Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Destination

   An important part of any story, especially a fantasy, is the journey to a destination. There can be many destinations or just one, as long as there is movement. Characters that sit around waiting for something to happen, or trouble come to them is boring. There are so many different ways to travel, by walking, riding, spaceship, or you could make up something totally new.
   Traveling opens up uncounted opportunities for the writer to show a little bit of the world, show how their characters react to obstacles, and show how they treat others if not alone on their journey. Which brings up another point. Characters rarely travel alone. Some may start out that way, but soon gather up companions to help them or secretly hinder them.
   These companions may be human, animal, or maybe even an unseen spirit. But please don't give them someone who just functions as a place holder. Every companion should have a story of their own. They will have likes and dislikes, strong opinions about the world, and a personality that blends well with the MC. Most important of all, they should be able to aid the MC in some way, such as a protector or a teacher, someone to help them gain confidence.
   The destination and the importance of it should be revealed early in the story. Readers will soon lose interest if the characters are just traveling, but no one knows where they're going. For a stand-alone, arriving at the destination should coincide with the climax of the story. If you're writing a series, have secondary destination that can be reached at the end of each book. Readers will probably be turned off if the story ends and the characters haven't made it to the final destination.
   There are so many possibilities for destinations and they don't have to be physical. It could be a new plane of existence or spiritual level. Even death could be the final destination. Send your characters out into the wild unknown and have fun writing your story!
   As always, this is my opinion. If you disagree, I'd love to hear your ideas.
   Thanks for reading. Sorry I don't have any writing to share this week.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Writer I used To Be

   Apparently I'm one of those strange animals who really enjoy stories I wrote many years ago. Especially now that I've lost so much and have re-read all of my previous books in an effort to reestablish those worlds in my mind. I feel I'm once again a part of the worlds I built, but it's the characters and their motivations I'm still not sure of.
   I see so many writers out there bad-mouthing their own writing and complaining of, "Impostor Syndrome", what ever that is. Seems to me if you don't enjoy reading your own writing, no one else will either. First and foremost, write to please yourself. Believe it or not, there are plenty of others out there who enjoy the same stories as you. Ignore the 10% who will dislike you and your stories no matter what.
   I've gone back and read some fan-fiction written many years ago that was the catalyst for making me want to learn how to write. Those words still hit me emotionally. Granted, the grammar is atrocious and punctuation is non-existent, but the emotions of the characters still comes through. I wrote the story I wanted to read at the time. I enjoyed it then and still do now.
   I'm so afraid, since the surgery, my writing no longer has the depth to it as before. I can still turn a phrase or develop a scene, but my characters fell flat. What I've written in the last few weeks is okay, but still feels like something is missing or not right.
   Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated, and I'd just love to hear from you.
   Thanks for reading.
   If you're interested, here's a small sample of the fan-fic from years ago.

   “Please tell me more about those memories,” she asked. “I don’t understand how memories of past battles could be of much benefit to you.”
   “I didn’t just get a few memories of battles, Moraine. I have the complete day to day memories of close to a hundred men. Oh, not any memories of childhood or growing up, but starting in adulthood. As near as we can figure, they start around four to five hundred years before the Trolloc Wars when I was a general for Maccine, King of Eharon, and end around the time of Artur Hawkwing. I’ve been a First Lord of Manetheren and an Eharon High Prince. I led armies during the Trolloc Wars and fought against Hawkwing numerous times as different men, rarely with any success. I remember attending balls at the palaces of kingdoms that are now only piles of rubble. Those ballads you sing Thom. Some of them are about me and a few I wrote to mourn the loss of someone dear to me or to celebrate a victory in battle. Those memories used to be all separate men but now they are all a part of me. I am those men.”
   Moraine glanced up at Mat when he paused and was surprised to see him shaking. She saw that Thom’s eyes were locked on Mat in a way that told her some of this was new to him also. With a profound shiver and a clearing of his throat, Mat continued.
   “Some of the memories are short because those men made mistakes and died young. Some last for years of men who were very successful. Unfortunately, every one of those men died in battle. I remember every death. I remember choking on the blood from an arrow in my throat or chest. I remember all the sorrow, anger and hopelessness as darkness came. You have no idea what it feels like to die over and over again.” Mat paused. “And here I thought Rand was the one who was going to go crazy.”
   Moraine and Thom both stared, struggling to comprehend the enormity of what Mat just shared. How could any man deal with something like that and remain sane? Now she understood why Matrim had been shaking. This was what she had seen in his eye but was unable to fathom. How could she? The pain and sorrow of a hundred men’s deaths lay smoldering in the depths of his soul. For what he had done for her today, she vowed to find something or someone to ease that pain.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

