Saturday, December 31, 2011

Remembering Back and Looking Foreward

Today is the final day of the year 2011.  As I look back on the year, I feel rather pleased overall.  Back in May, I attended Con-duit, a science fiction and fantasy convention held each year in Salt Lake City.  I listened to published authors and artists talk about their craft and the industry.

I listened to Tracy Hickman explain how in the digital age, authors can go directly to the reader in ways that they never could before and try methods of publishing that never existed before.  I took meticulous notes as panelists in one session discussed available resources for epublishing and self publishing.  Afterwards I followed up on blogs and podcasts that further discussed the matter.  And I was energized!  With inspiration drawn from Tracy Hickman, Howard Taylor, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Katherine Rusch, Michael R. Mennenga and Michael A. Stackpole, I knew I could do it too!

I got to work and polished up my first novel for publication and got it published in August (or was it september?).  Now on the final day of 2011, a mere seven months after that fateful convention, I have two novels and one short story published with another novel and another short story to become available in early 2012.

What are my hopes and plans for 2012?  I'm going to keep writing novels and short stories and I'm going to work on promotion and marketing.  In these first few months of my published career, I have not sold many copies.  I feel that the major thing holding back sales so far is that few people that read fantasy know I exist yet.  The stories are solid and enjoyable.  The stories are merely circling in the slow eddies of my close friends and family when I need to push the books further away from the shore into the main river current of readers worldwide.  I can cite instances where I have squandered opportunities to get word of my books out but I will get better.  Failure isn't stumbling, it's not getting back up after you fell.

A common saying among successful writers is that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  As long as I keep writing, as long as I keep telling people that they can buy my books and where to find them, sales will eventually pick up.  My books, at 3.99 each gives you many hours of satisfaction for less than the cost of a value meal at most fast food restaurants.  And with my 0.99 short stories becoming available too, the menu of available reads just gets better and better.

To all of you who actually read my blog, Happy New Year!  We're going to have a wonderful time together next year!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Fixing Literary Flat Tires

I was working on the final scenes of one of my upcoming books, and hit a snag this weekend.  I was writing and writing but something didn't feel right about the direction the story took and I got stuck.  Today, I took a step back and studied it more critically.  I found out what my problem was and now I can move forward again... after moving backward and rewriting about two thousand words.

I had placed my antagonist in a position where he needed to let go of his anger and hatred so that he could return to the love of his life without our protagonist's blood on his hands (the "super happy ending" I had mentioned in a prior post).  The problem was that he was at the place physically to have his change of heart but the catalyst for the change was not present.  She got left behind before she could give her "I can make you happy, but if you get in that boat and go after him, we're through" speech needed to make him weigh the cost of his revenge.

I could just force my way through as is but then at the very last minute of the story, the dear readers will feel that the antagonist's actions feel emotionally false and become disconnected from the story.  Readers will let you get away with fire breathing dragons and alien spaceships as long as the characters act like genuine people but they will bail on you if they act out of character because the plot says they have to. 

The ending is a critical moment in a book.  A mediocre book with a good ending will actually get better praise than a good book with a mediocre ending thanks to the way the human mind only remembers clearly the final impression or most recent experience with something.  Also, throughout the story the author is making promises.  At the end, if those promises weren't met to the reader's satisfaction, they feel robbed.  And robbed people are unhappy people.

So just give me a few days to fix my most recent literary flat tire so you don't have to feel the bumpy ride.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Memory Of Anne McCaffrey

I feel bad for finding out over a week late but better late than never. On Nov 21st, Author Anne McCaffrey passed away at her home in Ireland at the age of 85.  I had used her setting of Dragonriders of Pern to show how to do world building well in an earlier blog post just a few months ago.  I began reading her books in Junior High and her writing was a great influence on my imagination and my own imaginary worlds.  She will be remembered among the many great writers that have come before.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What have I been up to lately...

I have temporarily put writing my Neolithic Fantasy Story on hold while I polish up two short stories and my first Vine novel.  I sent the two short stories to my editor for review and am adding scenes to the novel, "Blood On The Vine".

There were a few broken parts in the novel that I had to patch up and, in discussion with some of my early readers and even non-reading friends, have determined that instead of the "happy ending" I had written, the story would be even stronger with a redemption story arc added to become a "super happy ending".  One of my alpha readers said that my writing style is ultimately optimistic and, honestly, she is right.  A lot of my stories end with a wedding or something.  I'm just a hopeless romantic I guess.

