's the way it was, but that's not what we were led to believe. And never before have I read an example of a character being treated like a simpleton. The house keeper gives the guest a map of the house and points out points of interest on it, and stipulates that the third floor is off limits, then she leaves the guest to her own devices. Fine by me - sounds reasonable. But then she hand carries the woman to her room and covers it all again as if she'd never given out the map in the first place. There were other flaws in the details that really bothered me. This story really needs a serious rewrite. However, I'd still recommend it. Get past all the writerly flaws and it's a very nice gentle romance.

The third story, was by far the best of the three and should have led the collection. VAMPIRE'S CHRISTMAS CAROL by Karen McCullough was a heart wrenching, touching story about a man determined to die rather than take a human life to feed his vampire hunger. When Carol Prescott knocks on his door, his plan might not be so successful. Stranded in a blizzard, Carol didn't have much choice. It was either freeze to death out in her car or weather the company of a vampire starving to death. The only flaw I could find in this story is that it was over far too soon, and yet it should not have been longer. And yes it had a happy ending, but I'm not going to tell you what it is. You'll simply have to read it for yourself.


The third book I read, WHISPERS by Erin Grady, brings together a disparate collection of people in an effort to solve a very very old mystery. The only thing that bothered me about this story was, in putting the pieces of the puzzle together, one piece was left out. By the end of the story all the characters were connected and the connections explained - all but one. It seemed to me that in the effort to tie all the characters together, if this one was not suddenly left out, the romantic thread, so strong throughout the story, would have been thwarted and perverted, so the author decided to cast his piece of the puzzle outside of the box. I think another solution could have been found. For me, that small detail was it's own sorrow, though the romance was now possible. But that's just me. I do like things to be logical, even if twisted and unexpected.

In reading this story, I was sucked in. Every few chapters, a few chapters taking place in 1896 were inserted and they too were enthralling. I really don't care for this format but that's just my opinion. It was successful in bringing all the pieces together at a single point and thus answering all the questions along the way. The only mistake I found was a single reference to ball-bearings. I really don't think there were such a thing as ball-bearings in 1896, not in the wilderness of Colorado anyway. If the horseless carriage had made it to Colorado then, it wasn't mentioned in this book, and I'm not that tight a history buff. I would recommend this book to anyone with a fancy toward hauntings and mysteries. The characters were well developed with complicated histories and their own reasons for coming along on this journey. Read it and join the journey with them.


I'm working on the fourth book now. SENSITIVITY 101 FOR THE HETEROSEXUAL MALE by Philip Nork. I've only just cracked it. First impressions - though tender, I might have trouble getting through it, but only because reading short stories is very frustrating for me. I'll tell you all about it when I've finished, and I will finish it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

November Writing Contest Winner - GC from Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

The genre for November's writing contest was set at Fantasy, and then the secondary genre we all voted on was romance. I truly believe that GC won with the shortest sample I've seen on Ambitious Writers since I joined. As you can see, it was delightful even if it was short. It left me wanting to read the rest of the story. What do you think?


Title: You Killed my Time by Guitar Chick

"LEAVE ME ALONE OR SO HELP ME I WILL CALL THE COPS!" I screamed as he backed up towards the wall.
Dean cowered against the wall as my rage electrified the air. I had never been so mad in my entire life. It was this continous, bubbling, insatiable anger that would leave the most patient trembling.
"I don't want to you to ever come around here as long as you live, which is freakn' forever now!"
"I'm sorry," Dean whispered for the ten billionth time. Like it mattered. Because it didn't anymore.
"Out. Now." I heard myself growl.
Dean and I had done something stupid. There were these whacked out evil elf people in the woods a little ways from Dean's house. We'd been dating for a while and things were ok. But then.... well.... it's not hard to forget.
"Why are we here again?" I asked dreamily. The elves had given us some weird stuff to drink that tasted like chocolate and bacon together.
"I don't know." Dean answered just as high sounding as I was.
This creepy elf lady who reminded me strongly of Professor Trelawny started reciting strange poetry, A group on the edge of the woods was in a heavy haze, and I realized I kept giggling uncontrollably.
The wooded area wasn't quite a clearing. It was more like a group of clearing seperated to from some weird wheel type shape with the spokes leading to a bigger clearing. Some dude with a sorry looking face had led me through it all before I had this clouded dreamy feeling.
Dean and I woke up the next morning on different edges of the wood. My head ached. I had no idea in the world of why I was laying down in a what seemed to be a puddle of silver.
"Wake up, mortals no longer..." said a light voice I recognized vageuly, as the memories of the night before played out in my head slowly like I was watching a movie.
"Come!" the voice said,a bit more impatient.
Dean and I looked at each other wearily.
"Alright, I'm not being paid, I'm on a hangover, and I don't like dealing with new ones.
You were drugged and made immortal because the Auberon hates you. BYE!" And she ran away so fast I saw a blur and felt a rush of wind, and saw no more of her.
I heard a shout from way back say "The silver stuff you woke up in was your mortality!"
I wanted to strangle someone, something anything.
All I could manage was to stagger home. I had an eternity to give Dean hell for leading me out there.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Writer's Block - What are Your Solutions?

I never really understood writer's block. There are so many different definitions. For me, it sounds like the writer ran up against a big blank wall and they simply can't write their way around it. I've never had much of a problem with the issue. The closest thing that qualifies are the minor stumbling blocks of how do I get my character from point A to point B. But, where a straight path won't do, a crooked path will, and sometimes my character has to go way around the issue to get to point B and beyond.

Where do you come up with the ideas for your next book? When you finish with the manuscript that has consumed all your free time for months if not years, what do you do next? This too is no problem for me. I give myself a rest for a day or two, or as long as I can stand it, and then I go to my 'Ideas' folder and pick one to work on. Where do these ideas come from? You may laugh, but I have really quite vivid dreams and many of my current manuscripts were generated from them in one way or another. Ever since I have started to jot those dreams down, I have accumulated over 25 assorted scenes and ideas. Some of them have seen some development, but most of them are merely the dream as I've been able to paint it on the paper.

Images, information and knowledge can sometimes be difficult to convey into words but I do my best. Last night was one of those nights. I was woken at around 4:30 rather abruptly after feeling a knife rammed into my back. There was no going back to sleep after that, so I got up and wrote down the dream. For your enjoyment, here it is. It needs a little fleshing and maybe some names, but then it's only an idea at this point. I look forward to your comments.



As man expanded into space they left their fantasies and fairytales behind, or at least they thought they did until they ran across a race that called themselves Pixies. That wasn’t exactly the right word, but it was as close as the human tongue could get to pronouncing it.

Pixies were the embodiment of playful trouble, and like their ancient namesake, they could accomplish thievery and pranks of all sorts with a sprinkling of pixie dust and a mischievous giggle. It was because of pixies that humans developed jetpacks that guided with a mere thought and eye lenses that saw into the infrared as well as sound waves.

Pixies, however, were a small agile people, and even with such advancements, catching them was nearly impossible. Pixies were like small children that had been stretched. They were fine boned to the point of looking fragile, and yet lithe and tough like a cat. Their pointed ears and slanted purple eyes completed the picture, making anyone who saw them wonder about the truth of fairytales.

Three men chased three pixies across a planetary landscape, the pixies always just within sight, their giggles leading the men on. These pixies had raided the same outpost many times. Their pranks were never life threatening, and what had been stolen had always been recovered eventually, usually undamaged, but such impunity had to be stopped, and so the chase covered miles each time.

The chase came to a river, as each man burst from the underbrush, a pixie giggled, sprinkled a pinch of sparkling pixie dust, and created a tiny speeder and leapt off into the sky, the human in hot pursuit. The third pixie waited for a second longer, watching, smiling, as her pursuer came close. Then she turned to dive into the water, feigning a near stumble. This time she’d let him catch her; she had long hungered to feel his strong arms around her. She was the reason the raids had gone on for so long. He was the reason she kept coming back.

She got her wish. His jets on full thrust, he caught her in midair. Spinning, he kept her from escaping into the water. She wrapped her arms around him and her legs too. She buried her face in his neck feeling the course stubble of his unshaven chin and the hot pulse in his neck. She pulled herself as close as she could, a hand feeling up the back of his neck, her fingers finding their way into his sweaty hair.

She made a grave mistake though. She didn’t understand human anger. Furious beyond reason, the man ended the chase by plunging a knife into her back. Only then did the man realize all the things that had gone before. She tipped her head back and looked up at him, her mouth open in surprise, now rimmed with blood, her purple eyes gone dark with confusion.

“Why did you let me catch you?”

She gasped a wet breath. “Because I love you.” And then she went limp.

