Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Change of Plans

I will never be happy with my work, but I believe that I recognize when I'm just being insecure and when my thoughts are accurate. I have done a lot of thinking about my novel and have found that my dissatisfaction has merit.

I frequent several blogs that are hosted by agents and publishers of various genre's. In reference to book length, or story length, there is a common guideline: Your debut novel needs to be a stand alone story. This is where my problem lies.

My story of Devon Coth, the Dalth family, and the Salinosti valley is an epic tale. From conception it has been an epic tale. In an effort to write a salable novel, I cut the story short. In the process of cutting word counts down, elements of a story get short-changed, including the climax.

While I felt like I covered the ending well, at first, after reading a tenth time I realized that the end was abrubt. It lacked true closure; a closure that just didn't exist in my head because of what the story was meant to be.

I also lacked conflict in key parts of the story. Conflict drives a story, keeps the reader engaged, but it also adds to the word count.

I'm not going to toss the novel, nor will I shelve it. I will continue to edit it, and make it into the epic that the characters demand. While I am doing that, I will write my debut novel. This one was intended to be a single book from the beginning, so keeping it that way will not be an issue.

So, now it is time to let Condr's tale be heard.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't be a lazy American

This topic gets me wound up; well, as wound up as my personality allows. The subject of immigration, legal and illegal, is a polarizing topic filled with misconceptions, half-truths, and outright lies. Much of which is propagated by the media and politicians.

Let me make one thing clear, before I move on; illegal is illegal. People come to this country for reasons that most of us take for granted. Many come by following the proper, legal channels, while many come here by skirting our laws. Those that come here illegally know that they are breaking laws, and they know that if they are caught, they will be sent back to their homelands. I don’t have a problem with deporting people who are here illegally. Until we change our laws, this should happen. What some people fail to recognize is the fact that we do not enforce these laws with any kind of consistency.

I encourage you to do your due diligence and research the truths of immigration. In most cases, what you read in your paper, see on the news, or hear from your politicians, is not fact. You have to dig to find the truth. You have to be able to recognize propaganda, from either side of the argument. Do not bombard me with stereotypes. Do not try to impress me with generalizations. You will only make me laugh at your ignorance.

Illegal aliens take jobs from Americans that need them. Really? Americans do need jobs, but we Americans have come accustomed to making more money than what some of the industries that illegal’s work in are willing to pay. I’m not sure that we, as consumers, are ready to pay American wages for these jobs. How much are you willing to pay for that tomato? Do your research. Give this subject due diligence. Don’t just go off what MSNBC or FOX is telling you. YOU must find the truth.

Illegals are a drain on the economy. Again, do the research. What you find may surprise you.

So, what is the answer? If I knew that, I wouldn’t be wrestling to survive from paycheck to paycheck. I do know that Alabama’s recent actions are not the answer. Of course, coming from a state with a heritage of racism, their new laws are hardly abnormal.

The answer can be found through intelligent discussions. A solution that does not adversely impact your well-being, because that is what most concerns you, can be reached. Do not approach this topic in ignorance. Do not approach this topic armed only with the knowledge gleaned from the national media and politicians who want your vote. Learn the facts. Find the truth. Arm yourself with the knowledge to make your own decision. Don’t be the stereotypical Lazy American.

Until you have actually researched the topic beyond the six o’clock news and talk radio, please keep your ignorance to yourself. You will appear much smarter for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Impressions

So, it has been almost a month since my last post. Let's just say that what has been on my mind would not be appropriate to share. So be it. Time to move on.

Much is made about first impressions. A lot of us even go out of our way to ensure that we present ourselves in a positive light when encountering another human for the first time. Then we get home and criticize ourselves and the botched initial meeting.

First impressions are few and far between for myself, because, well, I just don't like people. (This is a generalization, so please don't take it as I don't like you. You are awesome!) This week we had someone new start work:

The first thing I noticed about him was his pressed, pinstriped, long-sleeve shirt; it was going to reach 100 degrees that day. His khaki pants had a crease that ran down the front of each leg. There was a folded Wall Street Journal folded beneath his left arm. His curly black hair was cropped tight around his young Middle Eastern features. There was a wary smile on his face; this was his first day on the job after all.

We stood and introduced ourselves, one at a time. His voice bordered inaudible, even when he spoke to me. He didn't hear my name. His eyes were glazed when he shook my hand and he turned his back to me before I finished. I wondered what he didn't like about me. I knew what I didn't like about him.

