Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Don't Get It

Sometimes I feel like I need to start a post with a disclaimer, and I guess this is one of those posts.  If you are one of these people, don’t take this post as an attack, because I honestly (as the title says) don’t get it.

I have a great friend in Lucky Dunbar, who has done the artwork for my stories and I hope he can continue to do so for as long as I need artwork for my stories.  BTW, visit his Facebook Page at LuckyArt.  But, as he continues to work his craft, he will be busy with other projects and I can’t expect to always be number one on his list.  So, I’ve been perusing DeviantART and finding other artists that I could use in the event Lucky just doesn’t have the time to get something done.

In my journey’s I have found a handful of artists that do some great work and their style fits what I am looking for.  For the most part, they aren’t too expensive.  If I want a character art, it costs X.  If I want a character and a background it is X.  If I want multiple characters, etc.  One artist has even gone so far as to show examples of what you would get for so much money, with the explanation that more complexity equals more money.  Very customer friendly, and since they only have certain times when they are available for commission work, I can assume business is good for these artists.

Then there is the, what I consider, not-so-customer-friendly artists.  You almost get the feeling that if you have to ask how much, then it’s too expensive for you.   

Now, let me make something clear, for those of you who are not familiar with DeviantART.  This is not a site for well known artists.  You won’t find Vellejo, Parkinson, Bell, or Kinkade hawking their wares (okay, that would be odd for a couple of them since their dead…bad examples, but you get it).  The artists found on that site are talented people who haven’t had the exposure.  Some want to be the next big thing, while others are happy with their niche in life.

So here we get to the part I don’t understand.  What is it about pricing your artwork that needs to be a secret?  Is it too complex for you to give the potential customer an idea of what they would spend if they worked with you?  Why do you shun the apparent model that other artists follow with their pricing structure?  Or, is it a case of “if you have to ask…”?

Look, I know there is some reasoning behind it.  You have a reason for not disclosing your pricing structure, assuming you have one.  But I have no clue as to what that reason could be.

Here is how it looks.  And don’t take this as an attack.  I am simply saying this is how it looks to your average customer with no training in business101.

You overvalue your work.

I am the average customer and that is how I see it.  I don’t see your art as better than the others.  In most cases, your artwork is on par with other people who are more than happy to provide pricing information.  Any guesses on which artist I will go to?

As I said, I don’t understand.  Perhaps you don’t overvalue your work, but because I don’t understand why you want to hide your pricing structure, that is how I see it.  Not only is that how I see it; that is how the average customer sees it.  The sentence “If you have to ask, it’s too much.” can be read from two different perspectives.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time Isn't Always On My Side

Seriously.  Like never.

I have so many stories I want to tell.  I also have a 60+ hour a week job.  I am married to a wonderful lady who deserves every ounce of my attention.  I have a house to maintain.

As Book Two (Requiter?) plods to its publish date, I have begun Book Three. 

The artwork is near completion for Book Two.  The edits continue to filter in.  Soon, I will publish the book and move into marketing it (bleh).

I have been writing Book Three.  I have to write it while the story is still fresh in my head.  There is so much I want to get down before I forget it.  I really like how it is shaping up.

There is a short story sitting on my desk that needs the first few hundred words rewritten.  I wanted to publish this story months ago, but I received comments on it that I can't ignore.  The beginning of the story is just not on the same pace as the rest of it.  In my experience, it only takes a few sentences added, changed, or removed, to fix these problems, but since my brain has been tied up with the Drums of Rallinwar series, it has been difficult to address.

On top of that, there are two short stories that need to be written.  I have the notes for them, and there are just a couple of minor tweaks to make before they get written.

I have another short story that is almost complete.  I need to complete it and publish it.

And already, I have been considering the next book.  I have a story that I began a couple of years ago that will get written, but I have also been brewing a "fantastic" type story.  One of those with over the top fantasy elements.

I could lock myself away in my office for a week and not finish all the stories on my list.  I honestly get excited just thinking about what is next.  And the excitement only increases when I am told the manuscript for Book Two is in much better shape than Blood of Two was when i passed it off to the editors.  I mean, I feel as though I have improved, and it has been validated by those I work with.

I only hope you see it the same way when it gets published.

