Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review - DragonSpell by Donita K. Paul

DragonSpell (DragonKeeper Chronicles, #1)DragonSpell by Donita K. Paul

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DragonSpell is a gripping novel of a slave's journey to liberation and purpose.

Kale Allerion is a slave girl who has just been freed to serve the Kingdom as a Finder of Dragon Eggs. Her talent for finding them leads her into trouble of all sorts, and this talent is critical to foil the plans of an evil wizard.

In DragonSpell you will meet good and evil races and species of many kinds, each fully dimensional. Kale's travelling companions do their best to guide her on her quest, but in the end it is up to Kale and her dependence on Wulder and Paladin to save Amara.

This book is the start of a great fantasy series worthy to be compared with Lord of the Rings and Narnia. Magic, wizards, dragons, fairies, are all interwoven believably in this world of Ms. Paul's imagining. Christian allegories are easily evident but this book would be an interesting and entertaining read for a non-Christian as well.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

Hello all,

I'm currently gearing up for NaNoWriMo, while putting the finishing touches on a submission to a small publisher for my first book series.

So I've been very busy, and that may account for the sad lack of posts here over the past month.

But I have a Question for You:

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Do you even know what it is?

Here's a quick synopsis of the story I'm outlining for this next month's writing frenzy:

The Green Door

Anne's brilliant grandfather Professor Tom Shakleman is building a dimension door to get his family home. But something is wrong with his calculations. This new door leads them, not back to Earth, but to a dimension where humans live in small villages and every outsider is an enemy to kill.

If that weren't enough to chill the blood of a fearful young adult, Toxins released into the atmosphere decades ago killed off everyone not living in the mountainous regions. As the toxins dissipated, however, an unexpected side-effect made descending into the valleys more deadly than the toxins - the plantlife has become sentient. And it's not happy.

Tell me what you think, and if you'll join with me in writing 50,000 words of a novel next month in November!


Friday, October 1, 2010

ACFW Conference Experience

For those of you interested, I went to the annual American Christian Fiction Writers' Conference in Indianapolis last week.

It was an experience I will never forget, I assure you, in many ways.

First, let me tell you that hauling 3 of my kids and wife along in a van that was older than dirt was amazingly memorable. That may very well be the last long trip the old Awana Bus makes. It certainly growled its frustration from Memphis to Indianapolis, punishing us at least part of the way with no air-conditioning.

It has a slow leak somewhere in the cooling system, probably where the freon runs through the tires. I charged up the system with cool before we left Memphis, using 7 cans of freon/sealer. I only found out later that it was only supposed to hold maybe 3 cans. I think it managed to cram the other four cans in it's tires or something.

Also found out later that you are supposed to use ONE can of sealer, and TWO cans of freon. Could be that's why the van made noises like a family of Rhesus monkeys whenever I turned the air on. After manually turning the compressor over a few times, though, the glue broke free and we had some cool air.

Once we got to Indianapolis, we drove under this thing called the Arts Garden. During the day, it's a beautiful and tranquil garden with trees growing above the streets, and nests of sparrows flitting around and finding people to bother, filled with classical music and happy artsy people relaxing while cars rush by under them. For some reason this doesn't seem to bother them.

During the night, however, from the underside, this thing is a petrifying Mothership sent to capture Jimmy Neutron's parents and force them to do the chicken dance. I nearly wrecked while driving under this neon vortex of terror. Our tranquil Embassy Suites was positioned just on the other side. Like coming to a peaceful backwater after shooting the Ocoee in a barrel. A big white squealing barrel.

We found a place to park in the garage, nearly scraping the roof off our 6'4" van, and hauled our luggage up to the front desk. It was 10:45pm.

Fifteen minutes later we crashed into our room, exhausted, on the 10th floor. The clock said 12:00 midnight. We thought it wasn't set. No, we'd lost an hour in Timezone transfer somewhere in lower Indiana.

Dragged ourselves out of bed at 7am so I could make it to the 'Early Bird Special' with James Scott Bell. Took this picture of my boys sleeping in their bed. You can see who gets all the room.

At the Early Bird Session, I got James to sign his book, Plot and Structure, which I'd brought along with me to read while driving. Er, I mean, to study when I had some time free. (I didn't get ANY time free).

It's a good book to read, if you are a Writer. Many many good ideas in it. He shared a lot of those in the Early Bird session, along with many other great ideas for making your plots sizzle and hook your readers.

Sat during his class with Linda Yezak, writer and editor for Port Yonder Press. We managed to snatch a few moments of conversation during breaks. At one of them she locked eyes on me and said 'Pitch your novel!' I pitched her my Lynvia novel. Linda is a buddy of mine from and we've both been participating in some blog chains from there with many other talented writers.

She thought my novel was a great idea. She nabbed my lovely onesheet (I'll include a picture of it here for you to enjoy...)