Now, imagine this new guy as a character in your story. Was this first impression a correct image of who this man is? Was he just so overwhelmed with the situation that he fumbled? Will he go home and beat himself up for coming off in a bad light? Will he go home and beat himself up for taking a job with a bunch of rednecks?

Will the other characters hold this first impression against him? If they do; how long? What will this character have to do to overcome that first botched encounter?

Or, was it a true representation of his personality?

Once again; pay attention to the real world when you are writing in your fantasy world. The world around you has so much to offer your writing. If you lock yourself away in a room, you miss out on countless ideas.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm not listening

Conversations take place on a daily basis, whether they are the traditional face to face, or the more recent social media venues. In these conversations you have the one who is speaking, and the one who is not. Notice I did not refer to the non-speaking person as the listener. Listening is a skill that few have put into practice.

Take a controversial subject, such as immigration, politics, religion, whether or not elves have pointy ears, or the origin of dilithium crystals. At each point in the conversation you will have the one arguing their point, and one formulating their counterpoint. At some point, the not-listener will hang on something that is said, forget the words that fell before and never hear the words that follow. The priority becomes formulation of an argument against that one thing that was said. Never mind the fact that the words following or preceding may agree with that very argument being formulated.

The not-listener walks away thinking the speaker is an idiot, the speaker walks away knowing that their words fell on deaf ears. Understanding, of course, that both parties in the conversation will play the two roles. So, I suppose, arguments inevitably result in the production of two idiots.

Tension. It is one of the elements that will drive a story. It keeps the audience involved. There are several tools available to the writer to bring tension into play; the interaction of two characters in an argument is one of these tools.
The next time you are witness to a discussion over politics, etc. take a moment to listen. Listen to the words being said. Pick up on the elements that were ignored. Watch the speaker’s body language. Pay attention to the inflictions used to enforce a point. Watch the not-listener. Do the eyes glaze over, or wander? Do they even put up the front of listening? Finally, write it all down. Construct a scene.

Is this a tool that can be put into play? Is it a thread that can be used for the weave of your tale?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guidelines Part 3

A line in the sand has been drawn by writers, publishers, editors, agents, and readers. You are instructed to follow that line. Sometimes it is necessary to step off the line to pursue a better path, not easier, just better. And, of course, those lines that have been drawn don't always follow the same paths.

I have had the opportunity to watch a friend enjoy The Lord of the Rings in written form for the first time. He's made several comments about the writing style, which brought to mind a few things Tolkien did that are well off those lines in the sand. Considering those lines were different in the 1950's, it really brings to light to ever-changing world of our language.

He screamed. She screamed. It screamed. They screamed.

"Oh my gosh! If one more person screams, I'm going to!"

It has been a few days since I read that classic series, but apparently, the father of modern fantasy was quite fond of that speaker attribute. It is a practice that breaks two of the guidelines that I follow:
1 - Try not to repeat phrases, words, etc. multiple times.
The reason is clear, just from my friends reaction to the screaming fellowship.
2 - Construct the exposition and dialog in a manner that, in most cases, speaker attributes can be dropped altogether.
That is so easy to say.

One of those dreaded catch-words in the writing industry "voice". That word annoys me almost as much as "muse", unfortunately it applies to this discussion. If your characters have distinctive voices, such as dialog mechanics unique to him or her (or even it), then the reader will have an automatic sense of who is speaking. At that point the speaker attribute becomes moot.

I know; easy to say, hard to accomplish. I suppose this would force some of us to step away from our tablets, keyboards, or typewriters, and actually (gulp) engage real, living, humans in conversation. Pay attention to how people speak. Some will use "proper Kings English", other's litter their speech with and's, but's, well's, like's, and slang, and then there are those that are walking Webster's and Thesaurus's. How can you use these real world examples and infuse them into the voice's of your characters?

Read your dialog without the attributes. Can you tell who is speaking? Can you tweak the dialog so that you can?

He screamed. Wow, you want the reader to understand that Jorge screamed, don't you need that attribute? Maybe. Maybe not. Remember what I have said about guidelines. This can be more difficult than giving your character a voice, but in a lot of cases it can be done, but keep in mind that sometimes it just can't be avoided. If your antagonist is standing on a dingy in a gale wind with quarter sized raindrops pelting his yellow raincoat, the reader expects them to speak at an elevated level. The "he screamed" then becomes a "duh" moment for the reader.