He pulled the knife out and threw it away, then he hastily brought them back to the sandy riverbank, giving no thought to a safe landing, they tumbled and rolled, her limp body clutched in his arms, tears causing the sand to stick to his face.

They had only just come to rest when he heard a wailing cry from above. He spotted one of the other pixies streaking in to land with a sparkle of pixie dust as his speeder vanished, leaving him running across the sand toward them without so much as a bump.

He knelt down beside them as the man attempted to disentangle himself from the fragile creature he had just killed. The pixie touched the blood on her back and looked up at the man. “What have you done?”

The man could only shake his head. One by one, the others landed and gathered around as the pixie produce a small pouch in a shower of pixie dust, and from it sprinkled red pixie dust onto the wound. “If she will live for another minute, she may still survive,” he said as he carefully straightened her limbs and lovingly fingered her hair into order.

She opened her eyes to the glow of a campfire. A soft blanket was tucked up under her chin and around under her head and she felt hot. Sitting across the fire from each other was the slight pixie and the man.

For the first time in her life, she felt a profound sorrow. The pixie loved her with all of his heart. She knew this to the depths of her soul. But she had flirted with a human - a match that could never be.

She rolled over and sat up, pushing the blanket away and breathing in the cool night air. Off to the side she spotted the pile of plunder they had taken this time. The game was done; it wasn’t fun any more. At her movement both men looked at her; the others had already left. She went to the pile and with a wave of her hand and a scattering of sparkling pixie dust that lit the pile for a moment, she added her plunder to it.

The men’s eyes never left her, she had to choose and there really was only one choice. She went and stood beside her childhood friend, resting a hand on his shoulder. She gazed across the flames at the human she’d been able to touch just once. “We won’t bother you again.”

The human stood, as did the pixie; their standoff would not easily pass. “I’m sorry.”

The pixie turned to lead her away but she hesitated. With a parting sigh she said, “Blood is a time for sadness.” Then she followed her companion into the darkness.

The man watched them go, the thin moonlight making them possible to follow only because of their motion, then there was a brief burst of pixie dust sparkles, and they were gone.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Warhorses Collide - from THE MAKING OF A MAGE KING - unpublished

The horse screamed out a challenge and Prince reared up to scream an answer. That, as nothing else did, galvanized them into motion. Farris drew his sword and Errol handed the mule’s lead to Mattie. Cisco snagged the reins of Jenny’s horse and herded Mattie and the mule off the road into the trees. Larry strung his bow and he and Errol stepped up beside Farris.

Sean found himself on top of Prince without remembering how he got there, and they were charging down the road directly at the big gray monstrosity with its black-garbed rider. Farris yelled something after him, but Sean couldn’t distinguish what he’d said over the thunder of Prince’s hooves.

The two charging beasts had reduced the distance between them by half before it occurred to Sean that he was riding into battle and he had yet to draw his sword. The distance was suddenly shrinking at light speed, and he had reins in his hand that he didn’t know what to do with. In true John Wayne style, he clamped the reins between his teeth and drew his swords simultaneously in a spectacular cross draw that fortunately missed cutting the reins. He had no plan of action, he was just trying to solve a problem, and he had less than seconds to do it in.

A few lunging strides later, they crashed together. Prince knew his business, but Sean was at a disadvantage; not only did he not know Prince’s business, but he had never fought a true battle with a sword before, let alone from horseback. Prince’s head went down, his teeth reaching for legs or underbelly and the reins were pulled from Sean’s mouth.

Somehow, Sean managed to keep the sword of his opponent from decapitating him, then they were apart again. Prince whirled on the spot, nearly unseating his rider, and he was in the middle of it again. The big gray, standing almost two feet taller and proportionally heavier than Prince, was a fraction slower. Prince was at them broadside and went directly for the rider; Sean had all he could do to protect his horse and himself from the man’s flashing sword, then they careened apart again, if only by a few inches.

Sean heard the man cry out, but it didn’t stop him from going for any target he could find. His attack was disrupted when the big gray started to pitch and kick. The great gray’s head snaked around and reached for Sean. He had no choice, but to backhand him and knock those really big teeth away. He didn’t think he had ever seen teeth so big. Though he didn’t realize it in that second, he did a second later; those teeth were broken and black. The horse wasn’t dripping blood like Prince had been, but he’d been there. The monster gray horse was another death-horse. He would want to kill anything that moved - anything within reach.

Prince wheeled away and let loose with a double-barreled kick with his back feet that landed solidly on something; it sounded like two pieces of wood slapping together.

The rest of the horsemen had reached the battle by now, but those on Sean’s side were also closing. Larry was shooting his bow with remarkable accuracy. Two of the men were already out of their saddles and quite still, and another one was wounded and out of his saddle as well.

Sean didn’t have much time to look as they were crashing together again. Prince climbed high to attack with his front feet this time, putting Sean at an extreme disadvantage. With Prince standing up between them, Sean couldn’t reach the other rider to protect Prince from most of his attacks, all he could do was keep the gray’s teeth from him and from Prince; it was a full time job.

They broke apart again with another parting back kick from Prince; Sean at least was pleased to see that both the rider and the gray were now bleeding. He wished he could claim credit for some of it.

During a brief interlude, Sean heard Farris yelling at him. “What are you doing, you fool? Kill them!”

What did he think he was trying to do? Then Sean remembered; he didn’t have to use a sword to kill. They crashed into the gray again and he toppled over like a statue knocked on its side. Neither of them were prepared for the sudden lack of resistance. Prince tripped and they tumbled over the body of the big gray. Prince did a horse’s version of a somersault and Sean was thrown away to roll, it must have been a hundred times, before coming to a halt.

He climbed to his feet unsteadily, while Prince scramble to stand between him and the downed horse and rider; he put no weight on one front leg. ‘I hope it’s not broken,’ thought Sean at the sight.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Third Person Limited

Third person: All writers know what it is, but it is another one of those lessons I had to learn. Oh I knew it meant that the story was told from a distance. A distance shown by using 'he', 'she', 'they', and sundry other pronouns along with proper names in order to keep the pronouns from getting confusing.

There are different levels of third person though. Third person objective would be me telling you the story from an unbiased viewpoint. Hopefully treating each major character with equal dispassion and yet still managing to keep you entertained. This 'fly-on-the-wall' technique is still common in news articles, though it has lost its popularity in fiction.

Third person omniscient is the story told from the point of view of the ultimate watcher - someone who is right there, wherever there needs to be. Someone who sees all and understands all, through whom we can therefore understand all as well. The risk with this version is to take the reader too far away from the characters, a distance which may keep the reader from an intimate understanding of the character, preventing 'love' if you will, an impersonal memory - "Oh yeah, I've heard that before. So what."

Another name for third person omniscient is third person subjective, which is getting into the heads and under the skin of any character, but generally the major ones. This grasshopper point of view can hop from person to person as needed - it can also become confusing if extreme care is not taken to clue the reader in to the hop.

All of these forms have their successful outlets; books both classical and current that have hit the big time. I, however, am interested in what might be the hardest form of third person.

Like The Fortunes of Magic, which is written in first person, third person limited sticks to one character and yet still rides on his shoulder. He can't read someone else's mind, nor can he see around corners. Solutions to his problems must come from within his own mind or from whatever information he can cause to be gathered. In other words, if someone walks up behind him without making a sound, we aren't going to know about it until he rests a hand on our character's shoulder - no fair peeking. Or if a friend is plotting his death, we won't know that either unless another friend decides to give him up, or until the deed happens.

So, can I put a camera on my character's shoulder? Can I weed out all the extra, not-known-yet information? Along with getting into his head and making use of thoughts and emotions, this is the task I've set for myself this time around.

And so the editing continues. I'm sure glad I like my books. I'm sure rereading them enough. I can't wait until I can share them with all of you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

October Writing Contest Winner - Coquille from Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

Title: Tangled
Genre: Horror
Rated: Teen
Word Count: 1900

Ali finished setting up her side of the tent by putting the finishing touches on her sleeping bag, tucking her sweats into the top to slip into later. Her other five friends were all either out trying to get a fire started or still setting up their tents. Wendi, who was sharing a tent with Ali, had quickly thrown her pile of stuff in a corner and called it good, in typical Wendi style. Placing a flashlight right near the tent door, Ali nodded to herself at a job well done. Now she was ready to organize the cooler and get ready to cook some cowboy grub.

“Yay!” Lilly clapped as Ali walked by the green tent where she and Chad lay on their backs, staring up at the trees. “All set up?”

“Yep,” Ali answered. “I'm going to see if I can get some dinner going before it gets dark. This time of year, it will be dark in like an hour.”

“We'll be there in a bit,” Lilly said. Ali could hear the tent zipping up as she walked further down the trail to the fire pit.