My first book, A Clouded Skye, has been accepted as my work's book club pick for January 2012.  To avoid a conflict of interest, I have given all members of the club a discount code for 100% off the cover price of the ebook edition.  I have also ordered a few copies of the print edition from for the club and as holiday giveaways for those that don't do the ereader thing yet.

NaNoWriMo is more than half over.  People all over the world are typing furiously away at their keyboards to complete a 50,000 word novel in less than one month.  I didn't join in this year due to the other writing projects already on my plate, but I do fully endorse NaNoWriMo and encourage everyone who has ever thought of writing to try it, if not this year, maybe next year.  Or just start writing your novel today.  Don't wait for someday to arrive to write your novel.  Make someday be today.  See, there I'm being all optimistic and positive again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

On Killing

I just finished reading Lt. Col. David Grossman's book, On Killing.  It was a fascinating yet dark and disturbing read.  He covers the psychological effects on soldiers and other combatants who kill and how the military of modern countries overcome the natural resistance in their men to kill.  It gave me a lot to think about, regarding the effects of killing in fiction.

Most humans, thankfully, have a strong aversion to killing.  In fact, without severe conditioning most men would rather be killed and die than be burdened with the guilt and anguish of doing the killing.  In the civil war, many muskets after battle would be found loaded multiple times and not fired.  In World War I and II many soldiers on all sides of the conflict admitted to only pretending to fire or deliberately shooting over or under the enemy so as not to hit anyone.

In some fiction, the hero kills the villain, or the villain's henchmen, with no sign of remorse or regret.  In reality, unless your "hero" is the rare individual with absolutely no empathy and tendencies toward serial murder, they will suffer in some form, even if their victim(s) were bad.  They might put it off in the moment, but once given sufficient time to reflect on the event, they will suffer in some form.

In A Clouded Skye, Skye bursts into tears of anguish when she admits to having killed the villain near the end of the book.  In Children Of A Clouded Skye, Usoya develops an obsessive-compulsive need to wash her hands after her first kill.  Vitalie feels guilt for killing but locks it inside himself.  He feels guilty for seeing Usoya's dried and cracked hands from chronic washing and not being able to bring himself to talk about their killing and his own sense of guilt.  After reading Lt. Col Grossman's book, I can see that I could have played up the psychological harm on Vitalie, Artimes, and Bella more than I did.

In my upcoming book, Blood On The Vine, a father/daughter pair kill two of three assailants and each deals with it differently.  The father struggles with reconciling his sense of duty to protect his daughter and the fact that one of his best friends died at his hands, wondering if he could have avoided it altogether by doing something different.  The daughter claims no remorse in her killing the other assailant but inwardly feels like a dangerous unpredictable animal that nobody would want to get close to.  Much of the second half of the book isn't about escaping the third man filled with revenge for his friend and brother, but about the father and daughter trying to come to terms with what they had done.

If you plan to write books in which killing happens, consider the effects to the individuals involved.  Even villains and henchmen may be extremely reluctant to kill if they can find a way to avoid it.  In Skye's youth, she had been caught stealing from a nobleman's kitchen.  The noble told his guards to drag her off and kill her or something as punishment.  The two guards dragged her out to the street then let her go because neither of them were willing to kill a starving girl caught pilfering food.  They both decided to follow the noble's "or something" part of the command.  And the noble himself would be reluctant to kill a child himself, hence the order to have others do it for him and create distance between himself and his victim.

Fight or flight are not the only responses to conflict.  Posturing and submission are often tried before or instead of fight or flight.  Why fight and risk being hurt if you can intimidate the other to giving in?  Why run when you might get a lesser punishment for meekly submitting and living to fight/fly/posture/submit another day?  Violence is a simple approach to problems but creates more complex problems.  Treat it as such.  There are consequences, and they are seldom positive.

After reading On Killing, I gained greater respect for the men and women in our police and military services that sacrifice their own peace and happiness so that we can maintain ours.  Most of us are sheeple needing protection from wolves and there are a handful of sheep dogs that do the protecting.  It is often a stressful low paying job which leaves these dedicated individuals scarred for life.  To those of you that have protected my right to write and all my other freedoms, thank you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Children Of A Clouded Skye Out Now

The sequel to my first book is now available on and within the next day or two will be available through  Hopefully before the end of next week, it'll be available through too.

