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...