It's Official

                                                           The Arches of Rineron

   I can finally say I'm officially writing again. I told myself I wouldn't post another blog until that time so here I am. It's been happening off and on for about a week now. I'm sure it'll take a while before I can be consistent again, but I'm almost finished with the next chapter in the second book of the "Queen of Darkness" series. There are still days where I set up my notebook, grab a pen, and then just stare. The blank page simply a reflection of my mind. Now if I can just continue and finish this WIP, that'll be great!
   Over the last year of not posting, a number of folks have continued to check my blog maybe hoping to find something new. I certainly appreciate your dedication and promise I will try to give you something new every week like I used to. Please hang in there with me as I try to re-order my life.
   One thing I'd like to mention is the results of my free e-book giveaway several weeks ago. The few places I posted always contained the link and a picture of my epic fantasy, "The Pain of Compassion". However, my novella, "The Princess and the Apprentice" out performed the epic 2 to 1. I wish I had some idea why folks chose the novella over the full length epic.
   The results of the giveaway did bring me a pleasant surprise. I don't normally check my numbers on Amazon, but when I looked to see how my promotion was going, I saw that someone was reading my short story, "Arizona" on their Prime account so I checked Amazon and found that someone from the UK had read the story last summer and left a wonderful 5-star review. That has always been one of my favorite short stories, and I wish I could figure out a way to get more people to read it. No new reviews on the other stories yet, but hopefully I'll see a few in the coming weeks.
   After I have written more new material, I'll start sharing snippets again
  Thanks for reading and stay safe!

   The picture is a drawing I made of what I think the arches look like that Navon has to enter in "The Pain of Compassion"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Holiday Memories

   Some of my fondest memories are from growing up in the mid to late fifties. In the early fifties, after his discharge from the Army Air Corps, and completing a four year degree, my dad bounced around from one temp job to another. Low income made it difficult for him to find us decent places to live. In 1956, he finally landed a permanent position at Westinghouse in Baltimore.
   Half-way between Baltimore and Annapolis was a new housing development aimed specifically at returning GI's. The homes were being mass-produced using surplus steel and cement. The only wood used in construction was on the roof to attach the shingles. With one floor plan to choose from, the only option was to have one built in a mirror image. They came with a wood-burning stove in the utility room next to the kitchen, and an enclosed room in the middle of the house designed as a shelter.
   The early years were tough for my family yet I never felt lacking. Dad had to work a lot of overtime to make the house and car payments, but always tried to make time for me. Sometimes that would have to happen after I'd been spanked for a wrong-doing while he was gone. I was a pretty wild kid! LOL Most of my presents in those days were home-made, and I made toys out of scraps in the garage. Luckily for me, my dad was an engineer and could make almost anything. Sometimes I wonder just how many millions of dollars made off of his inventions. Anyway, I'll never forget the rapid fire, rubber-band rifle that held up to ten bands, or the hobby horse he and my mother made. She sewed together a realistic looking horse head with ears, eyes, a mouth and a mane. Dad stuffed it and mounted it to an old broom handle. That horse and my cap-gun saw many adventures over the years.
   I could go on forever remembering the wonderful things my family and folks in the neighborhood would do to make the holidays special for all the kids. My presents became progressively more advanced every year. I even remember a chemistry set that contained a vial of real uranium and a roll of film negatives for experiments! It's too bad the world will never experience community spirit and solidarity like that again.
   Thanks for reading.

