Thursday, December 31, 2009

This day is all about new years' resolutions. I've written a song where I said I wasn't planning on any more, but they aren't necessarily a bad thing if they are manageable and you stick with them.

So here's one for my stack, and it's bubbling up to the top:

I'm resolving to spend more time on Faith, Home, and Family this coming year, so I'll be taking a sabbatical from Social Networking sites for most of the year. I'm on many and they can suck your time away if you let them.

Inevitably, the family suffers when you spend too much time connecting with the thousands of friends you have online. And so, I bid you adieu, with a song that strikes me as appropriate, one I wrote this month for my book 'The Blue Door', which I am currently reading to my wonderful kids...

What foundation are the homes that we build for our families based on? Is it the shifting sands of this passing world, or the solid rock?

Do we build a home where our kids feel welcome? One they'd want to return to if they were ever in trouble? Build up your home as a warm and welcome place, a place that is a shelter from the storms of life.

The Robin and the Jay

Oh, the robin sung sweetly as she feathered her nest
With the soft down that came from the robin's red breast
And she built her home strong, for the eggs that were coming
As the winter snow thawed and the stream started running.

Twas a home built with care for a love meant to share
As the soft songs of Spring filled the sweet morning air
And the rains, they came down, and the wind whipped around
But the nest in the tree stood there, snug, safe, and sound

Are the homes that we build made of wood, hay, and stubble?
Are there gold and bright gems in the midst of the rubble?
Will our children remember, wherever they roam
That there'll always be a place to come home?

Oh, the bluejay came late to the wood in the glen
When the winter storms pased, with the Spring setting in
With a nest thrown together, and nary a feather
Unaware of the wind and the oncoming weather

Twas a home built in haste, and the jay, as she raced
Could not see the dark clouds that would soon lay to waste
All her efforts begun on a home for her young
As the storm cast her home in the dirt and the dung

Are the homes that we build made of wood, hay, and stubble?
Are there gold and bright gems in the midst of the rubble?
Will our children remember, wherever they roam
That there'll always be a place to come home?

Are the homes that we build made of wood, hay, and stubble?
Are there gold and bright gems in the midst of the rubble?
Will our children remember, wherever they roam
That there'll always be a place to come home?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pantser or Plodder?

Question for you Today:

Are you a 'Pantser' - a person who writes their books by the 'seat of their pants', or do you 'Plot' out your story?

If you plot it out, how much detail do you go into on your novel before you write the first actual word of your story?
Do you outline the entire story, or just a start, an end, a conflict, and the basic parts of the story?
Do you ouline each chapter, the contents of it, what each character does?
Do you use the 'Snowflake' Method?

If you are a 'Pantser', how do you guide your story and keep from writing your characters into a situation they cannot get out of?

What arguments can you give in support of whichever method you choose, or do you fall somewhere in the middle?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rose-Colored Glasses

If you've read the news recently, you probably are running scared, buying gold, stocking up on ammunition and building a fallout shelter in your garage.

With multiple new countries developing nuclear bombs, our own country (and the world's) finances in a mess, unemployment running into the double-digits, and Lindsey Lohan seeking treatment for alcoholism again, it's no wonder we're depressed, recessed, obsessed, and opppressed.

But God isn't asking us to look at the storm around us, through the eyes of panic and despair. He wants His children to remember that He is in control, and that none of this is taking Him by surprise.

While I'm nearing the final chapters of my new novel, I thought I'd share a song with you that has come out of this story - a song based on the following verse:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Phil 4:8

If we actually see the world through those 'rose-colored glasses' that some people ridicule, we'll be much happier, and find the positive side of life, and see the Lord's hand at work all around us...

Click here to listen to the song.

Rose-Colored Glasses

This world is a mess, there is pain and despair
And there isn't a glimmer of hope in the air
But you'll be so much happier, freer of care
When looking through rose-colored glasses.

In this world there is trouble, and sorrow, and dying
And much of our time seems all tied up in crying
But life would be better when laughing and sighing
So look through those rose-colored glasses.

These magical glasses of rose-colored hue
Will help heal the heart of the saddest of you
For you'll see all that's right, and lovely and true
With these magical, the magical rose-colored glasses.

So when you feel troubled, and tempted to bawl
Just put on a pair; see the good in us all
And if someone you know just gave up on it all,
Just hand them some rose-colored glasses.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finished... But Not!?

Okay, today I passed the 50,000 word mark on the NaNoWriMo meter. The little bar turned green, and I did the happy dance! The many hours of slamming words to the keyboard, the late nights, the early morning writing hours stoked by gallons of coffee... It's all over! ...??

But, the novel isn't finished yet. Not by a long shot. The Ranger, whose pet myna is really a Court Jester (Or is that, the ranger doubles as a court jester and the myna (named Jester) is just part of his act...) has just captured the handsome thief...