After the session I met with Jill Williamson, new Christian Speculative author and Christy Award winner for her novel By Darkness Hid. She was with a group of authors from Novelteen, and we all went to lunch together with my family. Here's a picture of us eating lunch together. Foreground left is my wife Rebecca, and three of my kids, on the far side of the table left to right is Susan Lyttek, Jill Williamson, Peggy Wirsau, Adam Weisenburger, Diane L. Sharples, and Christopher Miles Kolmorgen. A name to watch.

Back to the Conference for the opening ceremony, Addresses, and some worship. Has a decent P&W band singing some well-known Chris Tomlin and David Crowder Band.

That night, I had dinner with a few of my ChristianWriters buddies - here's a photo of me, Linda Yezak, and Becky Minor, another name to watch.

Then it was back home to the hotel to crash. There was a late nite session I was too pooped to attend. It was already a late nite for me...

So, I read some of Donita K Paul's DragonSpell to the kids, and crashed. About 12am, I was awakened by the sound of my five year-old emptying his dinner all over the bed. I didn't take a picture, I didn't need to. I'll never forget the way it looked, and it's not something you can un-see.

We called the hotel staff, who rolled right up and took the bedding away, remade the bed quietly and quickly, and were gone again inside 5 minutes. Oh yeah we tipped them. It wasn't a job I would have wanted, and I was busy introducing Johnny to his new friend Ralph in the porcelain pagoda.

Johnny cried a bit as he watched the last of his dinner go down the tube. Then he crawled back into bed, just wanting to get some sleep. We turned out the lights, and ten minutes later I heard him getting ready to heave again. I took him back to the restroom and stayed with him for a few minutes, then laid out some towels on the floor for him and told him he'd have to spend the night there. He wasn't happy.

Rebecca spent most of the night watching him while I slept, and we traded off about 4:30am. When norning came, I showered and headed to the Conference again, exhausted and NOT ready for a 15-minute session with Jeff Gerke.

Jeff is the editor of Marcher Lord Press, a small press and the de-facto Christian Speculative publisher. He's very personable and tried to put me at ease, but after I handed him my OneSheet, I choked up on the pitch, and he had to help me finish it.

I was so nervous I nearly threw up on him. I don't think he would have been quite as friendly after that...

I headed to my Continuing Education class with Jim and Tracie Peterson, on Basic Basics, or the intro-level class on how to craft a good novel. We've all got room to improve there, I'm sure. I took copious notes and got a lot of good info out of the class. I also enjoyed the banter between Jim and Tracie.

At lunch I sat with Jim and Tracie and James Scott Bell. I had no idea these folks went so far back, but it was great watching Jim and Jim joke back and forth. Also at the table was a great guy named Darren, who also writes Speculative, and Omar Campos, another Spec-Fic author who hails from Puerto Rico. I expect to see his cyborg novel published in the next few years. It sounds like an interesting read.

After lunch I headed to a class by Jill Williamson on Creating a believable SFF Story World. She led us through the process she took creating the world for her Christy Award-winning book By Darkness Hid.

Jill had put a great deal of thought and detail into her world, doing historical research, crafting unique weapons and armor for her world, coats of arms, maps of towns and country, and the imports/exports, dress, and behaviours of the peoples in her world.

The bottom-line lesson was that detail of the world, when crafted well into a book or series, makes the experience so much more real to the reader. It's one of the things that made Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series so popular.

From there I went to a class on writing Historical Fiction. It was good, but the projector screen didn't display the text correctly so we just listened to the presentation. Later the teachers emailed the powerpoint, which had lots of useful links.

Saturday night, I had dinner at Weber Grill with all my friends from Here's a picture of us at dinner, sans me.

That night, we finally got some sleep. I skipped out on the second 'Late Night' session because I'd already had all the 'Late Night' sessions I could stomach. Pardon the pun.

Sunday, it was back with Jim and Tracie for more Basics. Jim took the floor and covered a lot about Historical Fiction, and gave some more good resources for finding information. He also stressed Fact-Checking EVERYTHING you read. Finding 3 sources that agree before considering it a reasonable fact. Assuming you can find three separate sources. Many historians just quote other historians, so checking the bibliography is always a good idea.

I had a good interview with Amanda Luedeke, an agent with the Chip MacGregor Agency.
She liked my first book, and suggested some changes that might greatly enhance the book.

At lunch I met several interesting writers, including Jennifer Hudson Taylor, and another author with a seeing-eye dog. The dog really reminded me of Big Red, and he was very well-behaved under the table. Occasionally his tail would thump on my foot.

My next class was with Jeff Gerke and blew the roof off. It was 'The Last Show vs. Tell Class you'll ever need.' Jeff's laptop was missing, it was still in his room. He sent his assistant up to his room to get it, and while she was gone, he began asking the class questions, giving examples of passages and asking us whether it was 'Showing' or 'Telling'. Some of them were tricky. Whenever the text he read didn't cover action, description, or dialogue, it was 'Telling'.