In the morning, the inn was abuzz with activity. Not only were the companions leaving but several villagers decided this would be a good time to bring some of their early produce to market in the capitol. They also felt that the Princess and her friends would be better received if members of the village were there to vouch for them.
The only quiet moment occurred while they were eating breakfast and a group of women approached the table, two of them holding bundles.
“We stayed up all night a’maken this for ye. A mage be needin a mage’s robe and m’lady a nice gown to be meetn’ da King. Tis a gift from the women of this village for what ye done.”
Speechless, Aldan stood with tears in his eyes as the women gathered around and placed a robe on him made of the softest, bleached leather he had ever felt. Even with flowing sleeves, a hood and reaching almost to the floor, it sat lightly on his shoulders. Pockets of various sizes and shapes filled the inside while golden thread accented the seams and displayed whimsical but faint patterns on the outside.
“Our village is well known throughout the Kingdom for the soft leather and the fine linens we produce,” another woman explained. “We save up the material to bring to market once a year but its value is nothing compared to the lives you have spared.”
Odessa held up her new gown and marveled at the quality of the fabric and the expertise with which it was made. It was simple yet elegant and the color complemented her eyes perfectly. Unable to voice her gratitude, she could only smile and hug the women surrounding her.
Arms flung out and a big smile on his face, Aldan spun around a few times to the boisterous cheers of all gathered there. The women were urged forward to receive a hug and kiss from the mage which made the young ones giggle and blush and the older ones tried to stretch out the kisses as long as they could.

Jealous husbands and concerned fathers rushed forward on the pretense that they were saving Aldan from their amorous womenfolk. Odessa settled the issue by wrapping her arms around him and planted a kiss that brought forth a chorus of hoots and whistles. As they returned to the table she shared a sad but knowing look with Jon, the compassion clear in his eyes.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Fine-Toothed Comb

   We had another fun and productive critique group last night. An old member decided to come back, and we added a new member to the group. We keep getting bigger, and it has me a little worried. We've managed to streamline our critique process to cut down on the amount of time spent by each person. Time will tell. At least the group hasn't mutinied yet and sent me packing.
   Our group is set up to do a beta read on a complete manuscript the second meeting of each month. Last night's beta read brought up an important point and the focus of this blog. This was a 120k word story the writer had been working on for years. They told us they had read it several times and checked for mistakes with a "fine-toothed comb".
   It's amazing what our mind will do to fool us. If you've been working on the same piece for years, our mind will correct the mistakes automatically and we'll never see them. You know in your mind how it's supposed to read, and that's what you see. Everyone in the group commented on the large number of mistakes, such as mis-spelled or missing words, and bad grammar. I felt sorry for them as they sat there with a dumb-founded look on their face. Fortunately, some of the group took the time to mark every mistake and send the file back.
   Fine-toothed combs are not a good editing tool. LOL
   This week's snippet is early in Navon's story, and hints at a developing relationship that will change his life. Thanks for reading.

In the morning, Navon rolled over in his cot and came face to face with three hairy muzzles with fangs and yellow eyes that danced with excitement. The pups started nipping playfully at his blankets and the cot, threatening to tip it over.
“Alright, alright!” Navon laughed as he swung his legs out. “I’m getting up, but what are you three doing here?”
The young wolves turned and trotted toward the entrance of the tent, their job done. Just before passing through the flaps, the female turned, showed him what could only be described as a wolf smile, and continued with her tail flagged out playfully behind her. Shaking his head, Navon pulled on his boots, and then reached over for his sword, belting it on. He finally accepted the fact that Emma must be right, his life was in danger. He swore he would never be caught defenseless again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Description vs. Dialogue

   This came up in a conversation online where someone worried they had written too much dialogue and not enough description. They felt their dialogue was the stronger aspect of their writing and struggled to write good descriptions. This question comes up all the time in writer groups online and in my critique group. Here are my thoughts.
   One thing to keep in mind is how everyone looks at the world differently. You and I could read the same description and see something totally different. You could describe a scene in the finest, most minute detail, and the reader will see a different scene than you intended. Some of it depends on that person's life experiences. If you are trying to describe a rain forest in your story and the reader has visited the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, then that is what they'll see in their mind's eye regardless of how you describe it.
   While it's fine to write to your strengths, too much of a good thing can get boring. If you force yourself to write a little description here and there throughout the narrative, eventually it will get easier and your writing will improve. I feel it's especially important to help the reader, when you change scenes, by adding at least enough description to set the new scene. I think you'd be surprised how little description some readers need to envision a fully developed scene.
   Today's scene is from one of my stories, and while there is plenty of emotion I hope you can feel, it is also a good example of introducing a new scene. A short description in the beginning to develop the scene, and subtle descriptions mixed in with the dialogue to enhance the emotion.
   As with everything else I've discovered in writing, balance is the key to keeping my interest. Thanks for reading!