When she reached the clearing, Ali saw that Wendi was having a smoke while she giggled at Spencer and Pete's pathetic attempts at starting a fire. Pete was blowing furiously, his usually pale cheeks red with the effort and smoke inhalation. Spencer was trying to light bits of cardboard torn from a cereal box they had hiked in to the camp site. They were only about a mile off the Forest Service road, along a popular trail in the summer, but now that it was late October, they had the forest to themselves. It was crisp and cool in the shade, but the sun had warmed the day nicely. Soon they would need the fire, though, for warmth and light.

“Dude,” Ali said. “You can't just light logs that big from cardboard. This your first campfire, or what?”

“Um-” Spencer looked sheepish. “Well, sort of. Yep. You, Pete?”

“No way, man,” he said with a smile. “Did this tons of times in Boy Scouts. It's just been a while.”

“We need to find smaller sticks and branches, all sizes graduated up to the size of those logs. You gotta start small, then build it up slowly. I'll go hunt for some kindling,” Ali said eagerly. She wanted to show off for Spencer, and was riding high on the prospect of a whole weekend with him.

“I'll come with you,” Spencer said, practically tripping over the logs as he got up. He walked off with Ali, leaving Wendi and Pete alone. Wendi's giggles could be heard over the sound of a bottle of wine being uncorked. “Those two are hopeless.”

“Agreed,” Ali said. She headed in the opposite direction of the tents, not wishing to walk up on anything going on in Lily and Chad's tent. They had been together since high school, so there was no ice to break there.

Silently they walked deeper into the forest. Ever since meeting Spencer, also a Freshman in her dorm, Ali had been dreaming of something like this moment. They found a nice area of deciduous trees and began to pick up the dry branches strewn around.

“Like this?” Spencer asked, holding up a few skinny twigs. He flashed his drop-dead smile.

“Perfect,” Ali said. She hoped she wasn't blushing, but he was so cute looking to her for approval like that. “From that size to a bit bigger will be great.”

They picked up small branches for several minutes, until their arms were full. Spencer was pretending to struggle under his load, trying to make Ali laugh. She was giggling as if she had already had some of the wine back at camp. They walked back in the direction of their camp as the sun began to set, lighting the orange and red leaves of autumn in a fiery glow. After several minutes of walking, Ali's arms began to ache. She could have sworn that camp was just up ahead, but the more they walked, the less familiar things looked.

“Hey, Spence,” she said over her tangle of twigs.

“Yeah?” he asked. “Sorry, I was spacing out. It's so pretty in this light. The forest is totally magical right now.”

“Um...” Ali hesitated. “Are we going the right direction? I feel like we've been walking for a long time. Shouldn't we be at camp by now?”

“Hmmm.” Spencer looked around and considered this. “Yeah, you might be right. I don't remember those white trees before, do you?”

Ali looked over and saw a stand of birch trees, their white bark reflecting the orange of the sky. While the grove felt inviting, she knew they hadn't passed it on the way to collect wood.

“No, definitely not,” she said. “Let's put our sticks down here and scout a little. It's going to be dark any minute.”

They dropped their bundles at their feet and began to retrace their steps. After a minute or two, Spencer walked back over to the grove of birches as if he had forgotten that they had lost their way.

“Spencer!” Ali called to him. She wondered what it was about that grove that called out to them both. Obviously he was feeling it more strongly than she was, but she was impelled to follow him despite the fact that she knew it wasn't the way to camp.

“Ali,” he said dreamily. “Ali, come with me. Let's just go into those trees and hang out for a bit. Come on, they are so beautiful.”

He walked to her and took her cold hand in his strong, warm guitar player's hand. It felt so good that she didn't complain when he led her into the stand of glowing birches. They stopped, still holding hands, and stood there for so long that the sky had turned midnight blue before Ali noticed that the glowing bark was reflecting the white of the full moon now. Adrenaline flowed into her veins for a moment, but soon dissipated in the sense of peace and calm that the grove seemed to emanate.

“Ali,” Spencer said softly, turning to face her.


“Can I kiss you?”

He didn't wait for an answer, just grabbed Ali in his arms and started kissing her with his full lips. Ali had never been kissed like that before, though she had had one serious boyfriend in high school. She was melting into Spencer's embrace, and he into hers. Before they knew it, they were lying on the ground making out in the fallen leaves. It seemed like hours, but it was hard to tell now that the sun was down. Time was stolen away as Ali and Spencer held each other, snuggled together as close as possible, locked in an intense embrace. Somehow, they must have drifted off to sleep there, because the next thing Ali knew, it was cold and dark and something was crunching through the fallen leaves nearby.

She shook Spencer, who groggily came to. He heard the sound of the footsteps, too, grabbing her more tightly in fear. Ali tried to get up, but it was like her whole body had fallen asleep.

“Spencer, we have to get up,” she whispered.

“I can't move my legs,” he said quietly. “Maybe that's just a deer, or something. Just be quiet. It will pass.”

Ali struggled to move, but found that her legs were tightly bound. She was able to finally move her hand to her legs and felt a somewhat removed jolt of adrenaline as she realized that there were vines wrapped tightly around them. With intense effort, she reached over to Spencer and felt that he, too, was being strangled by the vines. Meanwhile, the footsteps in the dry leaves were increasing, more and more feet seemed to be headed toward their grove from all directions. Just as Ali was about to scream, more vines grew out of the ground and bound her arms to the earth. It took the breath right out of her.

“What's happening Spence?” Ali asked with a shaky voice.

Spencer didn't get a chance to answer because blue lights began to peek out from behind the oddly glowing birch trees, circling them. The footsteps also encroached, slower than the blue flying lights, but more intent. They all stopped in a ring around Spencer and Ali. As she looked at them, she saw tiny faces illuminated by the blue lights and felt a cold, numbing energy filling her being. Behind the blue fairy-like creatures was a circle of tall, hooded figures who began to chant in guttural tones.

Slowly the flying blue-lighted fairies came closer, sucking more and more life out of Ali and Spencer. The vines had encircled them almost entirely, with barely space to see between. Their bodies were still entwined, which was the only thing keeping them sane. Within minutes, everything was dark and all they could hear was the strange chanting and the whispering wind.

“Oh Spirit of the Grove,” a deep voice spoke, “please accept this sacrifice of lovers. Give us the power we desire, and the lovers shall be given unto you. Give us strength, wealth, and influence, and in return we give these lovers to the Kingdom of Fairie. Accept this gift, and grant us the power to rule in this realm.”

A crack of thunder sounded, then everything went silent. Ali and Spencer fell into a dreamworld, or rather a cold nightmare realm of twisting, screaming souls, joining them in their fall. They were never seen or heard from again, despite the search and rescue teams combing the forest for weeks after they did not return to camp that night.

Every year, Lilly and Chad would go out to the end of the Forest Service road and hike in to the area where Ali and Spencer disappeared. On the seventh year anniversary of their disappearance, Chad and Lily brought roses to lay at the old camp, in memory of their friends. It was a particularly stormy day, with leaves swirling in the wind. Though it was only noon, somehow they got off the trail and found themselves in an area they hadn't seen before.

“Lilly, look at that amazing grove of birches,” Chad said. He led her by the hand to the shimmering white-barked trees.

“This place gives me the creeps,” Lilly whispered, unsure why she felt goosebumps rising all over her.

“C'mon, it's so pretty,” Chad said, sounding dazed.

Lilly followed reluctantly, but stopped short at the edge of the grove. Her eyes rested on a strange mound on the forest floor, right in the center of the white trees. At first it looked like a strange pile of leaves, but then she saw that it was a tangle of vines. It was in the exact shape of two people locked in an embrace. She knew instantly who those two people were.

Screaming, Lilly dropped the roses and ran. Chad woke out of his trance at the sound, running after her. In the shadows, the blue lights retreated, disappointed - this time...

Friday, October 29, 2010

To Publish Again

It was about this time two years ago when I first ventured into publishing. Oh my God, I was going to be able to mix and mingle with professionals in the writing field. I should have paid closer attention when I got my edit back - that was my first interaction with a professional. I so wanted to learn from him. I was so excited. My edit, however, was far less than I hoped. Surely I wasn't that good a writer. Sure he did the editor thing, he caught when I switched the spelling of one of my minor characters. He found capitalization mistakes and verb goofs. All the things needed to make a error-free manuscript. But he never explained any of it. He never made any suggestions that might improve my skill or the story. There were also things he suggested I could see no sense in. Why should all my number-words be switched to number-figures? I even called him on that one. I asked what book he used to dictate his recommendations. Since he wasn't going to explain anything, I'd try to get the book and learn for myself. I just looked at that edited document for the first time since way back when. He commented only twenty-two times in the whole document and none of them was an explanation of anything. Bleh. Never, in all the books I've read, have I seen numbers rather than their words, other than in a math book that is. That really bothered me.

