Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tis The Season

   This the time of year when we anticipate joyous family get togethers, share Christmas cards with friends and relatives we haven't spoken to all year, and give thanks for all that we have. It is also that time of year when we must accept the fact that some of those friends and family members are no longer available to share in the joy of the holidays.

   At my age, this is happening with greater frequency. This year alone, I have lost a favorite uncle, two dear cousins, a number of high school classmates and several of my shipmates from the Navy. I will always regret the missed opportunities to tell them how much they meant to me and to reminisce over old times.

   Don't let this opportunity pass you by and end up as a regret. Reach out to old friends and family members this holiday season. Instead of just sending a generic card with a signature, add a little note inside, especially for your elderly family members. You have no idea how much of a blessing it is for the elderly to receive hand written letters or notes letting them know they are not forgotten.

   In closing, I would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of my online friends, not in an attempt to highlight my faith, but for me, it is the most meaningful expression of my appreciation for the new friends I have found here and my heartfelt desire to see you all blessed in some way.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How Important is Your First Draft?

   Always make a hard copy of your first draft and store it in a safe place. It is the pure essence of your creative spirit brought to life. Every first draft is a diamond in the rough. Uncut diamonds are just ugly pieces of rock that only through extreme patience and skill will the diamond cutter be able to reveal the inner brilliance of the stone.
   As writers, we must learn patience and develop the skills necessary to cut and polish our rough drafts into a work of art. If a diamond cutter makes a mistake, the stone is ruined forever. Fortunately for writers, if they have saved the original, they can go back after a mistake has been made and start over. It is a natural tendency for others, intentional or not, to try and influence your story to fall in line with their vision. Sometimes that vision will match yours but other times it can change the original direction of your story.
   This happened to me. The opening chapter of one of the stories I'm writing, that received some recognition from a major contest, has had the opening paragraph re-written so many times, it no longer fits my vision of the story. Before I knew what I know now, I would rewrite it to satisfy the critique of every group or individual who read it. I assumed they knew more about writing than I did and I wanted my opening paragraph to be the best it could be.
   I do not like the way it is written now and neither did the last group who read it. I would like to return it to the way I wrote it originally but never saved the early drafts. Why save something that I was improving? I cannot remember how it was for the first draft but hope that I can return that first paragraph so it fits my original vision for the story.
   I now make a hard copy of every chapter I write and keep them in a folder. The only changes I make are to the files in my computer. I'm sure not every writer has this problem but it works for me.
   Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do Critique Groups Truly Serve a Purpose?

   Last week, just prior to our monthly writers critique meeting, I received an e-mail from the person who runs the group asking if I could take over for him since something had come up. I agreed with a certain amount of apprehension since I have never been in that position before.
   The experience was not what I expected. It was interesting to see how things work from the other side of the desk, so to speak. We always have a couple of new writers show up every month and it was not surprising that they would look to me, as the facilitator, as knowing more about writing than they. What was interesting was how the older members of the group saw me differently just because I sat at the head of the table and not beside them.
   I have always enjoyed helping others when I'm able so I hope my suggestions were of some benefit to them. Anyway, just something I wanted to share but now it's time to move on to the real purpose of this post.

   Maybe once you become a best selling author, you will feel that a critique group is no longer necessary. For the rest of us however, I believe critique groups are an important step in our journey to becoming the best writer we can be.
   I just don't think that we can be truly objective when it comes to our own writing. It requires someone who does not have a vested interest in your story to look at it with a non-biased eye. Sometimes we are so enamored with the special trees we have planted that we can't see what a mess our forest has become.
   A successful critique group is one that does not bother with word for word line edits. That job is reserved for a professional editor. A successful group also does not focus on the writer but on the writing. That's not to say that if you see the writer consistently use a word out of context or make the same grammatical error over and over, you don't comment on it. The group should look at all the parts that make the story whole.
   Our group tries to follow a basic set of questions when writing a critique. Are the characters believable and interesting? Is there enough action or tension to keep the story moving? Is the plot consistent or does it wander all over?
   I believe the role of a critique group is to identify a writer's strengths and weaknesses. Praise for parts of the story that worked well and constructive feedback on the parts that fell flat. Suggestions on how to re-word a sentence or an example of proper grammar are acceptable but at no time will we re-write an entire section and tell the writer, "This is the way it should be written". At that point it becomes the voice of the person doing the critique, not the voice of the writer.