His assistant came back and he plugged in his laptop. It came right up and began nagging him that McAffee wanted to take over his computer and update it with the latest version of bloat code and Anti-spy-ware intrusive intrusion detection software. It was very intrusive, bubbling up from the bottom several times.

The software was MOST insistant. So, Jeff shut the laptop off, and finished the class with a very dynamic ad-lib that showed he really didn't need to lean on the laptop and it's anti-spyware intruder.

The most vivid thing about his class was when he told us 'Rethink what you do - authors should not consider themselves 'Storytellers' but 'Screenwriters'. He then had five members of the class come up and stand across the front, talking and acting out an interesting story about friends meeting. Then Jeff had them turn their backs on us, while he monologued about how the 'reason Jeff is at the store is to pick up tomato paste for his wife Sally, and Joe doesn't like Jeff much but is pretending to for blah blah blah...'

I found it hard NOT to tune Jeff out as he monologued about the story - the ACTION had stopped, and the action was what was holding my attention. He had made his point. 'Telling' is not a good idea. Not because editors want to make all stories cookie cutter, but because it stops the action, bores the reader, and they either skip ahead or put the book down forever.

Though the reader might not catch EVERY bit of detail you as a writer know about the story line, Jeff said the details were caught or inferred through the story. The reader can fill in some of those details themselves, and many are not so important. He said, "What you sacrifice in exactitude, you more than gain in reader engagement."

After a couple additional classes, I headed back to the hotel to pick up Rebecca for the Awards Banquet. I bought take-out for the kids, but they weren't really interested in eating. Hmmm...

The banquet was amazing. Jill took this picture of me and Rebecca there. It was much like the Academy Awards. Very gala and festive. I sat next to an author named JoAnn Durgin. Rebecca talked with an author next to her, an editor who helped edit some of the Carol Award winners.

The next morning we headed for home, but my fifteen-year-old had gotten the bug, and we had to stop every thirty minutes for him to express himself to the highway traffic. He had a miserable ride home.

We stopped at Mammoth Caves on the way home, to gather information for a book, since a scene occurs there and I wanted to be accurate in my description. I was, pretty much. Here's a photo I took from inside the cave...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 4 - A New Home

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 4 - A New Home

This is the final installment in a four-part short story I wrote as part of a Blog Chain this month. Hope you enjoy it!

The great white beast ran forward at breakneck speed down the black river. Kor and Xana held tight to the black twigs across the clear face of the beast. It's speed was so great that the wind of its passage threatened to tear them off almost right away. Kor crawled up under the metal arm of the device, and was immediately crushed against the hard clear surface underneath.

Xana followed his example, and was crushed against the glass too. Inside the body of the beast, Kor was amazed to see the human creatures sitting on its many gray tongues, held there by wide straps.

The white monster sang to itself as it careened among the other creatures on the road. Kor stared at the people inside, happily being digested without any cares in the world. In fact, they seemed to be singing along with the monster that was eating them.

The little girl pointed at him. "Look, Daddy!" she squealed. "There's a big bug on the windshield!"

The older man looked at him with interest. "He's a dragonfly, Donna. And there seems to be two of them."

"Are they hurt?"

"Not as long as they stay under there." The male hung on to the round throat of the beast and seemed to give it direction from inside. Whenever he twisted the creature's throat, it squealed in that direction until he untwisted its neck.

"Xana, are you ok?"

Xana tried to lift her head. "I'll be ok. Where is this beast taking us?"

Kor didn't answer. He hoped the beast wasn't going to eat them.

They rode on the face of the beast for a long time. It finally came to a stop at a crossing of two black rivers. Beasts were milling about and making mating calls at one another. The white beast under them just happily sang loudly and cheerfully.

Kor started to get up, shaking his wings and buzzing them to make sure they still worked, when the beast took off again as the man stomped on its belly. It roared angrily as it raced down the road away from the other beasts. The mating-call beasts were chasing it. Kor wondered what they would do when they caught up.

But the other beasts didn't eat the big white monster. they didn't even take a bite out of it. They seemed to wait politely behind it when the white monster slowed down. One of them even began the mating calls again.

Finally, the white beast turned off the black river onto a gray field of stones. The beast stumbled to a stop beside a large body of water. Kor shook his head and crawled out from under the black twig.

"Xana! Look!" Beyond the nose of the great white beast was more water than Kor could ever imagine. Other dragonflies buzzed around in every direction, and Xana crawled out from under the other black twig, buzzing her wings in surprise.

"Who would have thought that the great white monster was bringing us to our new home!" She took off, heading out to explore. And Kor followed after her, though he paused and dipped twice in front of the beast's grinning face.