My next disappointment was when I started getting proofs. I spent a delightful hour or so on the phone talking to the two people who were supposed to be responsible for it all. They were the experts, and though I had a few preferences on fonts and such, I figured they knew what was best. What I had done was pick up the last book I'd read. I diligently counted five-character words across an average line and then the lines on that page, then I set my computer document margins and font size to get as close to those numbers as I could. That way, I would have a rough idea how many pages my book would have. It was all a visual thing for me. However, that all meant it would have to be resized to fit their requirements. Where I visualized a pocketbook sized book, they recommended the larger 6x9 size. Once again, they were the professionals. They knew what was best, surely. What did I know about book sizes? The first proof I got back was so incomplete. How could anyone release work with such glaring resizing misses???? Have they no pride in their work???

Then came the cover work. Completely out the window went my suggestion without even a mention. But once again they were the professionals, surely. They knew about cover art. I knew less than nothing. I do have a bit of an artistic eye and I tried my best to make sure the picture wasn't too busy behind the title. I tried to work with what they gave me but apparently there was only so much they could do. Then came the spine. Yes, this is book 1, and for this collection, an oval opal was the one connecting link for all three books. But do you think they could get that right??? I found them three images of an oval opal on line and sent them to use as an example. What did I get in return??? Something that looked like an oval piece of marble. I mean really, the opal with its sparkling center was important, but apparently they didn't have one they could use.

Yes, it was a disappointing, expensive learning experience, but it was a learning experience. I learned that I should have stood my ground and insisted on what I wanted, or at least a lot closer. They would have bowed to my desires, after all I was footing the bill. That book will have a second coming one day - maybe when I finish book 3, and I can publish them all together.

I was, however, able to pass on what I've learned to a close friend of my brother's who is also just publishing a book. His publisher recommended a different title. When I asked him about it, he told me the one he had wanted and why. It was important to the story. I told him to stick by his title and his publisher bowed to his desire. I'm all for suggestions. I really want what's best, but what's best isn't always what's easiest to do, to see, or to say.

Now - here I am again. After two years of making like a search light over dark and stormy seas, looking for someone to help me get another book out there. I scrutinize the websites of potential agents. I hover over various writing groups and blogs, watching for a mention. Occasionally, I send out a query, always trying to include everything they say they want. I don't send out mass queries; I want each one to be from me to the person I'm sending it to. There are thousands of places out there full of advice on how to write a query to hook the agent in the first sentence, but in my opinion, if my letter isn't good enough, neither is my query, and if my query isn't good enough, maybe I don't want to be working with that person in the first place - let it be their loss for not taking me on. Yes, I'm proud of my work, and I'm proud of who I am and who I have always been. I am me. This is my work. Take me or leave me and I will move on.

Just the other day I found the website for a new publishing company. So new they only have a few authors under their belt. According to the website, they wanted any submissions to have been read by someone else - a luxury I can understand and advise others to get if at all possible, however, it is something I have been unable to indulge in much myself. Living in the wilderness has its drawbacks in that I know few people and not many of them read, fewer still could give me the help I needed from such a reading. "Yes, I like it." or "That's not my kind of story." Really isn't all that much help.

At any rate, since it was an important stipulation, I sent them an email asking about it and explaining some of my situation. I think he must have taken a look at some of my links, at any rate, his reply was very understanding and he asked that I submit a sample. Going back to the website, I sent in what was asked, and also according to the site, I could expect a reply in two to three weeks.

I prepared to sit back and wait my two weeks or so. I posted a note on Facebook announcing my submission and got lots of good luck wishes. That is so nice, you know. To know so many people are watching my progress through this writing sea I'm trying to navigate, and to know that they took a moment of their time to wish me luck.

Lo and behold!!! Only four days after my submission, he asked me for the full manuscript. Oh my God!!!! Am I really on this journey???? And I KNOW I'll be among the real professionals this time. Will he take me on for real??? We'll have to see. I'll be sure to keep you informed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Passion and My Obsession - Part 2

As a bit of a recap of last week, To Reclaim the Throne, The Speed of Dreams, The Mystery of Planet Wer, What Future, Slave, The Trials of the Youngest Princess, and The Lord of the Land are the shorter of my books. They are not the shortest of my stories. ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH, ONLY YOU CAN SAY FOR SURE, is a collection of my shortest stories.

I have had a hard time finding the real definition of exactly what a short story is. How many pages or how many words seems to fluctuate and most of them are shorter than most of mine. So, for me, a short story is anything that takes a day, or two at the most, for me to read. Currently, I have eleven stories in this document ranging in length from six pages to a hundred and eleven pages.

Ninja's Love - 6 pages
Wings of Freedom - 8 pages
System Nautilus - 21 pages
Secrets of the Mind - 32 pages
The Forces of Darkness - 41 pages
Learn What Was Lost - 46 pages
The Box Opens - Living in a World of Silence - 47 pages
Follow a Dream - 47 pages
Sara's Diary - 56 pages
Arthur - 74 pages
From Out There - 111 pages

These stories are all dreams where the story was in it's entirety, or nearly so. They did not go into the document in the order listed here. The first was Follow a Dream, which the entire book is named after. The idea of grouping them together came about when I realized that many of them were stories about someone being brave in some manner and willing to go beyond the norm. Later, when still a few of the stories didn't really fit the bill, they were included anyway for lack of a better place to put them. Maybe someday someone will be interested in them, but until then, they are among the few short stories I like to read. I could write an entire post about these eleven stories so if any of you are interested, feel free to ask and I will. Your wish is my command and my greatest desire.

As some of you have already discovered, THE FORTUNES OF MAGIC is coming into being for you all on it's own blog, a chapter a week. I picked this book for a blog novel because the chapters are short. It is also my first experiment with first person. With no one to tell me the rules of first person, it was really quite fun weeding out actions that took place out of Liam's line of sight and of course thoughts not his own.

Like most of my stories, this one also started with a dream, that being the fight between Liam and his over-sized friends, and like in many of my dreams, some background information was known. This was not Earth. Liam's friends, though very human-like, were not human. And this society was really quite primitive by modern standards. Outside of that information, the story told itself. Every day of writing was every bit as much of an adventure as any of you are having reading it. I love it when a story does that. This book is 401 pages long (103,536 words)

I got the idea for THE GUARDIAN from a PlayStation game my husband was playing at the time. Final Fantasy VIII had, I think, a very nice story line, though the only resemblance between the game and my story is the fact that memories had to be sacrificed to make room for the magic. The list of spells also came from the game, though I took a little leeway here with spelling and some descriptions. I also standardized some of the spell ranges, and by the second part of the book, resemblance to the game was even less. Quite by accident, mercenaries for hire was a legitimate job and volunteers to become guardians came from these ranks. Like in the game, these special people fought monsters, so in my book I had to create monsters too. One of my many odd dreams supplied the adversary. Not unlike the movie Starship Troopers, the bug was that enemy though it was far more ant-like. Ultimately, five different dream scenes were molded into the body of this story. The ant enemy, a small ferret-like creature that accompanies Reed throughout the story, providing a bit of animal cuteness. A helicopter pilot who discovers a sample of a new evolution of bug, the identity of Reed's closest companion, and the xenobiologist who supplies needed information to Reed about the bugs. And of course there is the dream that fueled this story. A bug queen wanted to study the enemy, and the only thing she could think of to do was create one of her own. She hatched a human baby. Yeah that was an interesting dream. I love the way I think. My husband teases me about what movies we watch. He doesn't want to make my dream any weirder. haha This book is 442 pages long (117,297 words)

As many of you may already know, and for those of you who don't, KING BY RIGHT OF BLOOD AND MIGHT, my one published book, is the first of a planned collection of three. They are not however a series. They take place in the three different major sections of our country, the east coast, the mid west, and the west coast. In this world, the mountain ranges are capped with glaciers and are all but impassable. TO BECOME WHOLE IN LAND AND IN SOUL is book 2. For this story, I decided to do a little gene splicing and see what would happen if today's scientists, in their infant wisdom wanted to create the ultimate soldier by mixing the genes of humans and wolves. What my imagination birthed was humans with many strengths of wolves, and wolves with many of the weaknesses of men. Both, however, were stronger than their root stock. The experiment didn't work out as planned. The wolf half of the experiment was largely ignored; they were there only for their DNA. The human half all died by the age of 12 or 13 - puberty. What the scientists, in their infinite ignorance refused to see was that the human-wolf hybrids needed each other to survive.