   My advice to writers is to find a critique group that will help you grow or at the very least, a critique partner who isn't afraid to tell you your writing stinks and is willing to help you make it better. It might take several tries to find the right group for you. If you are unable to find a group in your area, post a notice at the local library and establish your own critique group.

   As always, these are just my opinions and I hope you will find them useful.
   Good luck and keep on writing!
   The world is waiting for your story!

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's My World and I'll Build it Anyway I Want! Not!

   I know most, if not all of these things, have been written about many times but it helps me to remember, as I'm world building, by repeating them.
   Unless you are writing a science fiction story based on a starship in deep space, your world will be similar to our own. Therefore it needs to follow the same basic rules of nature and science. Some of you might say, "That's obvious," but I have read some stories where that wasn't the case and they suffered for it.
   I believe writers who live above the equator naturally place their story in the northern hemisphere of their world. Subsequently, the farther north you go, the colder it gets and if your characters travel far south, the world becomes hotter. The opposite is true if you live in the southern hemisphere. No matter where you live, the higher in elevation you go, the colder it will become. Rivers always flow downhill from the source, either in the mountains or a tropical location with lots of rainfall and end up in an ocean or sea.
   For a world to be believable, there should be areas of agriculture to provide food and forest lands for building materials of wood and stone. Rivers, lakes and oceans all provide a source of food, an avenue for travel and provide a source of power, be it electrical or to drive a mill.
   I find it very helpful, as I'm developing a story, to have a notepad with a basic map of the world so I can fill in areas as the story progresses. If your character needs to travel from point A to point B, you will see that they might need to cross a mountain range or a large river. These are perfect places for things to go wrong and challenge your character, making the story more interesting.
   Bottom line is your world needs to be realistic and familiar to the reader. My personal opinion is that the best stories are character driven, based in a familiar world, so the reader can relate.
   There are probably some of you who may disagree. If you do, I would love to hear your opinions. I'll never be too old to learn something new.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Characters in a supporting role.

Not being a published author, I refrain from writing posts on how to write a successful story. However, as an avid reader for fifty plus years, I feel qualified to write about what makes a story stick with me like a hot bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter day.

Strong secondary characters form the foundational framework to support the main character during whatever trials and tribulations he/she must face to be successful. None of us go through life completely alone and without support. Even the lowly dandelion seed must rely on the support of the wind to carry it to its new destination or it would simply fall to the ground accomplishing nothing.

Supporting characters need to fulfill a variety of roles. They should be there to lift up the main character when he/she fails. An understanding mentor who can teach them what they can't learn on their own is sometimes needed. I always enjoy a character capable of providing some comic relief to overcome those parts of a story that can mire us in sorrow.

Typically, the main character is someone who does not want to do what's necessary and it's up to the secondary characters to push/pull or even trick him/her into action. They can consist of family, friends or just someone met along the way.

Of all the stories I've read, the ones with a strong cast of supporting characters are the most memorable. My favorite series of all time, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, has so many secondary characters, I lost count!

This is just my opinion, of course, but I think a well thought out cast of supporting characters will make any story more memorable.

Thanks for taking the time to read. As always, any comments or opinions are welcomed.

Friday, May 2, 2014

If you think you don't need a developemental editor, think again!