Time isn't on my side, but this is an exciting time for me.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Just Effing Smile

Most parents know how difficult it can be to raise children, and most of us have a list of things that would fall onto a list of parenting mistakes.  We all make them, regardless of whether you want to admit it.  Come on.  You can't go 18+ years and not make some sort of boneheaded mistake that you later (often the moment after it happens) regret.

I have three adult children, and I can tell you that most of those stupid mistakes are harmless in the end.  Yes, I know, there are some lopsided adults out there that want to blame their personal issues on a mistake their parents made.  After all, we are a nation of finger-pointers.

My children listed their favorite vacation memories during a Facebook conversation.  It included several memories that made me smile.  I am thankful, as a parent, that I could be a part of making those memories possible.  Somewhere in that top ten favorite memories list was a memory that makes a top ten list of my own; the top ten mistakes I made as a parent.

The kids were very young at the time and we had taken the tent and spent a few days in Missouri.  As with all of our trips, we had a blast.  It was on the way home, somewhere on a back highway in southern Missouri we came upon this old concrete bridge that had been closed.  It was an awesome looking structure, so we pulled over to explore a bit.

The kids were tired, which is most often accompanied by cranky in children that age.  Before we returned to the car, we decided the stop warranted a photo.  As mentioned, the kids were cranky, which in turn made mom cranky, which, as we all know, gets dear old dad cranky.  We were all cranky.

Of course, it is difficult to smile when you are cranky, and who wants a photo of cranky kids.  After what felt like hours of trying to coerce the cranky kiddies into a smile, and the cranky meter pegging out for all five people involved, it happened.

"Just Effing Smile!"

Yep, I said it.  I said it to little kids.  My little kids.  That memory has haunted me since.  Every time I think about it, I cringe.  What a horrible father!  I cussed at my kids!  To this day, I hate that memory.  Nothing I can do about it now, but it still bothers me, and always will.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this memory float back onto a Facebook page, and the kids were laughing about it.  One of their favorite vacation memories?

Wow!  My kids are messed up!  All I can do is effing smile.

Progress on the book:

I was hoping to publish book two today, but regretfully, this won't happen.  The delay is my fault, but now I wait for other parties before I can publish.  There is just a couple of days of editing to complete, once I get the notes back, and there is the book cover and the map.  I am waiting on others, but only because they had to wait on me.

At this point, all I can say is "soon".

I haven't been idle while waiting, I am already deep into book three.  Hopefully that one will happen according to plan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Late Again

November 17 is the new release date for the second book in the Drums of Rallinwar series.

Three months later than I anticipated.


I’ll begin by stating this book was destined to be behind schedule without any outside influences.  The editing process is far more intense than it was for Blood of Two.  So much so, I would like to revisit Blood and put it through the same strainer.  I feel as though this book is better written and you, as the reader, will see that.  While some of the improvement can be attributed to my learning of the craft, most of the improvements are a result of my enhanced editing schedule.

To say this year has been eventful would be an understatement.  In May, three tornadoes tore through my life.  Friends and family lost their homes, and insignificant in comparison, we lost a good portion of our fence.  Not only did those three events take me away from the book physically, helping with the cleanup, but mentally I just couldn’t focus.  You can’t live in Oklahoma and not know somebody who has lost something to Mother Nature, but even then you can’t prepare for when it impacts your life.  That sh*t sticks with you, and the impact it had on me is minor in comparison.

Those three events (three days) set the book back 30-45 days.  Add in a few everyday squirrels and the August release day was not achievable if I wanted to put forth my best effort.

So where am I now?

In one of my earlier posts I outlined the editing process I set in place.  I am in the middle of steps 4 and 5 (of 7).  The initial copy edits for the first half of the book were completed a few weeks ago, and that portion of the book passed off to the evil editors.  One of those editors is done; the other two are about half way through.

I completed the checklist edits (step 3) for the second half of the book this last weekend and am now in the middle of the copy edits for that portion.  I hope to complete that part this weekend and then forward the second half of the book on to my editors.

Monday I expect to begin step 6 (appeasing the evil editors), and from what I have seen to this point, I will catch up with the editors (who are in step 5) rather soon.  When they finish up with part two of the book, and I complete my portion, I will make one last pass with the copy edits.