Over the ice age that set the stage for these books, these people learned to live like humans and hunt like wolves - they learned to survive and prosper though not all that well. Somewhere along the line they rescued a human girl and welcomed her into their clan. She, however wasn't happy so she ran away back to the world of humans. It is her son the book follows as he struggles to make it as a handicapped human in a world of little mercy. His handicap, like all of his kind, none of whom he has ever met, is the inability to speak. Though he was quite intelligent, stringing words together was impossible. That is until his companion found him. This book is 507 pages long (142,584 words)

This brings me to my biggest book of all. THE MAKING OF A MAGE-KING is a single story that fell into three parts all by itself. Like Lord of the Rings, if I had my druthers, it would be published in a single volume, but I can't find a publisher who will take on the task and agents won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. That doesn't mean I don't keep trying.

This is another story that wrote itself. It took control of my dreams like none others have. Throughout the writing of this book, I was plagued with bits and pieces of dream scenes, and since they all seemed to fit well into the story, why not. My character began to have serious problems sleeping at night. Each short dream was like a piece of a puzzle where the whole picture wasn't known. I allowed this to enhance his confusion and drive him forward. I love this story. I hope you get to read it someday and follow Sean as he goes from the average high school boy to the strongest mage-king in generations.

That's the extent of my completed manuscripts. All of them are in need of polishing. I'm still learning this writing skill, and though I have poured out hundreds of pages of writing, though I can tell a pretty good story and though I have a fertile imagination, the skill of writing to be published is still something to be attained for me. Wish me luck. I will conquer this mountain.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Passion and My Obsession

To many people, I have mentioned the many different books I've written. I sometimes wonder if they believe me. Mostly because all the people I talk to, at most, have two or three. Even if those with more published books than I have, don't seem to have as many finished manuscripts. Am I bragging? I'm not trying to. I'm just trying to understand. What is it that I did different than these other writers? I know one big thing, I'm certain they all spent more time socializing - 'developing their platform', as I've been told needs to be done years in advance of publishing their work.

In contrast, all I did was write. I had stories to tell - tales to spin, and when I wasn't spinning a tale, I was reading through it, just to make sure it said what I wanted it to say. It was very important to me that actions and scenes were as clear as I could make them. As I've covered in an earlier post, I made many mistakes in the mechanics of writing, mistakes I'm now trying to iron out. I don't know that I'll ever iron all the kinks out - I'm thinking part of it is simply my way of telling my story - my voice, if you will.

Anyway, for those of you who might be curious, I thought I'd tell you a little about the books I've written. Many years ago, long before I even thought I'd be a writer, I decided to write a story in an open notebook. The job I had at the time required a fifteen minute break in the morning and afternoon and a half hour break for lunch. Not one to twiddle my thumbs during these breaks, I wrote in my notebook. During the course of various moves out here, that notebook got lost, but I tried to recreate it from memory, with slightly less magic. I'm not all that happy with the result, but TO RECLAIM THE THRONE is 212 pages long as of today (that's 58,728 words).

Many of my stories started with one of my rather vivid dreams. One such dream was a young man gazing across a wide valley. In the center of that valley was a dome, and littered all across the horizon was hundreds if not thousands of Star Wars-type ships of all sizes - he was taking pictures of it all - he was so happy - he wanted a beer, and then suddenly it all exploded into action and the young man that was me had to run for his own ship - a ship he spoke to as if it was another person, like you see in the movies sometimes. That was the dream - for the book, I had to come up with names and reasons for what he was seeing and why he was so happy. Then I had to figure out what might happen next. It was really an interesting journey, both for my character and for me. THE SPEED OF DREAMS ended up being 254 pages long (67,699 words).

THE MYSTERY OF PLANET WER also started with a dream, but this dream was an ending. The scene was a loving couple hugging each other tenderly while standing in front of a house-less fireplace and chimney. That was the picture, but along with it came some information. He was a werwolf and she was blind. She was also the only person on the planet who could end the quarantine. Now, I must confess, another influence for this book was a cartoon I used to enjoy. One of the crewmen was also a werwolf. As long as he was off planet he couldn't be anything but a werwolf, but as soon as he was home, he could be human and change at will. This werwolf, and mine, wasn't the monster from the movies, though that didn't mean that he couldn't be very dangerous in his wolf form. Well, now I had a main character. All I had to do was introduce him to the love of his life and figure out what the quarantine was and how to end it. I had so much fun with the wer-people as they worked their way through the mystery of their roots, which of course tied them to the native creatures of the planet. As you might guess, this story did not take place on Earth. It is 254 pages long (69,324 words)

WHAT FUTURE, SLAVE did not start with a dream. Instead I wanted to experiment with the concept of slavery as it should have been handled, not the way it was handled in our history. No, in my book slaves were every bit as important as livestock and treated much the same. As we all know, not all animals are treated well, and the same is true with slaves in my book, but that's not what the story is about. The story is about a girl, a slave, who's father was a free man, and though he acknowledged her as his daughter, he refused to free her. The story is wrapped around the reason for that action. Why couldn't her father free her? Why could none of the women in her bloodline be freed? Why did all the women in her bloodline die the moment they gave birth to a girl-child? All questions that get answered in the book, but I warn you, though it has a good ending, it doesn't have a happy ending. This book is 268 pages long (75,531 words)

THE TRIALS OF THE YOUNGEST PRINCESS was my first attempt at writing about a girl. I sculpted the girl after myself somewhat. I was shy when I was little and yet very independent, and interested in things most girls really weren't, like riding horses. When I was little, I dreamed of inheriting the family ranch and running a riding camp for city kids, where I could teach them to love horses and the country as much as I did. That concept, coupled with my liking of the medieval society of kings etc., I decided that my little girl would be the youngest of several children of a beloved royal family. Like me, she would be the black sheep of the family, though not overtly so. So, now I had a character, what to do with her? All powerful people, no matter how loved, have enemies, and of course, little girls doing things no self-respecting royal daughter would be caught dead doing, meant that she wasn't where she was expected to be when the royal family was brought low. Now, she was forced to become the best in the land at something she should never have been interested in in the first place in order to make the murderer of her family pay for his crimes. This one is 285 pages (81,581 words)

LORD OF THE LAND was another story that started with a dream. The scene was three young men dressed as soldiers coming into an inn. The innkeeper sees the king's men and as a retired soldier himself and loyal to the king, he'll feed and house them for a night. It was raining and miserable outside and the young soldiers looked much worse for the wear. One of them was wounded. Of course, it was the wounded one who became my main character. Who was he? Why was he here? Why were the three of them dressed in the uniform of soldiers they were too young to wear? All questions answered as he journeys through his life, trying to find peace and happiness only to have a past he can't escape rip his happiness away. Only then does he face the fact that he can't escape his past, he must face it head on and make things right. This story too has a less than happy ending, though a good one, I think. This book ended up being 316 pages long (88,790 words)

That's half of them. I'll continue telling you about my books next week. I hope you like the workings of my mind. Every story is a problem to be solved, a puzzle to be put together, or taken apart as the case may be. I'm always having these dreams and I have a folder full of scenes. Each one the seed of a new book or a scene in one started from another such dream.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Publishing my Book

Some of you might be curious about my publishing tale. Well, here it is. I live 60 to 80 miles from the nearest civilization, and I didn't have internet at the time. Running to the post office with query letters was an unwieldy task at the best of times. Please excuse me for a shameless plug here but I've started a blog about my life. Have a look. You'll see what I mean.

My next option was to make some phone calls. I had this fat book that listed contact information for just about any kind of publishing a person might want to do, so I made the run up to the post office with a stack of queries to likely publishing houses. Most of them vanished. Some were returned having been mailed to the wrong person or the address had changed. As I recall, out of 20 some odd letters, only 2 were returned with some type of reply - rejected. My cool book was outdated by 2 or 3 years. I had no idea things were so liquid in the publishing industry. I next decided to call some of those places where my letters had vanished, to see what if anything was happening. They all now required an agent - a detail not included in my book or something that had changed since it was published. My window for mailing anything was closing fast so I turned to the phone book. There are a few publishing houses in Anchorage, but I quickly learned that none of them published fiction. Of course there was a printing company that could handle it, but I knew nothing about printing up a book. Nothing at all. Lo and behold, AuthorHouse had a phone number in my phone book so I gave them a call, and they sent me an application - EXPENSIVE!!! WAY beyond my budget. My dream was effectively squashed. I didn't know of any other options.

A few years ago, my mother died and the family wealth, which I knew nothing about, was divided among me and my siblings. Suddenly, my dream of publishing had new life. If my husband could buy a new f***ing boat, I could publish a book - the price was about the same.