"Thank you for your help!" Kor didn't wait for an answer. He wheeled and headed after Xana, his new body scintillating in the morning sunlight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 3 - The Change

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 3 - The Change

This is part 3 of a four-part short story (4000 words) that I wrote recently for a Blog Chain at Hope you enjoy!

Kor hung stiffly on the green stem of grass for a very long time. His skin dried and cracked and peeled around him. The air turned cool around him, and the sun sank low beyond the soaring trees.

In the late afternoon hours, his breathing became labored, and he kicked and struggled to crawl out of the hardened shell lying dead around him. He was hungry - starving, really, and needed a meal and some air. He felt trapped in the death that enclosed him.

With a wriggle and a thrash, he felt the shell across his back split and crack open. He clawed and pushed upwards, crawling out of his dead skin in a slow shove.

The shell of his body clung firmly to the stem, and Kor was able to hang on to it as he pulled free and clung to the paper-thin model of the 'older' he had been.

He glanced over at Xana to see if she was watching, but her brown body seemed frozen in place right where it was last time. "Xana!" he called. "Look at me! I am different!"

Several things seemed very different about him this time. For one thing, his rear end, instead of being a bulbous appendage, was a curved question mark, long and thin, in many blue sections. As this new skin dried out, he watched as the curve of the tail instinctively straightened out.

Meanwhile, something new on his back, four gossamer appendages that had been folded and crushed inside his shell, began to straighten and unfold, sticking out at right angles to his body.

The cramped feeling dissipated in the cool evening light. A mosquito droned by, and one of Kor's fresh arms reached out and snatched it, shoving it into his open maw. A second mosquito quickly followed the first, and then the mosquitos seemed to get the message to avoid the proximity of the strange creature on the stem.

The sun set, darkness enveloped the area, and Kor rested and grew on the stem.

* * * * * * * * *

The morning dawned slowly with a thick mist spreading out over the water sluggishly moving in the drying ditch. Kor twisted his head to get the kinks out of it, and the new world spun dizzily around him. Instinct drove him to flex his wings. He was interested to note that they all moved independently of one another.

He flapped them rapidly, and thrilled to the lift they gave him, pulling him up into the air, against the clawed foothold he had on his old shell. Perhaps he could swim through this 'new' water, after all.

"Hey, slowpoke!" called a voice above him. It was Xana. She was flying easily through the air on newfound wings. His pulse quickened as he saw her easily darting back and forth, left and right, hovering above him, even when a gust of wind blew.

He buzzed his wings in reply, giving himself a lift, finally abandoning the old shell that represented his limited life below the surface, in the cramped and shrinking confines of what appeared to be a tiny part of the greater world. The world about him was huge, much more expansive than he could ever have imagined.

He leaped off the stem, shooting across the short expanse of water, across the dry hump that separated the backwater from the greater ditch. Xana followed him.

"Where does this new world end?" he asked her, as she caught up with him.

"It seems to go on forever," she said. "This morning I flew past this ditch onto the field above. There are quite a few of our kind there, but there are also great predators some of them call 'birds' down there." She indicated a great cliff before them. "It is up and over this cliff."

Kor fell back a little, experimenting with the new wings he'd been given. It was exhilerating, being able to stop immediately, turn a flip, and twist from side to side, all in the air. He did several somersaults, spinning almost out of control until he came close to the surface of the ditch. He stopped his fall close to another dragonfly, a light blue variety smaller than him.

"Hello," said Kor. "What's your name?"

"Tarin," the beautiful sky-blue dragonfly said. "I came from an eddy further down towards the street."

"Street?" said Kor. "What's a street?"

Something pink and sticky shot out across the ditch and struck Tarin. An instant later, she was gone. A huge green creature near the shore burped, and turned a pair of golden eyes on Kor.

Immediately, Kor rose above the surface of the ditch, zipping back near Xana. "Did... did you see that?" he asked.

Xana didn't answer directly. She headed over the top of the brown rise ahead of them, moving at a pace Kor had to strain to match. "This new world is full of danger, Kor," she said. "You must keep all your eyes focused and ready to dodge."

They came out into a large open field, with tall grass all over. Dragonflies darted across the field, snapping up flies and gnats that rose like a cloud.

A shadow fell across them, and Kor dodged right while Xana dodged left. A huge black shape dropped between them catching a nearby dragonfly below them that was in the process of catching a fly.

Kor watched in silence as the sharp yellow talons caught the dragonfly. The bird flew rapidly up into the sky, and enjoyed its meal on the wing.

Kor shuddered. "Are you all right?" he asked Xana.

"Yes," she said hesitantly. She led him down to the level of the grass. Another bird flew by. They clung to stems and watched it strike another dragonfly.

"This area is a death trap!" Kor exclaimed, watching the birds dropping repeatedly to catch dragonfly after dragonfly. "Let's get out of here!"

Xana nodded, spinning her head around to face him. "It wasn't this bad earlier." She rose to fly back to the relative safety of the ditch, but a black bird, a little smaller than the others, struck her in its talons.