Does the exposition that leads to the dialog lead the reader to expect the character to scream? Can this be done? Should this be done?

Sometimes she needs to scream. The key for the writer is to recognize when the scream is already inferred. Speaker attributes can either hinder, or help the rhythm of the story. Read your dialog aloud. Listen to yourself and you should recognize when that attribute has gotten in the way.

He said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Genesis of a Story

Have you ever watched the news and thought; wow, there's a story?

Did you write it down before you forgot it?

I bought a blue, hard-bound journal just for this purpose. When a story idea comes to mind, I write it down in that journal. Sometimes a passage comes to mind; I write it down. The world is filled with characters. I write those down also.

So what good is this blue journal?

When I sit down to work on my novel, or one of my short stories, sometimes I just hit a point where the characters in my head refuse to guide my fingers. Instead of arguing with them, I open up my blue book and look for another story. Sometimes that news story inspires the imagination, other times it is that grimy little girl from the convenience store that causes the words to fall upon the page. Either way, more often than not, a story is revealed and a new cast of characters raise their voices and demand to be heard.

Eventually, the characters from my novel become jealous and the brawl ensues. That little blue book helped fend off a morning of staring at the dreaded blank page.

I'm not crazy, but the voices in my head may be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heart of a Child

I fumbled through some old photographs and this one caught my attention. It was a hot Florida day some eleven years ago. My wonderful wife, hair astray from the humidity, was the object interest (as usual). There is a story in those eyes and mischievious smile, and the Princess is soaking that tale in.

My three children, my niece, and two of my nephews have had the joy of growing up with that elfin grin. You see, my wife has the heart of child. Don't get me wrong, she can be a mom when the situation calls for it, but she will also get right there on the floor with a child and join them in their fantasy worlds and wonderful games.

I don't know if these kids realize just how lucky they are to have someone in their lives like her; I do. Just one glance at that photograph tells you more than I could ever put into words.

The heart of a child, the love of a mother. And I was smart enough to marry her.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guidelines Part 2 - ing

Write without rules, because you will inevitably (ahem, -ly?) break them. The guidelines you work from are the guidelines that you have adopted from other sources; ones you have chosen to agree with. The ultimate judge of your choices will be your readers.

Never be afraid to veer from your own guidelines, but always try to adhere.

There are three letters that suck the impact right out of a statement; ing. You will often hear me say: If you felt the need to put it in print, don't belittle it with a passive word.

Reaching for the gun, Jordan felt the searing pain of the bullet tearing through his shoulder.

Jordan grabbed his gun just as the bullet tore through his shoulder like a fireball.

Two sentences, same meaning, different emotional impact.

There are times when you may want to use passive passages to dictate the pace, or ambiance, but again, I have to question whether passages such as those really belong. I sometimes feel that such writing is lazy.

When I write a passive phrase, or paragraph, I read it over and over. I ask myself if there is another way to put it. I ask myself if it even belongs in the story. Am I setting the scene with such an aside, am I setting a pace, or have I just constructed an action to stall until I can come up with something better?

Sometimes passive is good, but you always look at it and question if it is the correct method of travel.

My rough drafts are packed with ly's and ing's,as are my emails and posts, it's a quick way to purge the thoughts from my head. This is why I have guidelines. The brain purge that is my rought draft is right next to junk. Guidelines are used to refine that junk.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Goodbye Netflix

The headlines read, as headlines read, always written to incite drama, anger, or some other extreme emotional reaction; Outrage over Netflix rate hike continues.

Not so much for me. Disappointed, a little surprised, but not really outraged.

When the information on the rate hike was published two days ago (no, I haven't received an e-mail from Netflix), my initial reaction was that I would have to consider closing my Netflix account sometime before Sept. 1 rolled around. The deciding factor being that they had priced themselves out of being a viable option to the old standard movie rental store.

Really, this would be a good budget cutting move on my part. Like I said, I was just taking this in stride.

Then the VP of corporate communications for Netflix, Steve Swasey, opened his mouth. Wow! I will be surprised if this goober has a job with Netflix in 2012.

Let me break down his comments for you.

"$6 more is a remarkable value, a latte or two every month. For most folks it's absorbable.
He is referring to those with the minimum combined, download and dvd, subscription. I would venture to guess that a large percentage of Netflix customers have no idea what a latte tastes like. He is speaking to the wrong crowd here. It is obvious that six bucks is nothing to him, but most of us aren't VP's for a large corporation.