    For those of you who have read some of my blogs in the past, you know I don't waste everyone's time posting what I had for breakfast or what kind of trouble my cats have gotten into. I write blogs about experiences that have had an impact on me and that might be of interest or benefit to others.
    This blog is about the importance of interacting with a developmental editor before you thrust your literary masterpiece on an unsuspecting world.
    I've recently undergone an enjoyable and informative session with R.J. Blain who graciously accepted the task of looking over a short story I wrote some time ago. Even though she is busy with her own projects, I needed something to help me get past a slump in my writing and R.J. provided just that spark.
    I must say that I was apprehensive and a little skeptical over having someone look at a piece that has been critiqued and edited several times already. Could she actually make it better or just different? Would hers just be another opinion on how the story should read? We all know what they say about opinions, (they are like a...holes, everybody has one).
    Even though my short story was fairly well written, R.J. found several areas where timing and story flow were off. Her suggestions on making certain scenes stronger were right on and she found several inconsistencies that others had missed.
   Needless to say, I am pleased with the outcome. Working with R.J. on this short piece was a pleasure and a learning experience. I would certainly recommend that any serious writer work with a developmental editor and R.J. Blain would be my first recommendation.
    Remember, you want your story to be the best it can be.
    Happy writing! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Chapter one of Eyes of the Deluti

This is the first couple of pages in my WIP. Please give it a read and let me know if you would continue reading and if not, why not. Any and all comments, good or bad, are appreciated. Thanks!

This is from the first book in a fantasy trilogy.

                                     Chapter One
A Whisper from the Past

  Barely able to see, Navon took the stairs two at a time. The hot tears of shame and rejection burned his cheeks as he tried to distance himself from the looks of sympathy on the faces of everyone in the Great Hall. Why? Why had his father done that to him? Was he really such a disappointment?

  The sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs alerted him to the eminent arrival of his older brother, Altair. He ran into his room and wiped the tears from his face. No one was going to stop him now that he had made his decision to leave.

   His brother walked in and stood there for a moment, watching him pack, before he spoke, “Are you sure you want to do this, Navon?”

   “No, but what choice do I have Altair? You heard Father at dinner tonight. He laid out all of his hopes and plans for everyone in this family except me. He never mentioned my name or even looked in my direction. You could see from everyone’s faces that they understood what was happening. I no longer have any hope for a future as part of this family.”

   The youngest of the Baron’s children, Navon had been given a small room on the upper floor of the Keep. A giant oak, rooted in the center of his room would have been as nothing compared to the presence of his brother. He wished that Altair would just leave him alone with his misery but his brother’s concern also gave him comfort. He had always been there when Navon needed a shoulder to cry on and never laughed at his fears of being different.

   As Navon stood in front of his small wardrobe, his light blond hair fell forward to conceal the tears that threatened to flow again. Altair approached him from behind and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

   “Do you know how eagles learn to fly, little brother?”

   Unable to speak, Navon shook his head.

   “The chicks spend months standing on the edge of their nest just flapping their wings. It builds up their muscles. Then one day, the parents will push a fledgling out of the nest. He will either learn to fly or fall to the ground where he will die. I think Father just gave you that push.”

   When he didn’t respond, Altair turned his brother around and with a finger under Navon’s chin, raised his head, wanting, needing to look him in the eyes. “You have no idea how much I envy you, little brother. The rest of us will always be chained to this Keep or at least to our little corner of the country. Do you remember all those fantastic tales of the world that traveling Bard regaled us with at last summer’s festival? You are free to travel and experience those faraway places for yourself, while we are prisoners here to our duties and responsibilities. From the day you were born, we have all felt that you were someone special and that someday you would have to leave us.”

   Altair reluctantly released his little brother and quickly moved towards the door. Once there, he turned back with as fierce a look as Navon had ever seen on his brother’s face. “Learn to fly Navon. Never forget that you are a Roddel. If you are ever in need, send word to me and I will come regardless of what Father says.”

   Unable to concentrate on his packing after Altair left, Navon sat on the edge of his bed trying to make sense out of what his brother had said. A knock at his door jarred him out of his thoughts. Wondering who it might be, he heard a soft voice outside calling.

   “Navon. May I come in?”

   By the Eyes! It was his mother, the last person he expected. She had never come up to his room before, so why now? He swung open the door to his room and answered with a bow. “Of course you may come in Lady Mother.”

   All the excuses for why he was packing that sprang into his head melted away as he watched his mother calmly survey the room, holding a plain wooden box in her hand. The box was like nothing he had ever seen before. The edges had darkened with time and the simple design spoke of an age long past.