The first thing was to get it edited. Gleefully I copied my book onto a disk (I had to search for a CD cover) and fired it off to them through work - that was in August and it didn't get finished before I was done with work for the season, so I had to figure another way to get the edits back so I could work on it. The man who flies our fuel out every winter sometimes flies over on his way to other deliveries so I asked him if they would mind my giving AuthorHouse their email address. Would they please copy my book onto another disk and airdrop it to me? Bless their hearts, they did. Airdrops cost somewhere around fifty dollars I think, but it was worth it to me.

We left here shortly before Christmas to spend the winter in Fairbanks with my son and his family so I could have internet and thus accomplish the rest of the task in a few months rather than a few years. As I recall, every step took 2 weeks each, give or take a day or two, and by the end of April, I had a book. Hind-sight tells me I could have done it through them cheaper, but hind-sight is like that. I still learned a lot from the process and now that I have internet, I've learned a lot more. Yes, I will probably self-publish again, but I'll continue to search for an agent. Because of where I live, selling books from my trunk isn't possible.

Since then (2008) I've sold over 100 books myself and I've gotten a few royalty checks. My biggest one was $85 but most of them were single-figure checks - one book here, two books there - and there were whole stretches where I got no check at all. For the last year and a half, I've advertised on Twitter and Facebook, and I've had some luck there. My fan base is growing slowly, and the reviews for my book are all good. And since I didn't ask for some of them, they must be true. Another shameless plug here, but I invite you to read them. KING BY RIGHT OF BLOOD AND MIGHT on Amazon - there's a link over on the right. I can only hope you'll buy a copy.

Well, that's my story. Before I got internet, I churned out 20+ books of all lengths from 5 pages to over 1000 pages (page count as if it were a pocket book). Since I got internet, I've done little but editing. I wasn't educated in writing and I hated English in school. Even my college didn't offer much of a writing course but I had to take something and poetry simply made no sense to me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September Writing Contest Winner from Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

September's contest was poetry. Many of the girls at Ambitious Writers are prolific poets, but this month Amani won the contest. Well deserved Kudos to her.


Rooted To The Grave - by Amani

Taken by force
Lives stolen away
They can't find peace
Memories of death encircle them
Root them to their graves
They wonder "Why me? What had I done?"
But no answers come
They see the others
Those they know will soon join them
"Don't follow!" They warn
But their voices are nothing
Whispers on the wind
The warning is lost
Screams drown out their cries
A new soul has joined them in the afterlife
They gather together
Tears on their cheeks
For the newcomer
Another story untold
And the remembrance of life
A breath in the lungs
The heart beating yet again
Fuels them with envy
"Why me?!" They scream as loud as they can
Silence fills the air
And they are unable to let go
Needing the answer (Why me?!)
To set them free

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Labor of Writing

For much of the last month, I have been editing what I have written over the last ten-plus years. I have over a dozen manuscripts to work on, so I have my work cut out for me. Over the last year or so I have learned what many of my writing weaknesses are. Through combing the internet for knowledgeable writers willing to share their knowledge, and also through participation in a writing contest where feedback is the greatest asset, I have compiled a list of my writing weaknesses.

At first, all I had was my computer's spell checker with it's little explanation to go by. Truth be told, I learned quite a bit from that, but some things were still a mystery.

Passive sentences were my greatest weakness. Not only did I not know what they were exactly, I didn't know how to fix them. Upon occasion I managed to make a few alterations that made my computer happy, but I really didn't know what I was doing. It was more hit and miss than anything else. Now I know what a passive sentence is; it is the action coming before the act-ee in a sentence. When writing fiction especially, we need to know who or what is doing the action first.

Another thing I've done is starting a sentence with 'it'. Not such a huge crime unless 'it' isn't readily identifiable. Nothing pulls your reader out of the story-line faster than having to look up what 'it' was. That also goes for using 'it' in the middle of a sentence. Always make sure 'it' is easily understood or reword your sentence.

Overusing certain words like 'was' and 'that' are another thing I have problems with. I recently heard a recommendation saying if 'was' was on a page more than two or three times, the story risked being dull. Frankly, this one I'm still sorting out. I mean, how do you explain something that took place in the past, without using 'was'? The scene I'm angsting over involved one character telling another character about his past. Information he needs to know. Information I can totally see him asking about, so it's not something I can just leave out. Ah well, we'll see. Maybe an editor can sort it out for me. I really look forward to working with an editor. I hope to learn from the experience.

So that's what I'm doing with much of my time. Word searching for 'that', 'it', the passive sentence markers like 'is', 'are', 'am', 'was', 'were', 'being', 'has been', 'have been', 'had been', 'will be', followed by a past participle. And on top of it all, rather than telling you what the character is feeling, adding thought as a window into their life.

Which of course brings me to my most recent lesson. How to show as opposed to telling by using thought and the visible markers of emotion - tears, shaking hands, blushing, pulsing veins, body language of all sorts, as well as thoughts, to clue us in on how a character is feeling. Watch the people around you. They do all manner of things to broadcast their feelings.

My current project is over a thousand pages and believe it or not but all the above fixes cut words. This book may never be less than a thousand pages - I'd have to cut over a hundred and fifty pages to accomplish that, but it's already a one-piece trilogy so I have high hopes for it.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Out of our past and from our future, one day one will come to us. This one will be both driven and led by she who lights our day. This one can see without seeing and feel without touching. This one can hear what we cannot say and smell our sorrow. This one will touch the heart of us and mend our soul. Then this one will lead us out of our long darkness and back to she who lights our day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Book Doctor

In my search for the people and the knowledge to help me further my writing skill, I have found now two editors who, though untried, are great people. Today I checked out Jason Black's website - Plot to Punctuation - I'd been following him for a while but in truth, I hadn't gotten around to really taking a look until this morning. He offers a variety of editing services I can only drool for, and it's for a fair price, what's great about this is, he will accept a sample and then offer you an honest estimate.

Gotta love honesty in this business. I've had little feedback at all, let alone honest feedback, so today, courtesy of Jason's generosity, I got my very first writing lesson ever, and not only that, it was on 'show vs tell', my nemesis. In fact, he told me he's going to be speaking at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association meeting next week, and get this, he's going to be talking about 'show don't tell'. I wish I could attend, but, sorry folks, he gave me a taste first.

His words: "It's a bugaboo for everyone" and I can believe that.

We all know what emotions feel like, but we can't see them. They are invisible. My telling you how someone feels is 'telling'. So how do you 'show' an emotion? You do so my showing us the reaction to emotion. If a person is sad, what are they doing? If they are angry, what do you see? The people around us show us their emotions all the time, we've just become so accustomed to seeing them that we don't really see them anymore. They are the white noise in our life that fills everything around us and dictates to us how we react to those around us. Your friend is crying, you put your arm around their shoulders. Your brother is throwing a temper tantrum, you maybe leave the room. So here's the stumbling block for writers. Not to tell your readers that your friend is sad, but to let them know that she is crying. Not to tell your readers that your brother is really pissed, but to let them hear his incoherent screams and stamping of feet (or maybe the slamming of a door too, as you leave the room)

Jason gave me a simple assignment.
Character: John, a typical middle-class office worker.
Character: Mary, a girl who dumped him wretchedly in High School, whom John has not seen in 15 years.
Invisible thing: Although John has moved on with his life, deep down he still really hates Mary for what she did.
Challenge: write a scene which allows the reader to infer the invisible thing, the emotion, without ever naming it. That is, don't use the word "hate" anywhere in the scene. Make us understand "hate" without telling us that he feels hatred.

I took like ten minutes and jotted down a quick scene:
My spur of the moment effort:
John walked down the street, whistling the theme song from Star Wars; his intended goal, the coffee shop up the street. Cappuccino mocha with cinnamon on top. Mmmmm he could taste it already, he wanted it so bad. He looked in the window on the way to the door. There she sat. What was she doing there? He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked on by. Suddenly, cappuccino mocha with cinnamon tasted

Yeah, I bombed, but in bombing I learned, and Jason continued to teach. I got John down sorta. Where he was going wasn't important to the big picture. I tried to show that seeing her made going to his favorite coffee shop for his favorite cappuccino was now totally ruined because she had found the place. Nearly totally leaving her out of the story.

So I tried again. I was sorely tempted to move the scene to a more fictional setting because in truth I know nothing of city life and less about what an office worker might do about a years-old bitter breakup. Totally out of my element on all counts. But no, being out of my element wasn't going to change the 'show don't tell' weakness, so I stuck with it.

Effort #2:
John glances up at the clock, then he closes the file and turns to prepare to file it away. A knock sounds at his door. “Come in,” he calls and turns to finish his task. He hears the click of high heels as the visitor comes to stand in front of his desk. He turns, his mouth open with a ready greeting, but as soon as he sees her, he clamps his jaw shut.