I am not sure where Lucky is with the cover art, but you can expect another beautiful cover that continues the theme begun with Blood of Two.  I also need to print off a map so that he can paint one up for me.

I’m excited to finish this project.  I will take a short (very short) break, and then drum up Book Three.  At the moment, it appears the series will be completed with the third book, which would basically make it the cliché fantasy trilogy.

Beyond that; I have the beginnings of a story about a man from Saimus’ home country.  It will likely be a stand-alone novel.

I am also still sitting on a short story I promised earlier (which I have the cover-art for), but I have been so focused on the book, it has just been gathering dust.  If there’s a chance before November 17, I will brush it up and publish it.

And of course, I still need a title for Book Two.

Anyway, that is where I’m at.  I apologize for the delay.  I let things interfere with my productivity and it will probably happen again.  Tis the life of a writer who has a day job.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Horseshoes and Four Leaf Clovers

I suppose at some point I should like write down blog topics so I don't find myself bereft of things to say for weeks at a time.  But, let's face it, I ain't too good at this whole talking to people thing.

The last little blurb was about my wonderful busy life, and I am looking forward to at least four more weeks of busy.  Of course, that is assuming I finish the book on time.

Unlike Blood of Two, editing this book has been intensive (and I do hope it shows).  Things have fallen to the wayside while I've concentrated on the book; Facebook, Twitter, workshop forums, industry news perusing, reading (I haven't read a book in two months), marketing, and my short stories.

It makes you wonder how successful author's have time for the talk show circuit.  Well, not really.  You have to figure they went through much the same at some point in their careers, but then they reached a point where they had money to farm some of this junk out.

At some point, an author becomes proficient in their writing and the rough draft isn't quite as rough as it once was, which makes the author's initial editing easier.  Some author's even claim their rough draft is what they forward to their editor's.

Success will often bring money.  The author reaches a point where they can hire editor's they trust to do the work I do now.  I'm not talking about these editor's you find online at some editor warehouse, where they go back and pull one down from a hook and hand off your manuscript.  I mean someone who works with the author with a genuine desire to see an end product that matches the author's intent.

I could probably do some digging and tell you exactly how many hours of my life could be saved if I had the money to buy me one of those.

Then there is the marketing.  First of all, I suck at it.  I couldn't sell a Goo-Goo Cluster half price to a group of starving junior high students stuck on a bus in middle of a snow storm.  I can't even begin to imagine what a professional could do for my sales.  Again, there comes a point in the author's life where the money comes available for such luxuries.

The laughable part of this, at least in the Indie world, this rambling post actually makes a silly little circle.  You can't have success without good marketing, you need a well-edited product to market, and you need money to hire an editor.  But, you don't get money without some semblance of success.

In a large way, it all boils down to luck.

There are many get-rich-quick schemes out there in the world of Independent authors, but those are reserved for the hacks that have little to no desire to put out quality.  Those of us who want to create a durable product, we have to stretch those get-rich-quick schemes out over several years.

And hope for a little luck.

So, I will continue on with my busy life and keep plugging away at editing.  And I am loving every minute of it.  I am learning my craft, and (hopefully) improving.  I'm still a couple of years away from completing the most popular get-rich-quick scheme and I continue to search for four leaf clovers.  Will I be reach in the end?  Who cares.  When it is all said and done, I will have written a story I can be proud of.

I suppose, in some pompous way, I think that is what separates me from some of the others.  I'm not here for the money.  I'm not here for the fame.  I am here because I have stories to share.  When a stranger sends me an e-mail, posts on my page, or tells me face to face that they enjoy my stories, then I have found something greater than the dollar bill.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

The only sign August existed is the calendar on my office wall.  I apologize for sleeping through it.

In reality, editing is more time consuming than writing.  At least it is for me.  I can spend several hours editing a single chapter, which sometimes moves in to the next day.  The good news is; I am making progress.  The first half of the book is in my editors hands, and I am near completion with the second half.

I have the cover art for a short story I promised.  The only thing left is an edit.  Unfortunately, I am finding it difficult to pry myself away from my other editing.  Which leads in to my lack of social media presence.

Every day I tell myself I need to blog, tweet, or share something on facebook.  Every day I sit down and grab the manuscript and work on some edits.  On one hand, the book is priority, on the other, I am neglecting other arena's of my writing life.  I could promise to do better.  I could.  But, I'm pretty sure it would be a hollow promise.