For those of you who loved the first book, you'll like the sequel as well.  It takes place twenty years after the first book.  Skye and company have begun raising families of their own, growing the population of the faerie kingdom of Ellana.  But Skye's old enemy, King Cardeness of Retti has plans to upset their peaceful lives.  There is more humor, romance, and adventure to enjoy in this sequel. If you thought Skye was crazy as a vagabond faerie princess, imagine her as a mother of a teenager too.

Friday, October 07, 2011

I Didn't See That Coming But I'm Not Surprised

This morning on my commute to work, New York Times best selling thriller author Barry Eisler was interviewed about his turning down a half million dollar contract with a traditional publisher to go indie for his latest novel, The Detachment.  He was later picked up by Amazon's publishing arm in what could be called a hybrid part traditional & part independent deal.  More and more authors are going independent/self pub and doing well.

After hearing multiple interviews and a convention discussion panel with best selling fantasy author Tracy Hickman, I am seeing that the overhead, waste, legacy processes, and inefficiencies of the traditional publishers are hurting those publishers in this newer, faster, leaner electronic age.  The relationship between writer and reader is closer as the middle men (and women) of agents, editors, and publishing houses fall away.  Tracy is a big proponent of the artist going straight to his readers.  They are the ones that the stories are for.

Will publishers go away altogether?  No, I don't think so.  Books still need good editing, layout, and cover design.  But the publishers that succeed will be smaller, leaner, and more efficient than those that ruled the roost in decades past.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Most Important Advice For An Aspiring Writer

A little while back, before I had published anything, I was interviewed by the high school daughter of a friend of mine from work.  One of the questions stuck out in my mind and, to my surprise, I was asked the same question shortly after my first book became available by a man who also has a relative that wants to become a writer.

The question is, "What is the most important thing an aspiring writer should do?"

My answer is this, "Write."  Pretty simple, huh?  No book was ever written by merely dreaming about it.  It takes putting your butt in your chair and your hands on the keyboard and start writing.  Write every day until the story is finished.  When that one is finished, start on the next story.  And so on and so on forever.

There will be hard days and easy days, days when you think your writing is utter garbage (and it very well might be) and days when you think your writing is utterly brilliant (and it might be sometimes).  But whatever you do, don't stop writing.

If you truly wish to be a writer, you have to love writing and telling stories.  Writing a 50,000 word novel (and that's a really short novel folks) will take dozens to hundreds of hours of your life and in the end, the only person that might care about your story is you.  Have passion for the act of creating because, if you don't, it will show in the work and you'll never reach the finish line.

The words and story don't have to be perfect in the first draft, that's why it's called a "draft".  Don't eternally rewrite chapters one and two to get the perfect story.  Move on to chapter three and beyond.  The eternal rewrite gets you really good at crafting an Act I.  But stories are also made of Acts II and III.  Finishing a work, even a lousy work, will help you strengthen your craft more than the perfect first act with nothing to follow.

There is a rule that for anyone to become an expert at anything it takes 10,000 hours, or in writing terms, about a million words.  Since the most important thing a writer can do is write, get writing those million practice words.  NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is coming up in November.  Those aspiring to try it out can join millions of other aspiring writers in crafting a novel.  I say go for it!  Go write!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Talking Books

Thursday, my father and I went to a "Talking Books" meeting with Brandon Sanderson, Mark Buehner, and Lisa Mangum.  It was a wonderful and informative evening.  All three of these individuals are funny and talented people.

Brandon related his hate of reading as a child until one of his teachers gave him an adult fantasy novel with dragons and a witch having a midlife crisis.  He realized stories could be more interesting than the lower level children's reading he was being fed by everyone else.  He now teaches writing, writes incredibly imaginative books, and co-produces an excellent podcast on writing called Writing Excuses.  This podcast has been pivotal in shifting my writing from just something for myself to something I could sell to others.

Mark is a professional illustrator who does children's books, including one that my Mother got for the grandkids and tending kids to read called Fanny's Dream.  He illustrates for many of his wife's books and others.  My only regret here is not realizing that he was the illustrator for that book, otherwise I would have grabbed my mom's copy to be signed by him.