Kor shot forward, unthinking, and grabbed the bird by its right wing as it rose to dizzying heights far above the field. Kor held on to the wing and listened to Xana's struggles in the talons below the bird.

The bird turned it's head to stare, unblinking, at the dragonfly on its wing. Kor held tight to the wing, opened his maw, and tried to take a bite out of the bird's wing. All he managed was a mouthful of tiny black feathers. But the bird tilted its head, and it's yellow beak opened, emitting a shriek.

Kor watched the bird, and leaped off as it struck at him. The bird managed to bite its own wing, cutting into it. He braked to a standstill as the bird sailed past, screaming defiance.

He buzzed after the bird, hurling insults at it. The bird turned in the air, now coming after him. His heart thudded in his chest as he turned from the attacker to the attacked.

The bird still had not let go of Xana, and was going to quickly have Kor as well; a dragonfly in each talon. He turned and fled in terror from the huge creature. His eyes, twice as big as the rest of his body, watched as the bird came closer. At the last minute, as the bird dropped to snatch at him, he darted to the left, just missing the disappointed bird's wing.

The bird soared forward, approaching the end of the field. Kor looked ahead beyond the tall grass, and saw a huge black river ahead. Yellow stripes split the large black river, and white stripes divided it up even further. Great creatures, much larger than the bird, fled down the black river.

Kor's heart skipped a beat as he considered feeding the bird to one of the great beasts travelling the flat black river. The bird wheeled around in a circle and sailed after him again, still fixed on the task of paying him back for the pain in its wing.

Kor dove rapidly down until he was dodging in and out among the great beasts. The bird followed him. He noticed that the beasts left the white and yellow lines alone, so he flew up to a white line, the bird close behind him. As he crossed the line, he stopped and dodged right and down. The bird flew past him, screaming in rage, until a great white beast struck the black bird, sending a shower of black feathers into the air. The beast squealed in anger, leaving two trails of darker black on top of the black river. As it passed, the wind of its passing yanked Kor forward into a tailspin, tossing him into a corkscrew that he had to fight to combat. he struck the hard black river, gripping the white rocks embedded in it.Further ahead, the big black bird, now devoid of many of its feathers, dropped to the river, exhausted. Xana was not in its grip.
The bird ignored him now, just trying to get off the river without being trampled by another beast, a blue one this time.

A bang sounded ahead of him, coming from the great white beast. "Dad!" exclaimed a giant creature's voice, looming above the bird. "It's not dead!"

An even larger creature, unimaginably hideous, loomed behind the female creature. "Leave it alone," the hideous creature boomed in a deep male voice. "We can't pick up every poor animal that gets in our way, especially when we're going fishing. Or would you rather give up the fishing trip to help this old bird?"

The female shook her head.

The male grabbed her arm as another beast flew by. "Get back in the van before you get struck by a car too!"

The female creature made a whining sound, but disappeared back into the belly of the great white beast. The male stared down at the black bird for a moment, and then helped it get off the road.
He looked back down the river before returning to the great white beast.

"Xana!" Kor leaped into the air, ignoring the defeated bird and the male monster, and looked in the sky all around for her.

"H-here," her voice came to him faintly. He headed in that direction, and soon found her gripping a black twig on the front of the great white beast. He dropped down out of the sky and landed on another twig nearby. His irridescent skin shone in the morning light, and he glanced at her critically.

"Why are we on the beast?" he said. "It may eat us, though it doesn't seem to eat birds."

"I'm worn out," she said. "I need to rest."

"Then we will rest a while," Kor said. And that is when the beast started moving down the river.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 2 - Beyond the Sky

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 2 - Beyond the Sky

This is the second installment in a four-part short story (4000 words) I wrote recently. Enjoy!

Kor watched as Xana climbed through the blue cieling and disappeared. He rapidly followed without another comment at Nikko. His face approached the smooth surface of the sky, and he reached forward with his left front leg and touched it tentatively.

Ripples spread out softly from the point where he touched, spreading across the sky like one tiny drop of rain. Kor breathed water once more, propelling himself forward and upward, until his eyes touched the sky.

He was surprised to feel the sky dragging at him as he pushed his face against it. Perhaps the pond wanted to keep him in. But for Kor, life and instinct drew him inexhorably onward and upward. He shoved hard against the surface tension, and dragged his body slowly up the stem.

Movement in the water below him distracted him from his exodus for a moment. He looked back down at two youngers looking to make a meal out of his legs. Nikko struck them from the side, and thrust them away.

Kor turned his attention back to the stem and the push. He thrust through the surface tension, and suddenly a flood of new experiences struck him. First, it was the deeper blue of another sky, lacking the silver sheen, so high above him that he couldn't comprehend it. Next, he felt the extreme dryness of everything around him. The water drained off his body as he climbed higher up the stem, moving out of reach of hungry jaws below.