“Hello, I was wondering if you could help me find George Michael’s office. I’m afraid I’m a little lost.”

George, the office gossip. “Never heard of him. I’m busy.” He turns away and opens the bottom drawer of his desk. He rummaged through the files there until he hears her heels click out of the room and the door close behind her. With a hiss he rammed the drawer home. He looked at the clock again and then up at the ceiling, never really seeing either of them. Abruptly, he shoves away from his desk, yanks his jacket from the coat hook and strides from the office, slamming the door in his wake.

The change of scene didn't help. This effort failed even worse than before. Here, there was no connection what-so-ever between John and the woman who entered the office. Who was she, who knows. Why was John pissed, coulda been anything. Maybe he was just a total jerk.

Then Jason pointed out something - yet another one of my weaknesses. Two of my stories involve main characters who either can't talk or simply don't have anyone to talk to - you know the kind, the professional wall-flower. 'Showing' in a story without talking is really very hard. But just because they aren't talking doesn't mean they're not thinking. So guess what guys, thoughts are on the way, at least for those two characters - and for others too.

Back to my lesson - Jason took me back to the coffeehouse and showed me how it should have been done:
John froze as he caught a glimpse of a woman outside the Starbucks.
'Mary?' John wondered, as she slipped out of sight. 'Oh my God, that really WAS her.' He took a sip of his latte but tasted only bile. He dropped his newspaper on the table and chucked his half-full cup in the trash. 'Dammit. Now I have to find a new Starbucks.'

John grabbed his briefcase and made for the door, waving one more time to the cute barista with the ponytail. "Nice knowing you."

That covered it all. We know who she is. We know how he feels about her. And we can feel his disgust and anger, and we know it was directed at Mary, blaming her for his having to find a new coffee shop. All the whys and wherefores aren't important to this scene - the emotion - the invisible - was what we were after.

Sigh - can I do it? I'm going to give it my best shot. I love a challenge.

I've subscribed to Jason's blog. It is full of tips and tricks about character development, among other things. Jason has been blogging for 2 years now. It'll take me weeks to read everything he posted, but it will be a ready research resource for years to come.

Thanks so much for being in my world, Jason

Friday, September 10, 2010

When Love does the Dressing with Magic - from THE MAKING OF A MAGE KING

“You still have to get me something to wear. I’m not wearing that red dress to go visit a bunch of female starved, bush crawlers.”

“Bush crawlers? First they were my troops; now their bush crawlers.”

“They are still female starved, what do you want to bet? Besides, it’s cold.”

Sean made the blankets disappear and Aaunika squeaked again. “What do you want to wear?”

“I’ll be wearing a dress, thank you very much, but it needs to be far more practical than that hussy-dress. I am going to be riding a horse, after all.”

“I like that hussy-dress. I hope you don’t lose it. I hope you wear it for me - often.” He watched, grinning, as she stood up and pulled on her slip. “I don’t know anything about dresses,” he said. “Tell me what you want. Describe it and I’ll make it for you.”

“Well let’s see; it’s cold, but the sun might be bright and I don’t want to get sunburned; I don’t like red very much.” She jumped and squeaked again. Royal blue velvet crept across her shoulders and caressed her neck under his hands. Soft white satin reached up and brushed her cheek. Blue velvet crept down her arms with a wide white streak of white satin down the outside. The blue velvet touched and held together at a point midway between her shoulder and elbow, then again, midway between her elbow and her wrist then the white satin flowed out over the back of her hand, stopping before it could get in the way of her fingers. The bodice flowed down leaving the neckline dangerously low like the red dress, but the delicate skin was protected by more soft white satin. The skirt flowed down in soft folds that weren’t nearly as full as the red dress; instead, they were divided for riding. Underneath, unseen by any eye, white satin touched every inch of her legs and soft leather boots grew up to her knees. He completed her look with a silver necklace that held a gem identical to the one she made for him to put on his armor except that it was the size of his thumb and nestled just under the hollow of her throat, only just visible amongst the satin.

Sean pulled his hands away reluctantly. Every inch of satin rested against skin he longed to touch. “What do you think?” he asked, huskily. “I’ll take it all off again if you don’t like it.” If he took it off, he’d take her right back to bed in a heartbeat and to hell with riding the patrol.

“You said you didn’t know anything about dresses,” she said, grinning. “This is wonderful. What kind of cloth is it? I’ve never seen anything like it before. I like it.” She did a graceful turn to show it off for him. “It’s beautiful.” She swept up to him and pulled him down to kiss him. “Thank you,” she said. “Now you.”

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Over the next few days, the celebration continued seemingly without any end in sight, until one day it all came to a halt as everyone stopped whatever they were doing and watched an approaching war party as they thundered over the northeastern horizon toward them. There were only about fifty of them, and as they drew closer, it became apparent that they had ridden hard to get here. They halted a couple hundred yards away, and one man rode forward alone and turned sideways, almost as if he desired to put himself on display. Like all the men seemed to be in these northern districts, this man was also big, though not nearly so massive as Bull. And instead of the prevalent blond or red hair, his hair was about as black as possible.

Harris grabbed a nearby horse and moved to take up a position much like the other’s. As he moved beyond the perimeter of the fairgrounds, Greathorn called out to him, “This may be your challenge, Thunder Rider! Are you ready for it?”

Harris spotted him standing on the front edge of the crowd and saluted him briefly before riding forward. Saarloq and Juan moved to accompany him, but Harris halted them.

“No, this time I think you should remain here.” He didn’t linger to decipher the expressions on their faces. He felt strange enough riding out alone. He rode out until the other’s voice stopped him about a hundred feet away.

“I am Raven Hawk. I challenge you. I have waited all winter for you to come.”

“You challenge me, for what?” Harris called back with as much arrogance as the other. He knew he could not afford to appear intimidated here.

“If I win, you die. If you win, I die. What happens after will not matter to the dead,” said Raven, speaking sharply.

“You challenge me for the right to die? I have no wish to die, nor do I wish to kill you, and what happens after matters a great deal to me,” retorted Harris. “If I die, all I have tried to rebuild will crumble again, and more people like Kain will come. If you die, I will lose a great warrior and leader, and I have so few.”

“You call me a great warrior and leader? You do not know me; you assume a lot for a small man.”

“I don’t think so,” said Harris. “I look at you, your men and your horses, and I see that you have made only one mistake today. But I will accept your challenge, as long as it is not to the death.”

“Are you a coward, that you are afraid to die?” yelled Raven with derision, trying to goad Harris.

Jon rode out just then. He had no shirt on and he rode bareback. It was so obvious he was no threat, no one moved to intercept him. He stopped halfway between the two parties and shouted his support. “He’s not afraid. He’s a ruler, and must consider more things than just personal gratification.” Raven stiffened with indignation. Jon continued quickly, “Do not take offense, Lord Raven Hawk. Our training is the same. He also seeks to preserve your life.”

Raven was incredulous; he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you trying to tell me I have no chance?”

Harris spoke up again in an effort to maintain peace. “Raven Hawk, come, share a cup of mead with me and rest yourself and your men. If you still want to challenge me tomorrow, I will accept whatever terms you want.”

Raven was further confused. “You would share a cup with me, knowing that I came here intending to kill you?”

“It is still my hope that this can still be avoided, but yes, I will share a cup with you,” said Harris. “You have ridden hard. You, your men and your horses are winded. If you truly want to fight me, or anyone, you should be rested and at your best. Plus, if you accept my offer, we are both safe, at least until tomorrow.”

As Raven paused to consider his words, another man rode up from his ranks. He was younger and also had black hair. Harris figured he was probably Raven’s younger brother. “It’s a trap, Raven. If you go into their camp, you will never come out. Someone will slit your throat for you, or the cup will be poisoned.”

Bull called out from where he stood, “You wouldn’t insult the hospitality of a king, would you?”

Raven growled, and hearing it, Harris dismounted. He handed his reins to Jon and waved him back to the crowd. “Have your men set up camp right over there.” He said to Raven and pointed to an area a short distance away near a small pond. “You and I shall share a fire right here until tomorrow. We can share some food and drink, and some good conversation.”

Raven dismounted also and handed his horse to his brother, who retreated to the indicated campsite with the rest. “I don’t trust you,” he said as he stood there.

“I can see that,” replied Harris, he too just stood there.

A woman approached carrying firewood and started a small fire. When she had finished, another approached and set a tray containing a jug and some cups beside the fire. After she retreated, another came with a tray laden with food of all sorts, and after her, the first returned with another armload of firewood. With her came a girl with pads to sit on and blankets to wrap around their shoulders. The preparations complete, everyone withdrew to their home fires to wait quietly for morning.