Personally, I think you would rather see a completed book two than another post on Facebook.

I will try to do a bit better, though.

So, where have I been other than editing?

Most of you know my parents lost their home in the tornado before the tornado that received all the attention.  Finally, they moved to their new home.  I was able to help a little, though not as much as I wanted.  I can't express just how happy I am to see this chapter finally coming to a close.  A huge thank you goes out to the people involved with the many churches in the area that came through where FEMA/Red Cross/United Way failed.

It is also summer time and I still have grass in my yard.  I think my next home will be in a gravel pit.

Until my marketing skills and my writing abilities improve, I still have a real job.  And don't take this as a complaint.  In many ways, my real job has afforded me the opportunity to write.

My wife deserves more attention than she has received.  And always will.

And my granddaughter is cuter than yours.

I need to get back to work.  Maybe I'll ramble on a little later.  Just remember, though there may be a sprinkling of truth, it doesn't make Thayer Evans any less of a hack.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Editing Book Two

I know several writers who will give me that look out of the corner of their eyes and shake their heads, but...

I like editing.

My process of writing a book is thus:

1.  Write rough draft (brain purge)
2.  First edit (pencil edits)
3.  Second edit (checklist edits)
4.  Third edit (copy edits)
5.  Pass off to editors (evil hackers)
6.  Fourth edit (appeasing the evil hackers)
7.  Final edit (copy edits part 2)

Brain Purge

It is just that; a brain purge.  All of my ideas and the characters demands are brought to life on the screen.  I don't spend a whole lot of time trying to make it perfect; I just dump it all out before I forget it.

Pencil Edits

I stumble through the rough and write in corrections and edits on the hard copy and give it a quick dusting.

Checklist Edits

This is where I'm at with book two.  Possibly the longest part of the process (other than the purge).  I have a checklist of aspects that I look at, one at a time.  This is where the manuscript really makes a transformation.  Where the pencil edits leave me with one or two comments per page, the checklist makes the manuscript look like one of my ill-fated term papers from high school.
I really get excited about the book during this part of the process.  It starts to take shape and goes from that crap that Hemingway refers to, and becomes a novel.  Not quite complete yet, but by the end of this step, I will have read the manuscript 12 times.

Copy Edits

I could almost save this step for later, but I hate to pass off a dirty manuscript to the editors.  The misspelled words and other things tend to draw their attention away from the story and continuity that I want feedback for.  I do use some software that helps point out weaknesses, though I don't always follow its suggestions.

Evil Hackers

This is tongue-in-cheek really.  The people that look over the manuscript and provide feedback are invaluable.  I don't always listen to their advice, but more often than not, I do.  This is really the most value-added part of the process.

Appeasing the Evil Hackers

So, this is like trip number 14, 15, and 16 through the manuscript.  I look at all of the notes from the editors and weigh their input.  I hate to admit it, but in most cases they are right.  However, they like to squeal on those rare occasions that I ignore something.

Copy Edits Part Two

Here it is, the last run through.  And you know what?  I still miss things.  You would think after seventeen reads the manuscript would be pristine.  The problem is the human mind often reads things as they should be, and not as they are.  Most times "teh" is read "the".  Things will fall through the cracks no matter how many times I run through it, but it still annoys me.

Of course, the most frightening part of this process is throwing it out to the readers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I, Am a Writer

Bonus points to those who caught the movie reference in the title.

Over the last couple of years I have found myself amused at the similarities between the reader and the writer.  We both want a good story.  We cheer the good guy, jeer the bad guy.  Sometimes we even find ourselves wanting to find some nugget of good in the bad.  And the similarities carry on and on.

I often tell people I write what the people in my head tell me to write.  Other writers understand the premise, my wife and many readers fear I am mildly insane.  Yes, I am.  My characters have to have some semblance of "real" to them in order for them to come across as believable in the readers eyes.

So, as I write, though I have the rough story in mind, the characters guide the story.  They do things as they would do them, not as I would want them to do.  Many times their reactions surprise me and toss the storyline from its straight line.  In essence, the story unfolds for myself, as a writer, in much the same manner that it unfolds for you, the reader.