Movement beside him caught his attention, and without consciously thinking about it, he reached out and snatched at it, dropping his mask and stuffing a mosquito into his ravening maw. So. there were mosquitos of a different sort up here - ones that swam through this new sky on tiny whining wings.

Kor gasped and strained for the last vestige of the oxygenated water draining off his drying body. He cried out in horror as he realized there was no water to breathe beyond the sky. How could any dragonfly live with no water?

The water exploded outward from him, it's oxygen used up. Instinctively, he gasped, drawing in raw air where he had been drawing water before. A burning sensation spread through him, dry and hot as fire, as the richer oxygen in the air dried out his internal harvesters and supplied his body with more oxygen and power than he'd ever felt before.

Energy blasted through him, enough to supply the strength necessary to crawl an additional two inches up the stem. Here, he paused, panting this new air. Simultaneously, he was struck by the feeling of intense heat coming from the sun. In this new world, there was no water to protect and dissipate the sun's blasting heat, and his water-soaked body dried quickly on the stem.

But there was water in the air here, too. He could see it spread across the surface of the water below him, though his many-faceted bulbous eyes saw it as a cloudy movement of thousands of tiny panes of light and dark.

Not far away, Kor saw Xana on a neighboring stem. "Move higher up," he called to her, his voice sounding faint in the air.

Xana didn't move. Faintly, her voice came back. "I can't. Watch out for the flying things."

Kor nodded his stiffening head. "Good eating."

Xana visibly shuddered. "Not the ones I'm talking about. They are bigger than us, as much as we are the mosquito flippers."

Kor growled. "We are the predators."

Xana shook her head. "Not anymore." That was the last thing she would say on the matter. She had become a dried-out statue, frozen in position. Even her skin seemed dried and brittle, turning brown as he watched.

The mist moved across the water in a slight breeze that rocked the stem he was on gently. The swaying motion soothed him. He heard buzzing by him, and saw movement, large flying things that hovered and swooped. They looked very similar to him, but they had long gossamer wings that buzzed and flipped them this way and that.

Higher above them, he saw the edge of large green bushes waving slowly in the hot breeze, and beyond the bushes, things with tall thin gray stems that reached far up into the sky, spreading a green canopy across the sky.

And above and among the green canopy, unimaginably huge dark shapes sailed through the air, soaring from tree to tree, and watching... hunting for prey.

The soft breeze cooled and dried the stem under him, and the skin around him. The heat and dryness enveloped him and dried out the exoskeleton that housed him like a pliable skin. His skin stiffened and cracked painfully, from the tips of his clawed feet to the facets of his eyes.

The world began to turn brown and faded, and he became very sleepy as he froze in place and began to change. And this time, he was sure, the change would be different.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Ride to Otherwhere - Part 1 - Time to Go

This is the first installment in a four-part short story (4000 words) I wrote while considering my blogpost for the Blog Chain at ChristianWriters. Hope you enjoy it. I'll be posting one of these sections each day for the next four days.

The world was shrinking. Kor could sense it as he fought past his teeming brothers and sisters. There was little room left in the shallow backwater of the tiny ditch. There didn't seem to be anything left to eat in the brackish water - every mosquito flipper had been speared. It had been days since he had seen any. The passage through the shallows to deeper water was gone now, as the sky slowly descended under the warmth of the summer sun.

Rain was what was needed now, and a fresh batch of mosquitos, to keep his kind from eating each other in their voracious appetites. But rain had not been seen on the sky for many days. And meanwhile, the world was shrinking.

Hunger drove him on as he searched frantically for one more meal before his ascent through the sky. Instinct told him that the time of transformation was upon him, and he refused to eat his siblings, even though they seemed to be the only meat in the world.

He thrust aside a crowd of youngers, thin and wasting away. He was headed to the passage. He would go there, even if he had to pierce the sky to get there. Several tried to bite him in their hunger, but he thrashed one so severely that he broke in pieces, and his siblings turned on him in a sickening feeding frenzy.

"Wait up, Kor." It was Xana. She was the only creature in the pond he would wait for. Her time was upon her, too. She felt the need to get out. He could sense it in the tenseness of her motions as she struggled through the crowd of youngers.

He paused. He didn't have to look back. Without turning his head, he could see everywhere. "What is it?" he asked tersely. "I'm in a hurry."

"Where are you going?" she asked as she swam up.

"Nowhere, in this pond." He sighed, a current of water exuding from his spiracles.

Another younger came after him. he smashed it aside with his tail. "It's time to go." He moved on to the end of the backwater, Xana keeping up beside him.

"We will go together," said Xana. "We must search for a new pond with room for youngers."

Kor grabbed a shaft of green with all six legs, and then waved one of them behind him. "These youngers are dead," he said bitterly. "They cannot migrate to a new pond. They are breathing, but they have no chance. Soon there will be few in the pond, if the pond is still here."