   “I knew this day would come, my son. That is why I am here. I have something that has been in my family for many generations. I became the bearer of this box on the day my mother passed from this world. It is a thing of power,” she said and opened the box, removing a triangular amulet that contained three luminescent eyes and was attached to a small gold chain. “Once you put this around your neck, the amulet should disappear and only you will be able to remove it.”

   “Why are you giving this to me?” he asked, unable to keep the hurt and frustration from his voice. “You have many more sons and daughters who are more deserving of this than I.”

   “Navon, no one in living memory has worn this. Tradition says that the bearer of the box will know who is to wear the amulet or who to pass the box on to for the next generation. The moment you were born, I knew you were the one to wear it and that I was not to give it to you until you were ready to leave. Please put it on, my son. It is yours.”

   With trembling fingers he reached for the amulet. The loop in the chain appeared to be too small to slip over his head. The chain began to glow and Navon felt a tingling travel up his arms and into his chest. The glow quickly faded and the chain separated, revealing a tiny clasp. At a gasp from his mother, he raised his eyes and stared in awe as the box disappeared in a flash of light. He reached behind his neck with the ends of the chain where they snapped together to become a solid loop once again. From the look of wonder in his mother’s eyes, he knew the amulet was no longer visible. Unnerved by the touch of the chain, he froze as a voice in his head whispered, “Go north.”

                                                *          *          *

   Far to the north, in a castle hidden deep within the Mountains of Mists, the Ancient One raised his head and smiled. Far to the south-west, on the Isle of Dahlian, the Stagwood Marshe trembled as Scorpios clenched his scarred fists in a fit of rage. The slave who had been serving him burst into flames until reduced to a small dusting of ash on the floor.

                                                *          *          *         

   In the morning, wearing a comfortable pair of leather pants and vest over a light green shirt with a touch of lace at the cuffs and neck, Navon gathered his things and went down to the kitchen. It was early enough that he should be able to avoid everyone in the family. Now that he had made his decision, he was eager to be on his way. He asked the cook to wrap up some sausages in bread that he could eat while he traveled, then noticed the furtive looks of the kitchen staff. So, it appeared that his father’s words, or more accurately his lack of words on Navon’s behalf, had reached the rest of the Keep. The cook’s words as he handed him the sausage rolls were unexpected, “May the Eyes of the Deluti watch over you wherever you go, m’lord.”

   The guard at the outer gate barely acknowledged him as he trudged through using his un-strung bow as a walking staff. Sword and knife were hung from his belt, a quiver of arrows over one shoulder and his pack and bedroll tied to his back. The pack was only large enough to hold a few of his prized possessions, some clothes and his herb pouch. The old healer at the Keep had taught Navon everything he knew about healing lore, so the pouch should come in handy.

   Defending himself wouldn’t be a problem even though he would never achieve the brute strength of his brothers. The Keep’s arms-master judged that Navon had the quickest hands of any swordsman he’d ever taught and his skill with a bow was un-matched by anyone in the Keep. He might only be fifteen summers, but imagined this was what it must feel like to be a man. Raising his face to the warmth of the morning sun, he strode away from the Keep with a spring in his step. You were right, big brother. It is time for me to fly.

                                                *          *          *         

   A solitary figure stood on the ramparts of the Keep long after Navon had faded from view. Forgive me my son, for what I had to do. Your path in this life was set the day you were born and I fervently hope I was able to prepare you for it. You will always be my special son. Turning away, Baron Rodgier d’Roddel disappeared into the Keep, his beard glistening with tears that no one would see.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Another short scene from 'The Price of Compassion'.

Princess Sofia has just been informed that after secret negotiations with their enemy, she is now betrothed to Prince Mathias of Marlinor. The impact of this revelation is almost more than she can bear and blames her mother, the Queen, for her betrayal.
Please give it a quick read and comment on story flow and if the humor provided by her maidservant helps to diffuse the situation.

Somehow Sofia managed to make her way back to her rooms through a fog of despair and disbelief. Of all the things she had envisioned for her life, being married, especially to a Malinorian, had never been one of them. Deep inside of her, where the cauldron of anger normally simmered, sat a cold emptiness. Floane, sensitive to the mood of her mistress, moved quietly about the rooms, laid out a change of clothes and poured the Princess a cup of chilled wine. At a knock on the sitting room door, Floane quickly hid in the bedroom.