...who turns out to be the self-sacrificing hero who is going to save the kingdom from a dastardly plot.

The family is protecting the hero (and not just because one of the characters has a crush on him) and they are developing a complicated plan to rescue Dad and Granddad from the clutches of the evil baron.

The evil ex-colleague, Professor Pilfer, is stuck in the alternate dimension with two thugs and is out to steal their only way home.

I certainly can't leave it there. Who will save the thief from the ranger? Who will rescue the Dad in the dungeon? Who will foil the various nefarious schemes? Who will save them all from the inane songs of the myna bird?

Could it be... King Author? ;-)

And so, the Nano will continue. I already know what the dramatic conclusion is to the story, but the dear reader won't, not unless I sally forth and assault the pages (and perhaps the baron's castle!) with many more mere words of wit and wisdom.

Not to mention at least another wonderful song or two from Jester, the pet myna.

So, onward and upward, but HURRAY and HUZZAH! I have passed the Mystic Milestone with my sanity somewhat... intact...

Oops, got an idea, better go write it down! See ya on the other side!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo Has begun

So, it's the start of NaNoWriMo again.

Time for frantically slamming fingers to keyboard in the attempt to get 50,000 words written within a short month.

I've had to put my fourth (and final) novel in my first series aside so I could prepare for Book 1 of my new series.

Many people suggested that Nanowrimo is supposed to be just 'writing without limits'. No real plot or direction to speak of.

But I decided that I needed to start with a plot, an outline, character sketches, even down to what actions will be taken by who in each chapter.

By the outline, I have about 30 chapters to write, with I expect 100,000 words in the book.

So. I'm going to measure myself against 100,000 and see how it goes. Maybe I'll make it to the end of the book, maybe not.

But one thing's clear - I'll be posting very infrequently here for the next month, because most of my literary words will be typed into a Word document about a Blue Metal Door, and the world through it...

And, for all of you doing NaNoWriMo, Good luck with your new masterpieces!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dealing With Rejection

Sent out my first Query letter for my first novel, the one I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. I've edited it 4 times through, and had it critiqued a couple times. I was pretty sure the story had a glow of its own.

I've got to hand it to the Agent. The email submission I sent was after hours and yet, the agent got back to me in less than 30 minutes with a form rejection email.

I've got mixed feelings about that. Disappointed that my submission was rejected, but grateful for the agent's quick reply.

I know that if I sent a request in and it took six months to get a rejection letter, that would be six additional months before I could send my story on to the next agent. (This is assuming I got a rejection letter at all - Some agencies state that if you don't hear from them in 6 weeks, they aren't interested. I guess that means, 'No News is BAD News').

Rejection is definitely a part of life for an aspiring author such as myself, so it's something I'd better develop a thick skin for, because I'll see a lot of it, most probably, before someone picks up my book and runs with it.

A form rejection really doesn't give me much to go on. This is unfortunate, but it's what most authors have to deal with EVERY time they get a reject. As Rachelle Gardner's Blog states in one of her posts, a form reject is almost ALL an agent has time to send out.

According to Rachelle's Blog, the agent's time is mainly spent tending to the needs of writers currently on their client list - sending out queries for their novel, researching publisher fits, matching requests from publishers with novels they currently are marketing, I suspect much like headhunters do in the business community when employers ask for a worker that fits certain requirements.

Many agents must spend their 'after' hours reading over manuscripts to see if they are gripping, compelling, and well-written. Their initial contact with a writer (the Query Letter) is in a stack a mile high, and they sort through the stack looking for a little gem in the pile of rocks.

This isn't to say that your manuscript is one of the 'rocks', but it might not be a gem to them.

After all, according to the 2009 Writers Market, the MAJOR publishers produce only 100-200 books a year. But agents are inundated with thousands of ms a month.

So, if your query letter isn't stellar, you'll probably not get a request for a partial.

But when faced with the inevitable rejection letter, the BEST thing an author can do is realize that this rejection is NOT a rejection of you as a person, or even of you as an author. Or, for that matter, even your ms as a viable sellable book.

So, I'll be re-examining my polished ms for some spots on it, create a cleaner Query letter (no, I didn't even get it critiqued, so I probably had that coming to me anyway) and send my query out to the next agent on my list.

Meanwhile, as NaNoWriMo approaches in just a day or two, I'll be continuing to write. Which is what you should do too, when you face a Rejection Letter - Send your query on to the next agent, and keep writing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Choosing your words carefully

As a writer I find often that words flow out of me like a stream of water, rapid and refreshing. When I read back over the prose I pen, however, and consider the readers who will be enjoying my novels, I wonder how many of the words in my vocabulary as a 46 year-old engineer will be grasped by the 12-25 year-olds who will be reading them.