When it comes to the end of the book, I feel much the same anticipation as you do.  How will this end?  What happens next?  It always seems the last few chapters of a good book holds my attention the most asss I read them, and it does much the same as I write.  I experienced this when I wrapped up the rough draft of Blood of Two and I am experiencing the same feeling as I roll to the finish with the follow-up.

It's not just the excitement of completing this phase of the project, but it is the story.  I have an idea of how this book ends, much like I do when I read Stephen King or John Grisham.  I may have an idea, but I want to know.  What will these characters do when they are faced with these events?  You would think I know, but I do not.  This is one of the reasons I find writing so exhilarating.  I get to experience those same emotions I have as a reader, and I am writing the darn story!

I only hope that one day my skills reach the level that I can spend my time living these stories without the intrusion of a real job.

Quick update on the progress of Drums of Rallinwar - Book Two:

A stormy spring interrupted what I had going.  It wasn't just the cleanup alone, but my mind was on more important things.  The tornadoes had a devastating impact on friends and family.  If I wasn't helping with the cleanup, I was thinking about it.  Honestly, the book had fallen down the list of priorities.

Things are still not as they should be, and likely will never be.  Even as I type this I yearn for things to return to some sort of normal.  However, the last week I have been able to set aside a substantial amount of time for the project, and my mind has been on the task.  The progress has been amazing.  My wife has been amazing for allowing me to lock myself away for hours at a time.

I anticipate the completion of the brain purge within the next few days.  With that said, there is still a long road of editing ahead.  I have told you before, I will not release a substandard product to meet a deadline.  I will put every effort into making Book Two better than the first.

Look for the new title in November.  I will keep you updated.  And most of all, thank you for your understanding.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thoughts of Freedom

As we cruise up to the USA's Independence Day celebration, I thought I would share my thoughts on a certain family cult from Kansas, their desire for attention, and how their evil has created something good.

I will refer to this group as "unwanted guests", because that is what we call them in the Patriot Guard Riders.  I don't want them to see this post when they do their daily Google search for their organization, because that is what they want; attention.  Sure, they claim to be a righteous group that is against, well, just about everything.  The truth of the matter is they are those insecure kids that always act up just so people will turn their heads to them.

They are evil.  Yes, they carry around their bibles and crosses, preaching their interpretations of what they believe will cause pain to those around them.  I'm not even sure they believe what they preach; they just like to stir the pot.  Evil to the core.  Like so many cults have done over the centuries, they use religion as an excuse for their own misguided agenda's.

These unwanted guests show up at funerals to inflict pain on those who are already in pain.  Do not mistake this.  They are not their to spread "the word", there are other, more effective, ways to do this.  They laugh at your pain.  Evil.

Just like some rock and roll bands from the seventies and eighties, with their pentagrams and demons, the unwanted guests use their bibles and crosses to get attention and money.  And there you are, the core of it; they do what they do for money and attention.  And they love the fact they get paid to be evil.

The Patriot Guard Riders was formed in response to this evil.

Standing For Those Who Stood For US

And what a wonderful thing!  The Patriot Guard Riders attend funeral's of veterans and fallen soldiers only as INVITED GUESTS.  We stand a respect line before and after the services, escort the soldier to the cemetery, and stand watch during the burial.  All of this to shield the family and friends from unwanted guests, and most important, to show respect for the soldier.

Honestly, it is a shame that it took an evil cult to bring this about.  We should have already been showing this respect decades before.  It is a sight to see and it has brought tears to my eyes more than once.  One of the largest funerals I have attended, the procession of motorcycles stretched for couple of miles.  Regardless of how you feel politically about one war or another, these men and women served our country; some gave all.


As evil as the unwanted guests are, they have the right to do what they do.  Is it wrong?  From every angle, it is wrong.  It is just plain evil, but they have the right to do it.  Soldiers have given their lives to afford these knobs that right.

With all that being said, I just want to thank those unwanted guests.  I want to thank them for prodding us into doing what we needed to do. 


Monday, June 17, 2013

Anybody Want A Peanut?

Some conversations just stick with you, and often, when the conversation is over and you’ve had a few days to digest it, you think of that thing you should have said.  In this case, it was one of those things that needed to be said, but was left better unsaid; unless of course your goal is to hurt feelings.