"If the lord of the sky doesn't send rain, there will be no pond in ten cycles of the sun." Xana looked at the sky above them. "No ripples in the sky. No darkness at day. Nothing but heat and mist beyond the sky."

"Come with me, Xana," offered Kor. "All that is left for you here is to eat your own kind in a slow death with them."

Xana grabbed onto a neighboring stem. "Why do you think I was following you?" She climbed upwards. "It is time for both of us to pierce the sky, and you know it."

Kor hastened to keep up with her as she climbed. He saw movement behind him, and swivelled his head around so that his mouth was facing backwards. His mouth mask fell away, exposing a huge gaping maw lined with voracious teeth. "Yes!" he roared at the approaching older. "Come feed me with your flesh!"

Though he was hungry, he didn't really want to eat his brother. Nikko stopped in the water. "I wasn't coming to eat you, Kor," he said, hurt and somewhat apprehensive. "I came to say good-bye."

"Ah." Kor paused, shaking his head once, and running a limb over his huge bulbous eyes. "Well, then, good-bye. Perhaps I shall see you beyond the sky."

Nikko kept his mask closed to hide his mandibles. "One can hope we shall meet again in the beyond. But I have a message from Nitaria, who came back to the pond to lay eggs."

Kor stopped. "Eggs laid here will do no good. What was Nitaria thinking, bringing her eggs here in our already overcrowded puddle?" He closed his mask again, hiding his mandibles as well. "What message might one from beyond have for me?"

"Watch your back," said Nikko. "Climb high above the sky or the youngers will try to get you when you transform."

Kor thought about this. "Good advice," he said finally. "You can't fight when you are transforming." He looked past Nikko to the teeming crowd of youngers eyeing them both from a distance. "And now I have some advice for you."

Nikko swam in a circle. "What advice is that?"

"Grow up fast."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

WHERE Do You Get these Ideas?

Where Do You Get these Ideas?

This month I'm participating in a Blog Chain with many of my fellow Christian Writers from If you check the sidebar, I have a panel that will let you check out many of the other wonderful posts on this chain. The subject for the blog chain this month is 'Where do you get your ideas?'

I get this question quite a bit. The answer is pretty obvious - the ideas for my novels come from the world around me. True, the fantastic adventures I write about don't happen every day (or perhaps ANY day) but the characters, locations, interactions, and even some of the situations come from the real life I experience every day.

Just as an example, one evening last September while driving my family somewhere, we passed a house in a neighborhood nearby that had a brilliant blue door on the front. The trim wasn't blue, or the shutters, just the door. Everything else was white. The late afternoon sunlight shining on the high-gloss paint of that brilliant blue door made it seem like the door was glowing.

Not a half-block further, we passed several huge crows sitting on a lawn and muttering to one another in a gutteral tongue only they could understand. They looked like they were having a meeting.

And suddenly, the plot to my next NaNoWriMo novel was plopped into my brain. Oh, certainly, there was a lot more to it - some of the characters in the story I saw while at Six Flags several years previously. And no, it wasn't Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian. Or even Yosemite Sam. it was a brilliant-looking older man with a grandson and granddaughter near the fountain by the entrance. He looked a bit like an older Milo from Atlantis. Unkempt silver hair, spectacles, and intense blue eyes that twinkled as he explained something about the way the water danced in the fountain to his family.

The world around us is full of stories to tell. Mix and match what you experience and observe. Keep a notebook with you to write down ideas. Take photographs - carry a camera and take pictures of interesting things - things that give you ideas.

While mulling over what to write about in this post, I was driving to work and saw this monster stuck under my windshield wiper. The poor fellow had simply landed on the front of the van, and the wind as I accelerated swept him up under the windshield wiper.

Don't try this at home, kids, but I took this photo while driving. Yes, I keep a camera with me all the time. Once I got to work, the fellow flipped off and flew away, perfectly fine, although miles and miles from his old home. And this big guy gave me the idea for a story - a story I'll share with you in four installments this month. Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Discomfort Zone - Is Self-Promotion A Christian Concept?

I'm participating in a Blog Chain this month, with a topic called 'The Discomfort Zone.'

If you look in the sidebar you'll find many other posts in this blog chain. I think you'll find many challenging and informative posts about this Discomfort Zone writers enter into as they work toward publication.

For me, one of the most difficult things I'm having to do during this new chapter of my life (The pursuit of writing novels, I mean) is self-promotion.

Not that I don't like me. I think I'm pretty good! That is, until I look at Him. Now, He's a mark I'll never hit. While Ephesians 5:1 says that we are to be imitators of Christ, I am too often finding mud on my white robes. I sometimes look a whole lot like the world...

Yet, in the publishing industry, one of the most important things a new author has to learn is that they are expected to market their book, or books, and take a very active role in marketing... ahem... themselves.