"sympathetic to those in terrible financial straits."
And there he goes with the knife throwing. He just told his customer base that they are either over-reacting, or that they can't afford his service to begin with. Obviously if six bucks is a concern you are on the edge of bankruptcy.

"30,000 or so is a sub set of 23 million subscribers. They're not speaking for the majority."
Translation: We won't miss you whining little punks. You are but a gnat on our corporate behinds. Move along children.

"We'll make it up over time and the service will continue to grow. I don't want to sugarcoat this. We expect a certain amount of people to leave the service"
Translation: Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya.

In summary: I went from making a decision before the rate hike to cancelling my subscription this weekend. All because of his statements. Netflix will not see any more of my money. They haven't earned it.

That's really too bad, because prior to this, I had considered them a good company to deal with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

You Just Don't Know

Two controversial verdicts were handed out this past month: A pharmacist in Oklahoma was found guilty for killing a would be thief in his store, and a mother was found innocent of killing her child.

In both cases cries of foul were heard across the nation. I even saw a photograph of a sign that accused the jury of murder, because they found the mother not guilty. Even one of my favorite idiots (Bill Maher) called Republicans murderers. Sometimes stupid stands out like meth addict in a monastery.

Take both of these cases, and you have twenty-four people that know the full story. Twenty-four, not twenty-four million. There are laws that these people need to consider when making their decision. Whether you agree with the verdicts, or not, the justice system worked exactly as it was designed. These jurors did their jobs.

The day that jurors begin to listen to public opinion is the day that the judicial system fails YOU.

IF there were any failures in either of these cases, the failures lie with the lawyers. IF these verdicts were wrong, it was because the lawyers failed in presenting their cases.

If you want to be assinine and accuse innocent people of murder, at least direct your ignorance in the right direction.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Guidelines. There are no rules, and anyone who tells a writer that is not as smart as they think they are. There are, however, more guidelines than you could possibly imagine. What some educators, editors, and writers don't like to admit is that guidelines blend in with personal preferences.

I have compiled my own guidelines over the years. Those, combined with my Chicago Book of Style, Roget's Thesauraus, and good ole Webster, have helped me create a novel and about 20 short stories. Some are good, other's are not, but that's another conversation altogether.

Sometimes openly, sometimes quietly, I despise the use of the old hack -ly adverb. It is hack, in my opinion. They are used in advertising, warning signs, and catch-phrases; all of which are mediums where brevity matters. Work safely, drive carefully, see clearly...

In the story setting, these words have no place. Again, my opinion, my guideline, my personal preference. These adverbs muddle the action; they give the reader an opportunity to check out.

Jerika drove as safely as she could.

Jerika placed her hands at ten and two, just like her husband had taught her, and crept out onto the snow packed road.

You tell me. Which sentence has you more engaged?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Multi-Tool

So, I found myself staring at the keyboard, like I find myself doing a lot, and a somewhat skewed thought moonwalked across my imagination: The keyboard has become a multi-tool.

For those of us that are old enough to think back before the mid-to-late eighties, there was a time when a keyboard was, well, a typewriter. Even in the late eighties, those fancy word processors were viable products to have on the shelves. For that matter, I think it was 1989 when I bought my typewriter.

What could you do with a typewriter?

I suppose, much like the mighty pen, you could incite riots, thoughts, sympathy, etc. Of course, to do these things successfully, you had to be in possession of a small portion of talent. Otherwise, kindergarten teachers would have suffered the great glue eating riots of 1973.

At some point in time, we figured out how to hook up a typewriter to an off grey box and make magic happen. Of course, it's probably a good thing our first monitor screens were made of glass. Could you imagine what an LCD screen would look like after you scraped off the white-out?

So, what can you do with this not-so-new multi-tool?

I can have an ongoing conversation with someone on the other side of our planet and I don't even have to open my mouth (except for the occasional Cheeto).

I can pay my bills.

Heck, you can pay my bills!

I can find information on almost any topic, and some of it could actually be true.

I can tell a machine how to perform a function in seconds that would typically take me minutes to do.

And I can still incite riots, thoughts, or sympathy. Though my love of glue has long since faded.

Wow! We have come a long way. Or have we?

If I cut this little black cord, I don't even have a typewriter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Growth of a Writer

There is a writer that I am a big fan of. He began his career with a game company and has written many novels based in that game world. He is well known for his ability to write vivid battle scenes, and really, I just admire his imagination and the writing that results.