As with most people, writers seek out those inspiring quotes from those who have been successful in our field.  These quotes are often motivating, or enlightening, some of us turn them into words to live by.

                                   “The first draft of anything is ****” – Ernest Hemingway

I love that quote, because regardless of how great you feel about that brain purge, well, Hemingway said it best.  I’m pretty sure it was a direct quote, though I have failed in finding the source of the interview and where he put it into print.  Too lazy to pursue it any further, especially since this is a well known quote of his…

There is a problem with these quotes.  Many times, like a quoted bible verse, the quote is taken out of context and the meaning is twisted and reformed into something that agrees with a belief we already hold.  This harkens back to one of my other mantra’s “Research, research, research.”

During the conversation the other day, one of the individuals involved quoted Lewis Carroll.  Taken at face value, this quote bothered me.  It seemed incomplete, and, well, wrong.

             “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop” – Lewis Carroll

This quote has the aura of being profound, so it must be good.  Right?  The person who used this quote is an aspiring writer, and they strongly believe in those words, because Lewis Carroll said them.  If an accomplished writer said those words, they have to be true.

                  “I could tell you my adventures – beginning from this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll

Taken at face value, this quote appears to be in conflict of the first quote.  But, according to the presentation, this quote is something Lewis Carroll said.  Again, if an accomplished writer said those words, they have to be true.

Let’s take a gander of other “quotes” from established authors.  Feel free to pass judgment, since that is what we have done with the two quotes from Lewis Carroll.

                        “You probably mean well, but handing these people food is the worst thing you could do for them.” – Brandon Sanderson

                          “There are lots of guys out there who write a better prose line than I do and who have a better understanding of what people are really like and what humanity is supposed to mean – hell, I know that.” – Stephen King

                           “I am a disappointed drudge, sir.  I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.” – Charles Dickens

                           “Many that live deserve death.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

                           “If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people.  They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.” – John Steinbeck

Interesting quotes, to say the least.  If we take them at face value, as the aspiring writer has taken the Carroll quote, we come to some bothersome conclusions.  Sanderson is selfish, King is humble, Dickens had no friends, Tolkien and Steinbeck were cynics.

Every quote on this post has one thing in common:  They were pulled from works of fiction.  They didn’t come from an interview, nor were they quoted from books about writing, all of them came from works of fiction:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Elantris, Misery, A Tale of Two Cities, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Grapes of Wrath.

I know.  The argument is that the writer’s thoughts are often brought out in their works.  So, the first Lewis Carroll quote is how he feels about writing.  Okay, I can accept that.  As long as you can accept that Brandon Sanderson believes feeding people who can’t feed themselves is the worst thing you can do for them.  I can accept your blind devotion to that single quote as long as you hold that same devotion for EVERY phrase in that book.

I write words that would never come out of my mouth.  My characters say things that make me cringe.  Now, I could be pompous enough to believe I am the only one, but the truth of the matter is; when a character says something in a book, it does not always reflect the author’s beliefs.  I find it difficult to believe someone would be naïve enough to think otherwise.  But, if you are using a quote from a work of fiction as your mantra on how to write a story, well, that’s a tad bit on the naïve side.

On the other hand, if you just like something a character said and you want to use it as your mantra, then by all means, use it.  Just credit the character.  Don’t put words in the author’s mouth.

“And I mean it.”

“Anybody want a peanut?”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In the Beginning

I suppose my latest theme on this blog has been opinions on writing.  Sometimes I feel a bit pretentious offering up these opinions, and someday I may find myself disagreeing with what I write today, but keep in mind these are just the mere opinions of an old man still perfecting his craft.

I was a part of an interesting discussion this week and it involved where to begin when writing a story.  In the writing world, we call this the Point of Attack.  In a world filled with expectations of instant gratification, Point of Attack is extremely important.  I guess it goes without saying (yet I'll say it anyway), it hasn't always been this way.

One of the traps that we fall into, as writers, is trying to emulate successful stories of the past, but when you do so with tunnel vision you may be setting yourself up for failure.  Would Moby Dick even make it to print in today's environment?  Would The Hobbit take so long to get off the ground?  In my opinion, no.