It was only shortly after midday, but a casual observer might think everyone was either preparing for the evening meal or a funeral. All those gathered there believed that the dawning light would bring a funeral. No one could see a way out of the challenge that wouldn’t somehow demean one or the other. So, with a funeral on the horizon, no one felt much like celebrating anymore.

Harris and Raven stood silently across the fire from each other until everyone else had settled down and everything was quiet. Then Harris stepped forward, sat down on the pad by the fire, poured himself a drink from the jug, and waited for Raven to settle also. When he did, Harris handed him the cup from which he had been drinking. “My mother killed my father with poison and then left him to rot. I have no sympathy for a poisoner.”

Raven accepted the cup and drank. “Did you put her to death?”

“I didn’t get the chance. She was pregnant, so I waited until the baby was born. She died in childbirth.”

Raven felt that he learned a lot from this small exchange, so he grew more comfortable, no longer worried about poison or any other underhanded treachery.

They ate, drank and talked until the sun once more began to lighten the sky in the east. The only subject not spoken of was the coming challenge. Raven discovered he liked and respected this man, and regretted ever uttering the challenge, but the custom was too ingrained into their society even to consider backing out.

They paired off under the dawning sky. They ordered the sentries to say nothing of their movements, so the camps were alerted only when the clashes of their swords woke them.

The people all gathered, but no one pressed close; this was not a boxing match for spectators who cheered their favorite and kept them within a ring of bodies. Everyone watched from whatever vantage point they could find, and they watched in silence. This fight would cause a loss, and that loss would be far greater than the loss of just one man; no one could bring himself to cheer for either side because of it.

When Harris’s sword snaked past Raven’s defense, he spoke. “Understand; I will not kill you.” Then he laid a cut across Raven’s chest right above his heart cutting the back of his guarding hand in the process.

Raven did not reply, but his teacher’s words came to mind: “If you do not attack, your defense is weakened by at least half, and you must then retreat to make up for the weakness.” So he pressed his attack twice as hard, only to discover that, even though Harris did not attack, his defense was impeccable, and every time he extended to penetrate it, Harris’s sword dealt him another cut.

After a dozen or more such cuts, Raven backed up for a breath. “Do not toy with me,” he hissed. “I cannot walk away from this fight defeated.”

“Yes you can, and we would all benefit for it,” returned Harris.

“No, I can’t,” insisted Raven. “This was a challenge to the death. If I walked away defeated, my own people would set upon me and kill me.”

“They wouldn’t dare. To attack you for that reason would be an attack against me.”

“They would, either now or later, but they would.” He gave Harris no further time to consider alternatives before pressing his attack again; then he noticed the strange expression of defeat and profound regret on Harris’s face. At the same time, he saw the glint of white through the hair that covered Harris’s forehead, and then a fire lit up his chest. He looked down to see Harris’s sword buried there. He looked up again to tell Harris that it had been an awesome fight, but he had no breath for the words. Finding suddenly that he had so many things he wanted to say to this man, he grew frustrated at not being able to draw even enough breath to say farewell. Then he found himself looking up at the sky without memory of how he got there.

Sholeh reached their side in time to see that Raven was still aware. “Harris. Harris!” She got his attention. “Remove your sword - and pray. There still may be time.”

So he did just that, and there were many now close enough to hear. He knelt upon one knee and grasped the hilt of his sword with both hands. “Mother, please protect him and guide him to Your side if You must. But Mother, please . . . I need him. Allow him to serve me for a time yet.” Then he pulled the sword out and stepped aside.

Raven watched all this from the other side of a barrier of numbness, and he marveled that his opponent would pray that he survive such a fatal blow, but what held his attention most was the elegant woman who approached, unnoticed by anyone, to stand behind Harris and rest a hand on his shoulder. When Harris took his sword and moved away, she took his place and spoke to him in a soft voice reminiscent of the spring breeze. “I have provided many servants for him to do my work, but he needs many more, so I will give you to him as well. Serve him well.” She laid her hand over the cut in his chest and Raven gasped a ragged breath and fainted as the numbing buffer melted away, leaving him to struggle briefly with the pain.

Raven’s brother, Black Bear, was standing close when his brother fainted, and he believed Raven was now dead. The laws dictated that he must now swear allegiance to this man, but he had loved his brother very much and was loath to serve the man who had killed him, regardless of what the custom dictated. Even though it looked like Harris truly regretted what he had done, Black Bear could not bring himself to trust him, and he vowed that - though he would not incite any open conflict - he would not be one to capitulate either.

Everyone was surprised when Sholeh announced. “He lives. I need a campfire, water and my medicine pouch from my tent. Now!”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Harnessing Cason - from THE MYSTERY OF PLANET WER

The next morning dawned late because yesterday’s clouds had gathered in force during the night and promised rain, but that didn’t bother Robin; she was determined not to be a sheltered princess again, she was out with the first of them trying to learn about this harnessing business and the animals involved with it.

The first thing she did was walk up to one of the big cason and make her acquaintance the only way she could. Unknown to her, she happened to pick the most intolerant one in the bunch. When Frank noticed her feeling the beast all over from its heavy cat-shaped face that sported massive drooping horns, to its tailless backside; then from its wide back, down to each of its six, eighteen inch wide, six-clawed feet, he had to remind himself to remain calm as he moved to call her out of harm’s way. “Miss Robin, would you come with me please,” he said as he attempted to guide her clear.

“Oh, hello Frank,” she said cheerfully and gave the huge beast a hug around a neck she had no hope of reaching around. She whispered something into its ponderous ear that was almost as long as her entire arm.

Frank froze, he had visions of this cantankerous beast sweeping her off her feet with that huge head, then stepping on her, or kicking her aside in a bloody heap. But instead, it lowered its head and gently rubbed its nose against her, showing much more affection than Frank had ever seen; it looked like it was being extra careful of the fragile creature standing so close.

She stepped away and turned to Frank. “You wanted me for something, Frank.”

“Sorry miss, but cason can be very dangerous, and that one has always been particularly cantankerous. You were in danger.”

Friday, August 20, 2010


They always get found, the kids who can do magic. Everyone says so. They always get found. But Billy was good at hiding; he always had been though he didn’t know why. Maybe it was the saying “they always get found” that spurred him to be good at hiding. He wasn’t going to be found, not unless he wanted to be.

Billy wasn’t hiding now, not yet. All the kids were being taken somewhere else tonight. They were all walking, holding hands with a friend in the dark or riding a tricycle or pushing a bike or walking alone. There was a grownup here and there but Billy could only see one ahead of him in the dark.

He looked up; clouds were rolling in fast looking like dirty cotton balls in the night sky, but that wasn’t what frightened him. Up there, was four moons that he could see - all lined up like marbles, but they were close. The first one - the one most directly overhead - looked like a platter on a dark blue place-mat. He reached up and used his fingers to measure. The platter was as broad as half the moon was wide. The next moon had a noticeably narrower platter, as did the next one probably; it was difficult to tell with that one because the clouds were crowding it. The fourth one though . . . . He watched it closest of all. Just before the clouds covered it from sight entirely, he saw the blue platter rush to the center of the moon, generating more clouds in its hurry, and then it huffed all that air toward the earth, aiming somewhere far below the horizon behind him.

He pulled at the sleeve of a girl that walked near him. “We have only one moon you know.”

She looked at him and then at the cloudy sky. “Of course. What are you talking about, Billy?”

Billy looked up again. The clouds covered everything now.

He turned around and started to walk back.

‘They always get found.’

He passed the grownup that was bringing up the rear. “I forgot my coat. I’m cold. I’m going to go get it. I’ll be right back.”

“Well, hurry up or you’ll be late,” said Mrs. Wilson.

Billy started to run

‘They always get found.’

He ran back to the now dark buildings where he and all the others had lived for the last two years, but he didn’t go to his room - he went to his stash. A box of wood chips and a heavy black quilt he’d altered so that he could wear it like a cloak.

‘They always get found.’

It was easier to wear it like a cloak than it was to carry it.

‘They always get found.'

Well, he wasn’t going to be easy to find. Not until he wanted to be found. He ran to a place he’d found months and months ago. It was cold and snow had blown to cover much of it but very little was inside. It would be perfect for now; no one would think to look here - surely, it was too small for anyone to hide in.

A plane flew over just as he was pulling himself into his hole, heading toward where his classmates were going. With a chip of wood in his hand, Billy pointed up with his finger and like he was shooting a make-believe gun “pisu,” he whispered and the plane vanished in a ball of flame. He dusted the ash off his hands and coiled back into his hole.

Yeah, maybe they’d find him, but he wasn’t going to make it easy for them.