Nestled up against the base of Mount Baltok, where the capital city of Kiplar had originally set down its roots, sat an old non-descript inn. Known as the place for late night meetings between discreet lovers, and those whose actions were best kept hidden, its innkeeper never lacked for money. No one remembered the inn’s original name. Based on the faded sign above the door, that supposedly sported the likeness of the first Queen of Dahlian with two pints of ale pictured below, the name “The Queen’s Jugs” had stuck. Only the innkeeper was aware of the irony of the name considering the identity of one of his patrons.
In a dark booth farthest from the door, two hooded figures sat in a lovers embrace. The pain of long-buried memories resurfacing threatened to overwhelm the Queen as she softly kissed the lips of the old arms-master and gently traced the scars on his cheek with her fingers. The face of a young guardsman hovered before her as the past overcame the present, and she lost herself to the feelings she had buried for so long. He reached up to cover her hand with his as she pulled back, the flickering candlelight revealing a sad smile on his face.
“The memory of your soft lips has never left me even after all these years. Please believe me when I say I never stopped loving you, Olivia. I used to curse the Eyes for the position we found ourselves in, until I realized I could protect you better from the shadows than by your side.”
“Oh Malcom, I’ve missed you so,” she murmured while resting her head on his shoulder. “What happened to our love, my handsome young protector?  Why have you chosen now to bring back painful memories from so long ago?”
The arms-master stiffened at her question and then let out a sigh heavy with regret. “The Deluti happened. It is also one of the reasons I needed to meet with you like this. The story I have to tell may not be easy for you to hear.”
It was Olivia’s turn to stiffen as she lifted her head and stared at him, the eyes of a queen replacing those of a young princess in love. “I’m listening.”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A New Focus

   As some of you may know, I've been dealing with a fairly serious medical issue for most of the year. The depression that comes after heart surgery, loss of hair and major changes in life-style have all made it nearly impossible for me to attempt writing again. Something has to change.
   I don't sell many books simply because no one knows they're out there. I can't afford to advertise, and I haven't been well enough to go out and participate in book signings, etc. All of the reviews I have received were positive and generic. Words like; "Wonderful story", "Loved it", or "Action packed with great characters", is nice to hear, but am I really connecting with the reader?
   If I write a scene and it brings tears to my eyes, will the reader tear up also? What about the scene that has me laughing, will the reader at least smile? I don't know and that bothers me. Starting today, I will share a short scene on the blog and ask folks to please read and comment on whatever emotion they felt while reading.
   I'm hoping at least a small number of my friends will be willing to spend a few minutes helping me identify my strengths and weaknesses. I need to find a way to restore my confidence and continue writing.
   As always, thanks for reading!

The company turned as one toward the sound of trotting horses and the clatter of wagons. Everyone’s spirits lifted at the promise of transportation back home. Several men headed for the stables in search of hay to line the wagon bed for Derek. Braun and his men began the arduous task of dragging the dead goblins over to the entrance of the inn.
A two wheeled farmers cart and two wagons appeared on the road. The young man, who had run back to the village, jumped down from the cart but before he could reach them, bent over retching overcome by the stench.
The driver of the first wagon gathered up her skirts and began the difficult task of climbing down from the wagon. One of the men rushed over to help her. Safely on the ground, she tucked several stray silver locks back under her bright red scarf, pulled a cane from the wagon and searched the faces of the men.
Carefully, she made her way toward the side of the inn barely glancing at the grotesque bodies of the dead goblins. She walked unerringly to the tarp covered body that lay not far from Derek and the others. Using the cane, she slowly lowered herself to the ground, bent over and pulled the tarp away from the face of the man hidden underneath.
Gently, she brushed the blood soaked hair out of his eyes and kissed him on the forehead. Silence abounded as some of the men had to look away while others could not. Odessa wrapped her arms around Aldan and buried her face in his chest, sobbing quietly.
“Harold, you old fool,” the old woman murmured. “You just had to prove yourself one last time didn’t you.”
She glanced up at the men standing there. “Did he die bravely?”
Derek forced an answer past his own tears. “He saved the lives of several men, m’lady, including my own. A braver man I have never known.”