We are programmed to believe Moby Dick and The Hobbit are wonderful tales that must be read, so we suffer through what we would now consider shortcomings in an effort to find that wonderful tale.  If either tale was published, as they are, next week, they would fall off into obscurity.  Not because they are bad stories, but because they aren't written to match up with today's expectations.

So, as writers, we can't pick up a book written before our parents were born, copy the formula, and expect the same results.  No matter how good our tale may be.

Which brings me back to the Point of Attack.

Some people say you must engage the reader within the first five pages, others say the first five sentences, and they may both be right, so it behooves me, as a writer, to start the story off in an engaging manner.  We want to share with the readers every aspect of our characters.  We want them to see where they came from and why they are who they are today.  But, if we begin a story with the birth of our character, we may lose the reader in those first five pages and never get to share the growth of the character with them.

You can share all there is to share and still engage the reader.  Begin your story with some conflict, and sprinkle in the past along the way.  Probably not in flashbacks, as they are often overused, but a couple of sentences can say a lot.

"Ole Joe knows hospitals better than anyone in this room.  What with that cancer he had as a child."

You don't even know Joe, but your imagination just painted a picture of his childhood.

When I say to begin a story with conflict, don't take that to mean you must begin with an epic fantasy battle or the like.  A simple conflict will do.  Think about an opening chapter where Joe is panicking because he forgot to pay the water bill and it's cutoff day.  Zipping through traffic to get to the utilities office before noon.  Worried about his wife's reaction.  Hoping the check doesn't bounce.  This is real world situation that could very well connect with your reader.  They find themselves wanting to know if he gets the bill paid on time.  How much more mundane can you get?  But, this is conflict in the writing world.  And, as an added bonus, it is something the reader can connect with.

So when someone tells you to start the story at the beginning, keep in mind the beginning of the story may not be the beginning of your character's story.  If we did that, The Hobbit would have began "There once was a hobbit born in the Shire."

Monday, June 10, 2013


It has been a typical Oklahoma spring around here.  Thunderstorms, tornadoes, and the chaos that surrounds them has been ongoing for a few weeks.  As with most Oklahomans, I have spent my days dealing with the aftermath of Mother Nature's fury, and my evenings staring at the television screen and hoping the next twister finds empty fields.

Somewhere along the way, Summer sneaked in through the back door.

I know, officially it is not Summer, but Mother Nature isn't much for schedules.  I stepped outside yesterday morning to take care of some yard work and broke into a sweat before the mower hummed to life.  So, now we shift gears into a typical Oklahoma summer; hot, humid, and windy till the sun goes down, and then the wind will sometimes calm where you're left with just plain old hot and humid.

While I'm sitting in front of the television with the AC blowing full bore and a tall glass of lemonade in my hand, an Oklahoma Tourism commercial comes across the screen.  The scenes are inviting and made me yearn to load up the camper and find some of those beautiful corners of the state.  Then it hit me; those images on the screen felt inviting, by design, but they lacked an element of truth.  They were all missing the people gathered beneath a shade tree with drinks that used to have ice in them, holding them to their foreheads while fanning themselves with the other hand.  They also missed the constant drone of cicada's in the background.

This brought to mind imagery in my writing.  Most author's know that part of bringing the reader into the story is utilizing the senses.  Most of the time we rely on sight, but there is more to story-telling than painting a picture, though we can use that image to project other impacts on our senses.

The ceiling fan creaked with every rotation and once again Jonus wrote down oil on his mental list of things to do.  It would have to wait.  He leaned back in the chair and wiped the moisture from his brow with an already damp kitchen towel.  The smell of coconut oil told him Thea was escaping to the pool before he saw her prance across the room in her new two-piece she had paid far too much for.  He unbuttoned his shirt and felt the breeze on his soaked skin.

Feeling warm?  Passages like that help bring the reader into the story, and take note that the word heat was never used.  There is something about sound of a creaking ceiling fan, or the smell of coconut oil that brings summer to mind.

To me, Steinbeck was a master of imagery.  Pick up any of his stories and you'll have an urge to sit in front of a fan, or snuggle up to the fireplace.  One day, I hope to be that good.

So unless you are selling vacations in a hot and humid state, don't forget imagery.  Utilizing senses other than sight alone will help bring readers into your world.