Queen Oliva entered and stopped just inside, then quietly closed the door behind her. The Princess stood motionless, staring out of her window.

“You will leave in the morning with an escort of ten men commanded by Lt. Marton. You may take along one maid. The men will escort you to Seaside where a ship will be waiting to take you and the escort across the Straits of Durmont to the capitol city of New Bratan. There you will be met by King Charles and Prince Mathias.”

Gliding to a side table, the Queen carefully set down a small bejeweled chest.

“Inside of this chest is an ancient wooden box, the contents of which are unknown. No one has been able to open it for many generations. The box has been part of the Royal Treasury since the time of the first Queens of Dahlian and is believed to contain an item of great power. King Charles’s only requirement for the betrothal was the gift of this box, so you will present it to him immediately upon meeting. How he even knew of its existence is a mystery.”

Unused to being ignored, the queen ordered, “Face me while I am speaking.”

She involuntarily took a step back as Sofia turned to face her. Out of lifeless eyes spun a darkness that threatened to draw the color out of everything in the room. Determined to finish what she had started, the Queen continued.

“My daughter, your sacrifice will benefit our country immeasurably. As your Queen I demand it of you. As your mother I ask it of you.”

Receiving no response, the Queen turned and made her way back to the door and risked one final look at her daughter on the way out. As the door clicked shut, a breath of sound escaped Sofia’s lips, “I have no mother.”  

Unable to think, she continued to stand long after the Queen was gone. A movement drew her attention to the bedroom door where Floane stood transfixed. With faltering steps her maid walked across the room as if being pulled by a rope straight to the jewel covered chest.

Once there, her hands slowly grasped the lid and raised it. Eyes bright with wonder, she trembled slightly as she reached inside and lifted out a wooden box darkened with age. A smile danced at the corners of her mouth as the box appeared to open on its own accord and she was bathed in a golden light. Closing her eyes with a sigh, the lid of the box closed and she returned it to the chest.

 As the glow around her maid diminished, the Princess heard a voice, as if someone was speaking to her from the bottom of a well.

The bearer of the box is found. Guard her life with your own.’

Sofia shivered and pulled back from the abyss where her shock and despair had led her. The sharp edge of her reasoning flared to life and cut through the events of the morning. She was being manipulated for someone else’s gain but would have to deal with it later. Right now she needed to make plans and prepare for her departure in the morning.

“Floane! What are you doing over there?”

“Your Highness? I… it is such a lovely chest!”

Tearing her eyes away, she bounced across the room, hands clasped together.

“This is so exciting! Are you really going to Marlinor? And to be escorted by Lieutenant Marton. He is so handsome! I have always dreamed of sailing on a ship. You have to beware of pirates though or so I’ve heard. And the King! They say he is so strong and handsome that women fall down at his feet!”

Laughing at her maid’s excited ramblings helped to lighten Sofia’s mood and put her in the right frame of mind for what she had to do.

“It will take more than a pretty face to make me fall down at the feet of any man,” she snorted. “And don’t you worry about pirates. Our ships are a match for anything those thieves will have.” Turning toward the bedroom, she continued. “Now I need to get out of this gown and leave to make certain arrangements. While I’m gone I want you to pack only the two large travel chests. When I return I’ll have one of the Guard escort you to your quarters so you can pack without being disturbed. I want us both ready to leave first thing in the morning.” Not receiving a response, Sofia turned back to find her maid frozen like a deer caught in the gaze of a hungry wolf.

“Floane? What is wrong? You heard the Queen. She said I was allowed one maid and you are the only one I would trust to travel with me.”

Fear filled eyes regarded the Princess as Floane trembled, “No one in my family has ever left the Rose Palace, your Highness. We have always served the Queens of Dahlian. My grandmother told me that a curse had been placed on our family and anyone who tried to leave the Palace would die before reaching the end of the bridge.”

Putting an arm around the shoulders of her maid, Sofia steered her towards the bedroom. “I imagine your grandmother told you that just to scare you into not leaving the Palace and getting into trouble. Don’t you worry Floane. I will protect you with my life.” With a sense of unease, she wondered, why would I say such a thing?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do you read visually?