I'm encouraged by many writing blogs, books, and literary sources, to consider the vocabulary of the reader, and filter my words to reach their level (or below).

Counterwighting this is the knowledge that as we 'dumb down' our vocabulary for the reader, we inadvertently do them a disservice. Because we don't consider that these novels we write are the very sources many young people will use to expand their vocabularies.

Allow me to explain.

As a young boy, at the tender age of ten, I was devouring books by authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Andre Norton, Piers Anthony, Larry Niven, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein.

I was not studying books like The Dictionary. Or the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Call me an escapist, or a Walter Mitty.

But reading a big book of words in order to expand my stockpile of terms was just a waste of precious time, when I could be hidden in an apple barrel listening to Long John Silver planning to take over the ship. Or racing across the ochre moss of Mars with John Carter to save his precious Dejah Thoris. Or discovering new worlds with the half ship's cat, half ??? named Eet, in search of the Zero Stone.

No, my vocabulary came vicariously, through my exposure to these books i enjoyed so much.

Often, a term would roll out I didn't know, and I would consider the context, and learn a new word in the process. Did I look up the word in the Dictionary? Infrequently, but yes. More often, I reasoned out the word on my own. I was usually right, but not always. I didn't let these short hiccups stop me from enjoying a good read. I used it to expand my horizons.

I believe we must balance this desire to expand the reader's vocabulary with a healthy dose of realism - the average reader will quit if they have to check much more than a few words in the dictionary. I know I would have. But, we shouldn't expect the reader to simply check their brains at the door, either.

How do YOU find this balance as a writer? Do you write your novel in your own words, then do a Word check for reading level, and adjust as needed? Do you adjust it for the average reader at all, or risk alienating them?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fantasy and the Real World

The writing of fantasy usually involves fantastic realms where dragons, fairies, wizards, and magic exist, and where the usual physical rules of the universe do not necessarily apply.

There is rarely any explanation of how any of this magic works or why. The reader is expected (and usually willing) to suspend his or her disbelief in the joy of a good story.

Often, the writer is encouraged to keep the fantastic of the story separate from the mundane, real world we live in. After all, those things don't happen in the world we live in.

Keeping it real, or Keeping it Imaginary
A writer feels more comfortable writing about things he or she knows about. Because of the risks of jarring a reader out of the story when something in the real world doesn't mesh with the reader's knowledge of that world, the writer takes the safe road of sticking to what they know, or avoiding the real world altogether.

But there is an entire real world out there that we can experience, and as writers, we can expand our horizons by visiting those areas, or researching them in the library or online, before writing about those areas of the world.

Many fantasy stories I've read begin in the real world, then an occurence, an accident, a planned invasion, a wormhole in space, a warp in time and dimension, leads the protagonis into a world where they are desperately needed, incredibly powerful, or perhaps basically ignored until their character blossoms and they begin to guide their own destiny. (At least, to their own perspective).

Other stories I have read bridge the gap between real and imaginary at points within the book (or movie, for that matter, like in Disney's Enchanted)

Question for you:
So, have any of you myriad fantasy writers out there ever had the experience of researching another area of the world, the real world, in a story you've penned?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dreams and novels

I wonder how many authors get their best ideas for novels while they sleep. When the brain shuts down into deep mode, is it possible that things slow down enough that the 'back office' portion of the brain has a chance to process the cogitations of the day and complete the threads of the stories we've been agonizing over?

I know that, for me, many of my best songs have been penned upon waking up, in the early morning hours, when the sun is on the rise...

Also, my best ideas for stories so far have come from dreams. Sometimes dreams based on one small event of the day - For example, a story I'll be working on for NaNoWriMo this year is based upon a dream I had, after pondering on a bright blue door on a house a mile south of my home.

I've looked at that door as I drove down the quiet street, and thought that it was the single most bizarre thing on my drive. Brilliant blue, the azure of a rain-swept sky, and the only thing particularly colorful on an otherwise rather mundane home.

A door to adventure. A portal to danger and discovery.

Doors are curious things. They let things out. And they let things in.

More on the door when I get that story written, hopefully by the end of November.

But I digress. The basic thrust of this is that after a night of dreaming about that door and the very large crows congregated on the lawn nearby talking in muttering tones, I had the basis for an entire series of books.

I wonder how many authors get their best ideas in dreams?

Monday, April 20, 2009


When working on a New World, sometimes it's nice to know the lay of the land.

And if you're going there, it's usually nice to have a map.

So here's a sketch of Lynvia, such as Kyne was examining in the throne room just the other day, before heading on a Quest to the Dragon Graveyard.

There are many places on the map that have not been mentioned yet, even in the two novels completed so far.

These are areas for further development later. And there are places NOT on the map that figure heavily in Book Three.