I picked up one of his earlier works, written some fifteen or so years ago, and, while it is a good story, I found the writing borderline amateurish. Do not misunderstand my critique, I still enjoyed the story, and the book was written good enough for publication. Mechanically, this book just had several flaws that I don't see in his recent writings. And quite honestly, it may just be that he used a passive voice that falls beneath the list of pet peeves.

If the action is worth recording on paper (or screen), give it the power that it deserves. Just one of many guidelines I try to adhere to. (notice I said try)

Through this writers works, one can see a simple truth illustrated: The more you write, the better you can become.

Of course, this assumes that a writer's goal is to pen something that is better than what he or she has penned prior.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Next

I actually started the next novel. Like others, this one has been rolling around in my noggin for some time. I believe that I picked a good point of attack. The main character is lying in the field, trapped beneath the body of a fallen comrade, with a broken body and a bruised psyche.

I wanted the opening to leave the reader as lost as the character, yet keep the reader engaged. I believe I pulled this off. I noticed at some point that there was a rhythm to the prose. Not really a poetic type of rhythm, but there was an obvious soundtrack lingering behind the sentences.

I like.

I would post a sample of it, but I am probably overly protective of my work. If it ever makes it in the glued bindings and tossed on a retail shelf, you can see it then.

Of course, I need to complete the first round of edits for the other novel...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Oklahoma City Shelter Smoke Screen

Here’s one that has been, I don’t know, annoying me for a while. Maybe I should preface this conversation with: The Oklahoma City Animal Shelter is run by power hungry, truth twisting, nitwits; better known as Politician Wannabee’s.

I am not directly involved in animal rescue, but I know several wonderful people who have dedicated their lives to finding homes for cast aside dogs and cats. Believe me, in Oklahoma this is a huge undertaking.

I don’t know that I can cover all the things wrong with the Oklahoma City Animal shelter in one easy to read post, so I’ll just hit a couple of items at a time. Let me start with the falsehood that Shelter Officials began to vomit to the press a couple of years ago. Oklahoma City is working towards becoming a ‘no kill’ shelter.
This is almost worthy of looking up on Snopes. That statement sounds great, and it would be commendable; if it were true.

If they wish to continue to advertise this falsehood, they should begin by telling their employees to keep their mouths shut. Let me illustrate:

An Oklahoma City Animal Shelter employee sends out an e-mail to a local rescue e-mail chain requesting help in rescuing several dogs and cats that are scheduled to be “put down”. For those that aren’t familiar with the term “put down”, it is nice speak for kill. Discarded pets are not “put down”, nor are they “put to sleep”, they are killed. In many cases, they are killed in manners that would get the average citizen arrested for cruelty, but that is another topic altogether.

Another posting from an Oklahoma City Animal Shelter employee has a photo of a very adoptable dog. Apparently, the dog was scheduled to be killed. Why? Extreme mats. Huh? The dog had some severe tangled hair! What? The poor pooch’s hair was matted!

That is right boys and girls; tangled hair is deadly, especially if you find your way to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter. I am just so thankful that they are working toward becoming a “no kill shelter”.

Do they cut the feet off of animals if they have long nails?

These are just two examples of many that show just how hard theses nitwits are trying to become no kill. Are they really trying? You tell me.

More to come.

Monday, June 6, 2011



It has been almost a year since I even looked at this. Of course, it has been a while since my fingers have danced across the keys for anything longer than a brief e-mail. It is really embarrassing. But, enough of that. It is time to get back into the mode. Time to handcuff my muse to the railing and move ahead at break-neck speed.

Why does it take a writer years to write a novel?


And Squirrels.

I have long since finished the rough draft of my first book. I am in the middle of the first edit (of many, I am sure). I was making decent progress when the squirrels invaded my life.

Just when I had worked up a routine, my job position changed, therefore my work schedule was turned on its head. I haven't set a routine since. Then, to make matters more exciting, my daughter and son-in-law invaded my writing room for a couple of months while they purchased a house. They have since moved into a new home and one would think that my excuses have run dry; not so.

The Princess (my oldest daughter) should be moving back home soon, so my room will not be mine. Again.

It is past time for me to set a routine. The lack of progress is nobody's fault but my own. I have let the squirrels distract me. For months I have said "next weekend".

How many "next weekends" have you squandered?

Nobody else is going to finish your book. Nobody else can finish your thoughts. Screw next weekend. The time is now.