Lisa was particularly informative and helpful to both me and my dad.  She helped explain the publishing house's side of things.  Although I went Indie for my first two books, I would love to have partners in the creative process.  Being independent, I found that I can write, get professional editing, do covers, sales, and promotion.  But wearing all of the other hats in a publishing house takes away from my time to wear the author hat.  My only regret in meeting Lisa was that I didn't have my own business cards ready yet to give her and get my foot in the door on a personal level with Deseret Book.  I will likely send her a thank-you note as that is the courteous and professional thing to do... and maybe still open doors in the future.  Good karma works.

I hope our local library does more of these Talking Books events.  They're amazing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Strong Women

Though I haven't been vocal, I've been busy.  Children Of A Clouded Skye is in editing, I've been prepping the dead tree version of A Clouded Skye, and writing my neolithic fantasy story.  That aside, I thought I'd talk about strong characters.

I wrote my first novel, or maybe it was a novella, when I was in high school.  It was the story of an island girl kidnapped by a passing ship of what was an analog of the British empire.  The character was certainly lovable and had strong moral fiber (or whatever) but pretty much reacted to everything that happened to her, a passive figure.  For this and many other problems with the story, it will not likely see the light of day.

Fast forward fifteen or so years and I have a new protagonist in Skye.  Though raised in the street as an orphan, she is anything but a passive woe-is-me victim.  Being alone and independent just came naturally because to survive, she had to be.  In the sequel, Children of a Clouded Skye, several of the children of those introduced in the first story are strong willed capable girls as well.  Maelekin's daughter Channa, King Cardeness's daughter Usoya, and King Mathanias's daughter Bella.  Skye's son Vitalie is strong too but he doesn't count in this argument because he's a boy. 

There's been enough stories where the woman was nothing but the prize to be won or the victim to be saved, even when supposedly she is a competent spunky go-getter.  I feel this portrayal does womankind a great disservice. One of my considerations of whether a story is good or not is how that half of our population is portrayed.

One of the reasons I struggle with Superman and Spiderman is that both of these superheroes are stuck with perpetually helpless girlfriends in Lois Lane and Mary Jane.  Sometimes you wonder how the girls survived childhood without their heroes.  I'm not against bad things happening to the girls in my stories but I want to see them get out of the danger and solve the problems on their own.  They shouldn't have to rely on some man to do it for them.  Do it once and I'll tolerate it.  Do it over and over and then I start hoping the girls die to put them out of their own misery (Disclaimer:  I do not favor or condone the killing of helpless women in real life.  Really, I don't.).

One common danger of writing any story is that you make the villain more interesting than the hero.  If the hero always reacts to the villain, the villain will be the more interesting character.  The hero can react to the villain in the first act but by the second or third act, they had better be scheming and acting on their own to defeat the villain or they'll be dull flat reactive characters.  Good stories have strong protagonists.  As a guy writing about girl protagonists, it can be easy to fall into poor stereotypes.  I must be extra careful to avoid that pitfall in my writing.  Fortunately, I grew up with a large gaggle of strong intelligent sisters and a loving mother that gave me great examples of women and womanhood.

Monday, August 22, 2011

World Building - A Case Study

I just finished Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, the first of her Dragonriders of Pern series.  I read it years ago as a  teenager and thought I'd give it another shot as a grownup when I saw the audio-book version at my local library.  I wondered if it would live up to my fond memories of it or end up like G.I. Joe or Voltron, making me wonder what I ever saw in those poorly scripted things.

It turns out that, although the prose waxed a little purple or melodramatic in some parts, and I found some of the characters inherently flatter and less likable than I remembered, one thing remained true:  Anne McCaffrey wrote a terrific and rich setting filled with incredible detail.  I'll go over some of those things she got right.

Physiology - One thing I didn't notice before but did this time around was how much the dragons slept.  They typically fed on one or two herd-beasts a week.  That doesn't seem like much for dragons that could fly with human riders on their backs but does when you consider how the dragons seemed to sleep as much as they did.  They conserved energy when not necessary so that they had the energy to lift their massive forms in the air when they did need to be active.

Economy - A herd-beast a week doesn't sound like much until you multiply that by five hundred dragons multiplied by six weyrs (the homes of the dragons and their riders).  Comes to a weekly demand on the world's economy of over three thousand head of cattle per week at the height of the Red Star's passing and daily thread attacks (space-borne spores that devour all organic life they encounter, what the dragons were bred to protect against).  For an agrarian society with limited farm technology, that is a massive consumption of the world's resources.