This means, putting your face on book flyers, getting to know thousands of people, going to book signings, getting in front of people, blogging, gettings onto Twitter and Facebook, Shoutlife and MySpace, and so many other venues online that scream for your attention as you scream for the attention of others...

...and all the time, in the back of your mind, you wonder if this is what God meant when He wanted you to write?

Did He want us to sell ourselves to the public?

And that's the question I struggle with, the Discomfort I face. You see, just like so many of you, I really want people to like me, and I want people to think that the work I do is fantastic. That it amounts to something. That it's a 'good read', a page turner. Something that spoke to you. I could eat that up like Lasagna.

The truth of the matter is that God called all of us to point the way to Him. If I remember that, as His child, I'm a new creation and the work I do, when it's the absolute best I can do through HIS strength and HIS leading, well, it's not bad stuff.

And if I can be an imitator of Christ, if I can be more Christlike through HIS power and HIS grace, then when people look at me, while it looks like I'm busy promoting myself, instead, I'll do my best to promote... Him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who Are you Writing For?

My wife has a tendency to ask some hard-hitting questions. Recently, her best zinger was to ask, 'Who are you writing for?'

It boils down to this - am I writing for me, or for God? Currently, I consider that I'm writing my stories to entertain and build up my kids. But I have a habit of referring to the novels as 'my' book.

I do feel 'called' to write. Creativity is in my blood and in my genes. It oozes out the pores and cries for release. Not bragging, mind. Just a hard look on why I'm doing it. It's almost like I would have to fight to suppress it now.

I thought this question, however, deep enough to send out to those in range of my voice, and ask YOU: (mainly because I am chicken to answer this one on my own)

Who are you writing for?

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Post on NovelTeen Tomorrow!

I will be posting my first 'staff blogpost' at an exciting Teen Fiction site called NovelTeen tomorrow, June 8th.

NovelTeen is an exciting 'new' blog for Teens to find YA books that are clean. There will be book reviews, FREE Books, articles from authors and for authors, author interviews, excerpts from upcoming books, and much more.

The material I'll be posting on will be on developing a 'rhino skin' (not sure who coined that term first) when dealing with Critique and Rejection in the Literary World.

It's an honor for me to be able to post along with award winning novelists. Please take a moment to check them out!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review - Buying Time

Today I'm going to take a break from my usual fodder to give you a review of a book I just finished. It's called Buying Time by author and cartoonist Roland Mann.

Here's the author's back-cover blurb:
If you had a chance to re-do part of your life, would you? Even if it meant dying earlier?

That’s the decision Tom Morgan and Larry Pace must make when they are approached by a time traveling time salesman. Complete opposites, both men are drawn to the idea for the same reason: to save someone’s life. But is that even possible? Can the past be changed? Add to that the problem that it’s very addictive, like a dangerous drug. Each trip back in time shortens life.

Here's a snippet of the plot, and my take on the book:
The lives of two men, Tom and Larry, become entangled through a tragic accident that takes Larry's wife and hospitalizes Tom's best friend, Mike.

Tom, a down-on-his-luck journalist, is in some ways responsible for the accident, and feels an overwhelming burden of guilt and an overpowering feeling of worthlessness. His fascination with Mr. Potter's hateful words spoken to George Bailey in Its a Wonderful Life, "You're worth more dead than alive", borders on mania, and is his mantra.

Larry is a devout Christian professor and newly published author, a father of two daughters who help him to struggle through the grieving process. Surrounded by Christian friends and a loving family, he is coping with his loss.

At the funeral, a stranger comes up to him and asks if he wouldn't like to spend more time with his wife. He offers to send Larry back in time and give him a chance to hold her again, and tell her goodbye. He leaves Larry with a business card and a generous helping of confusion.

This stranger is also the person Tom was headed to interview. Big Ben, as the stranger calls himself, offers to send Tom back in time as well. He warns that the time he takes in the past will be deducted from the end of his life, meaning that he will die sooner.

Tom doesn't particularly care; he is teetering on the edge of suicide anyway. Tom goes back in time, attempting to change the past to keep the dreadful accident from occurring. But his efforts, though they change the past, do not circumvent the tragedy.

Later, Larry takes Big Ben up on his offer, going back to the past in an attempt to save his wife Gracie. But changing the past is like turning a battleship with a rowboat; the tragic day plays out similarly, with only small things altered.

The book picks up pace as Tom and Larry meet, and attempt to go back in time together in a concerted effort to keep the accident from happening and save Larry's wife.

From the time the two men meet right up to the end of the book, it was a page-turner I couldn't put down.

Liberally salted with sincere Christian characters, the book is an honest look at death, the power of prayer, and God's sovereignity over our appointed times.

Disclaimer:No goods or services were exchanged for the review of this book. Seriously, I wasn't paid or anything. I just wanted to tell you what a good read it was.