Social Structure - To support such incredible demands that the dragons need to keep the world safe from the thread, the six (and later seven) weyrs are supported by a semi-fuedal system of holds (similar to kingdoms or city states) which pay tithes to the weyrs for their protection during the 50 years of threat every 200 years.  Guild-like craft-halls support the education and skill sets required to run daily life among the holds and weyrs and pass on the knowledge to the next generation.  Each is its own entity with its own desires and motives, and sometimes infighting among factions of the same group.

Many fantasy or science fiction worlds gloss over these details of the setting but the good ones don't.  No nation in the middle ages could possibly support an army with five thousand knights.  As amazing as that is to imagine, the economic cost of armoring, arming, and mounting that many highly trained men on well trained horses would be staggering.  A society with mages that could easily teleport people and goods all over the world would not hide in remote towers but would become the local parcel and mail delievery service.  When writing in any magic or technology, you must consider how it would impact the economy and social structure of the world around it.

Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series did consider the impact of dragons on Pern.  And she created a comprehensive believable world for them.  If one wishes to see what makes good world building, study this setting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird

If you want a study in good voice, take a peek at Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.  It was our book club's most recent selection.  I didn't get to finish it this go around though I enjoyed it in high school.  Selecting Scout to be the viewpoint character allowed for an exaggerated view of the world that felt genuine and legitimate if not completely accurate.  The way she described her first grade teacher's red and white clothes and then stating "she looked and smelled like a peppermint" made me laugh and showed how to make clothing descriptions actually help support characterization  and not merely fill the page with description you'll forget the moment you finish reading it.

Harper Lee created back stories and folklore for everybody, making the world feel rich with history.  Different characters had clearly differing motivations and beliefs.  Maudie Atkinson contrasted sharply with Stephanie Crawford.  Close friend of the children versus neighborhood gossip.  Lee's world just came alive.

Normally I can find positives and negatives about the books I read for our book club.  My list only had positives for this one.  Either I didn't read far enough into the book to reach the bad writing this time or the book really was this well written.  I don't generally believe in Literature with a capital 'L' but this book truly belongs as a shining example of good literature.  Ranging from its lovable characters and spinning a good yarn to the layers of symbolism and probing questions about race, gender, social class, good, and evil.

I find it absolutely amazing that people still request that this book get banned from schools and public libraries.  It may be one of the true great american novels.  A must read.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Clouded Skye - Now Repaired And Available

Thanks to everyone for your patience as I worked out the problems with my first book.  The corrected file for A Clouded Skye is now available on all three of the big ebook sites,,, and

Those who had already downloaded the error filled file (builds ending in 1.0, see final line of the entire ebook) should login using their same accounts and redownload.  It should allow you to get the corrected version free of charge (builds ending in 1.1, see final line of the entire ebook).  If it does attempt to charge you, let me know and I can email you the ebook in whichever format you need.

Now this blog can return to all of the other things I want to talk about, such as Harper Lee's brilliant novel To Kill a Mockingbird.   I love it but I'll have to tell you why later, when I have more time.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Bad News But We're Working On It

Bad news. While working on the Barnes & Noble edition of the book, I discovered that in the conversion process many errors were introduced resulting in both old incorrect formatting and new corrected formatting mixed together.   I think it was a result of my old incorrect formatting getting corrected by my editor and then when I "nuked" the document (very technical ebook publishing term) for the Smashwords edition, the new and old formatting both got merged so there will be things like "You're your horse doesn't look well" or something.  Punctuation problems may also be all over the map.

Both the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords editions were affected.  Those of you who bought a copy of either the AKE1.0 or SWE1.0 builds (Build number can be found at the last line of the entire ebook document), please send me a personal message and I will get you a corrected file as soon as it's ready at no charge.

I am chalking this up to a newbie publishing mistake.  Don't fear dear readers, I will take care of you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hurray! I'm Published!

My first ebook is now available through and  Before the end of the week, it should also be available through Barnes and Noble.

And to top it all off, I already got one sale!  I have a suspicion of who it was but I won't know for sure till tomorrow.  Thank you ebook purchaser!  I'm so happy!

If you like lighthearted comedic romantic fantasy adventure tales you'll enjoy A Clouded Skye.  Get your copy today!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting Ready To Publish

A Clouded Skye is now closer than ever to getting published.  I have come up with the cover and now only have editing the document's format to be friendly with most eReader's formats.  I am studying the Smashwords style guide now on how to get it conversion ready.  I'll also be looking into the Amazon Kindle and Barnse and Noble Nook formats and processes too.  I'm so excited!

To whet your appetite for my debut novel, here is a sneak peak at the cover.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This morning I finished my Awakening Short Story as part of my writing buddies' group project/anthology.  I had a blast writing it, especially the Instant Messenger conversation between the main character, Jackie Vandersol and her Mother.

It is the story of a college girl who after the Mayan Calender ended in 2012, awakened to discover that plants grew all around her.  She tries to start her new semester at the University of California, Berkley but discovers that her "gift" causes way too much trouble when grass and flowers are sprouting in the carpet of her classroom.  She has to either drop out and take online courses, some of which aren't available for her major, or learn how to control her gift fast so she can stay in school.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Club and Science Fiction

Today our book club had its monthly meeting and we reviewed Scott Westerfield's Uglies. The genre for the month was science fiction and the woman who picked the book apologized for it not being science fiction. Since I thought the book was science fiction, I asked her what science fiction meant to her.

She said, "Robot's and spaceships. This was just a distopia." I explained that many science fiction stories are also distopic stories. Robots and space ships is a terribly myopic view of a vast genre. Uglies is a distopia story set in the future with sophisticated cosmetic surgery and medicine, awesome hoverboards, and ultra efficient solar charging technology. Definitely science fiction.

Her comments reminded me of an NPR interview I listened to once about a Canadian author who wrote stories about a distopic future filled with genetically engineered foods. In the interview the author said that she wrote speculative fiction and when the interviewer from NPR said science fiction, she got offended at her work being considered science fiction. Her stories had neither robots or spaceships.

My friend from my work's book club simply was unfamiliar with the genre and was pleasantly surprised to learn that science fiction could include such a broad range of subjects and sub-genres. She liked the book as I did and felt relieved that her selection didn't offend us die-hard sci fi geeks.

The author on NPR, however, felt science fiction was beneath her since she wrote about the human condition and wrote Literature with a capital 'L'. Even though her novels were clearly science fiction, she refused to admit it. I feel sorry for those who have such bigoted views about some flavors of fiction (especially when they're swimming in the genre they purport to hate).

I'm not exactly a horror or crime noir novel kind of guy but I consider them just as valid as my preferred science fiction or fantasy. There is plenty of room in the boat for good writing of any kind. So, can't we all just get along?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Getting Together With Friends

For the first time in way too long, I met with a few of my childhood friends. We talked writing among other things. We have all been writing lately and may collaborate to create an anthology in our Awakening setting, which was also a collaboration we did about a decade ago. It felt good to connect with creative friends who help feed your own creativity.

My father, who is an incredible journalist and editor himself, has my Clouded Skye manuscript. It will soon be getting additional cleanup in its path to publication. It's sequel, Children of a Clouded Skye will get the next rinse cycle before being sent out to the world.

I'm both excited and a little nervous. I've been writing and nurturing these stories for years and only now will I be sending my babies out into the cruel world to walk or fall on their own two legs. I'm hoping to have my first ones available to the public by August. Fly little ones, fly!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Native American Legends - Coyote, Adahay, And The Sun's Fire

My nephew had a camp out to celebrate his birthday. While sitting around the fire pit, I thought we needed to have those wonderful stories you're supposed to tell around fires. I tried to think of all the camp fire stories I knew and it turned out I really didn't remember much. I need to make a better effort at studying and remembering folk legends and myths from many cultures to add to my story telling mental library. It can feed the creative well I draw from. Since I had nothing, I decided to try my hand at inventing a story.

While everyone roasted marshmallows I set to work on creating my campfire story. I channeled the spirit of my Cherokee ancestors to aid me. The fire spoke to me and shared it's story. I in turn shared it with my nieces and nephews.

I used elements remembered from other native american legends and myths such as talking animals, natural features of the world, and explanations for why things are the way they are. Whether a true legend or not, I wanted a tale that gave the feeling of truth, something that might have been told by the tribal story tellers to all that would listen. So here it is.

Coyote, Adahay, And The Sun's Fire

Coyote feared the end of each day when the Sun went down. He feared the darkness for in those days there was no moon to give light to the night. Being a cunning creature, he approached Adahy, a vain and gullible human from the tribes of man.

Coyote said, "Adahy, do you fear the darkness when the Sun sleeps? Do you get cold while he dreams?"

Adahay reluctantly replied, "Yes, I do get cold in the dark." Although he too feared the dark, he did not wish to admit it to Coyote. Brave warriors do not show fear.

Coyote said, "I have an idea that will bring light and warmth to man in the darkness. Are you swift on your feet?"

Adahay boasted, "I am the swiftest man on earth. I could even outrun you Coyote."

Coyote said, "Oh I am sure you could. But could you outrun the Sun?"

"Of course. The sun travels so slowly across the sky. I could beat even him."

"Then here is my plan to make you the greatest and most beloved of all men. When the Sun sleeps, go east to where he rises in the morning. Take a large branch and stab him when awakes. Then run away before he catches you and give his fire on your branch to your people and to your friend Coyote. You will easily outrun him and be safe."

Adahay liked the idea of being the greatest of all men. He agreed to take man's fire. He found a good dry branch and marched east through the night to where the Sun would awake. Just as the Sun rose from the earth, he thrust his branch into him, lighting the branch.

The Sun howled in fury and chased after Adahay. Adahay was swift but behind him, the sun burned everything in his path to reach the man that stole Sun's fire. Adahay raced high into the sky to protect the world from burning as the sun gave chase.

Other men and women saw the fields and trees burning along the sun's path on the ground and stole some with their own branches and returned it to their tribes. Sun was so focused on Adahay that he did not notice the others taking from his trail of fire.

Eventually the sun tired for the night but Adahay was so frightened that he kept running across the sky, holding up the burning branch with its silvery blue flame.

Coyote found the silvery blue flame comforting and climbed a tall hill to speak to Adahay. He said, "The sun only pretends to sleep! Keep running!"

And Adahay did run. Every night he raced across the sky to get away from the angry Sun and every night, Coyote howled up at him telling him to keep running so the Sun wouldn't catch him.

Every twenty nine days or so, Adahay's branch burns so dim it becomes impossible to see from the earth. Only on that night does he find another branch to keep the fire from burning out completely.

And that is how man obtained fire before he learned how to make his own. And that is why the fire of the moon grows and fades each month as it races across the sky in Adahay's hand. And that is why coyotes continue to howl at the moon to this day.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This morning I ran in the Layton Hills 5K and got 3rd place for my age group and 13th overall. I was pleasantly surprised by how I did.

What does this have to do with writing? I believe that good writing comes from good mental health which comes from good physical health. When I'm tired and out of shape, my thinker doesn't want to think. Exercise is a good time to get away from the other distractions and open yourself to a period of meditation and imagination. I can mull over problems in the plot or imagine new characters or concepts.

My Polynesian gladiator story was a mix of reading a book on roman gladiators and watching a documentary on the conquest of Hawaii by an aggressive expansionistic tribe among the islands before the USA came knocking on its door to become a US Territory, while working out at the gym (wow what run-on sentence, and I call myself a writer).

This morning before the 5K I was writing my Paleolithic (though its probably actually Neolithic) story and was writing about the physical contests and games the clan did at its annual Summer gathering. I wrote about a spear throwing contest. While running the 5k I thought to myself that they would probably have foot races too. So in the final draft, you might see a foot race, or at least mention of it in passing. It all depends on which elements remain relevant to the plot or to character development.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. Let yourself be influenced by what's around you. And live healthy so that your mind can be fit for the sport of writing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Uglies And Shared Creative Experiences

I recently finished reading (listening actually) Scott Westerfield's book, Uglies, for my book club. Despite heavy handed use of the "I've got a secret I want to tell you but can't because then you wouldn't love me anymore" trope and the flimsy scientific reasoning for hover boards and other technologies, I loved the book. I fell in love with Tally and Shey (Spelling could be off since I listened to rather than read the book) and their friendship. It was a delightful story set in a cheerful dystopian future about a society that has all teenagers undergo surgery at age 16 so everyone is equally pretty. Most children look forward to the day they can pass from Ugly to Pretty, though some don't.

One of the things that caught my attention was that in the heavy use of the hoverboards throughout the story, it was never made clear whether Tally and Shey skated regular or goofy foot. I don't know if Scott Westerfield even thought of it. Maybe he's not a skateboarder. I imagined the main character, Tally as hoverboarding goofy foot (right foot foward) like myself while Shey hoverboarded regular footed (left foot forward) like my son.

Omitting this detail was perfect, if perhaps unintentional. Which way they hoverboarded didn't matter to the story and it allowed me as the reader to fill in the detail with my own imagination. In doing so, I more closely identified with the main character since I imagine her "skating" the way I do. Often less description is more. No two people will ever generate the exact same image in their heads so rather than try to describe everything in meticulous detail, allow the reader to get the most important elements and fill in the rest with their own minds, turning the book into a shared creative experience. The story is just as much the reader's as it is the author's.

When our book club read the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, one of the members of our club asked, "What does Katniss even look like?" I said it didn't matter. Until they made the movie out of the book and imprinted some young actress's face as the main character, we could imagine whatever we wanted. That is one of the joys from books, the reader gets to imagine the world and its inhabitants rather then be spoon fed the visuals like in film.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Editing versus Writing

The last few weeks I have been editing A Clouded Skye. I certainly feel that the work has been strengthened with the edits, however, I miss the sheer joy of hammering out page after page of fresh story. Part of me feels like I'm not even writing when I'm editing, like its cheating or avoiding actually writing something.

But another part of me understands that the book you see on the shelf had multiple edits and drafts. In the original draft of A Clouded Skye, I had a musical instrument get destroyed protecting Skye in a fight scene against some highway robbers. She beat the robbers and then generously helped those she had wounded. Upon the following draft, I drastically altered the scene to have her run from the robbers rather than fight them, feeling that it was more in character for her to run. The deleted scene made her appear downright skilled as a fighter, which she isn't, and over the top compassionate, which she also isn't. She will certainly help a friend or a starving child, after all, she was one herself as a kid. But helping an enemy was too large of a stretch. So the fight had to go.

And in removing the fight, that musical instrument and its various references scattered throughout the rest of the story potentially had to be altered. I came close to deleting the references but felt that they showed her affection to a broken instrument that saved her life. Instead I had to add the lute back to the robbery scene but have it save her life in her escape from the robber's ambush. But I still have to review all of the other references in the story to ensure that they accurately reflect the knew reality of this inanimate character's role in Skye's narrative.

Editing takes a lot of work. Changing one thing creates ripples of other edits throughout the work. But if it makes the story better, then it's worth it, even if I'd rather be writing the next crazy idea in my head. There's too many stories floating around up there and not enough time to write them all.

I'll just close with one of my favorite quotes from the story to whet your appetite.

“Jaceck, I’m so proud of you! What you said just then was the sweetest thing you’ve said since the mist got me.”

Monday, May 30, 2011

CONduit 2011

I had a great time at CONduit 2011 this year. I met some greats in the industry including Howard Taylor (Schlock Mercenary web comic and the Writing Excuses podcast), Tracy Hickman (NYT Best Selling Author and incredibly smart and funny guy), Jessica Day George (YA author), Robert Defendi, and others.

With my sister and niece, we sat in on the panels presented by these people and soaked up their advise on writing and publishing fiction. CONduit is a great place to rub shoulders with those who were once where we hopeful artists and writers want to be and learn the ways to get to where they are. The atmosphere is lighthearted and encouraging. I highly recommend attending next year's convention if you get the chance.

On my personal writing efforts, I plan to start using this blog more regularly to post progress and updates on my works and efforts to get published. I will also post musings on the industry and reviews of recently read books or anything else writing related that crosses my mind.

Based on alpha reader feedback, I am currently in second draft editing of A Clouded Skye, a novel about a vagabond girl who is promised to never starve again if she makes a deal with a faerie queen and finds out that she got a lot more than she bargained for (I made a picture of Skye in DAZ 3D studio several years ago, see below).

I have several other projects in various stages of writing or planning. I've been spending a lot of time researching the paelolithic age for a potential novel coming. I am also currently waiting on alpha reader feedback for a novel called 'Blood On The Vine', a disfunctional family shapeshifting plantation slave story I wrote last year. I hope to begin putting that one through the redrafting stages soon.