There has been a lot of discussion lately on the merits of story telling vs good writing. While it behooves us, as writers, to position our words on paper in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, precise adherence to the rules is not always necessary and can actually disrupt the reading experience. Let me explain.
As I read, each word or phrase immediately forms an image in my mind. As those images come together, a motion picture of the story develops. If the images fit together, then the motion picture continues without interruption. However, sometimes those images are out of order and I have to stop the movie and re-wind. Story comes to a halt.
The general rule is that you should always write in the active voice. This works fine for action scenes but does not always work when writing descriptions. For example; let's say you want to describe a castle and where it is located. In active voice, you might write "The ancient castle sat on a pinnacle of rock'. As soon as I read 'ancient castle', my mind conjures up the image of a castle, maybe on a river or in the center of a city. Who knows where my mind will place it. Then I read that it is located on top of a pinnacle. Now I have to completely re-imagine a different castle that would fit on top of a pinnacle. Motion picture stops.
Now, if you wrote that same description in the passive voice, it would go something like this: "On top of a large pinnacle of rock, sits an ancient castle". As I read this, my mind forms an image of a large pinnacle and automatically positions the correct shape and size of castle on top of the pinnacle. The motion picture continues without interruption.
For me, another rule that will stop the story in its' tracks is showing vs telling. While showing can add dimension to a story, some writers will try so hard to show me something that I have to stop and re-read to make sure I understand what they are saying. In those instances, I wish the writer would just tell me that the character is 'boiling mad' and get on with the story.
When I'm reading, I always picture the author sitting across from me, drinking coffee or sipping on a beer, as they take me for a ride in one of their tall tales. If that writer starts to take on the aspect of an English lit professor in a suit and tie, I will get bored and leave.
I don't believe I am alone in this, considering how some of the most popular fiction writers of our day, receive the harshest criticisms. Critics complain that their writing is abysmal and does not meet current standards.
I don't know about you, but I would much rather produce a whale of a story that, hopefully, thousands will enjoy, than a grammatically perfect piece that only a few will appreciate.

Do you read stories the same way? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences while reading.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How wordy is too wordy?

The following is a short scene from my work in progress. The Queen is waiting impatiently for the arrival of her youngest daughter. When I submitted this to my critique group, half loved it and the other half felt it was too wordy. I love to read and write epic fantasy, so for me, wordy is good.

Her Majesty, Queen Oliva Salidoris, was on display in her Crystal Throne at the northern end of the Great Hall. Today was the first day of summer and one of only four days that she required her three daughters, the four Governors and the local nobility to attend her. Dark and curly shoulder length hair, adorned with golden threads containing delicate pink blossoms and tiny green leaves, framed the face of a mature yet strikingly beautiful woman. The intricate Crown of Dahlian, nestled atop the curls, appeared to anchor the golden threads in place. A sleeveless, floor length gown was the color of spring wheat in celebration of the new season. The gown was trimmed with the same profusion of leaves and blossoms at the hem and waist with the neckline cut just low enough to hint at the femininity hidden within.

Intense hazel eyes, partially hidden behind lowered dark lashes, scanned the courtyard as she greeted her guests with a nod and a distracted but benevolent smile. The fingers of her right hand continued to tap out a rhythm on the arm of the throne despite her best efforts to still them. Today’s major announcement involved an agreement that had been reached concerning Princess Sofia. An agreement that her daughter was completely unaware of and the Queen was concerned what her hot tempered daughter’s reaction would be. At a discreet signal from the Queen, the Seneschal lowered his head to hers.

“Any word as to the whereabouts of Princess Sofia?” she whispered.

“No, your Majesty. The servants are being uncommonly tight lipped. No one has seen the Princess since late last night.”

Just then a movement at the southern entrance to the chamber caught the Queen’s eye like a breath of air rustling the leaves of a single tree branch. A young woman dressed in a blindingly white gown with folds of sheer lace down the sleeves and around the neck, strode down the aisle. Back straight, every muscle loose and in perfect balance, her eyes never seemed to move yet saw everything around her. The lethal grace of her movements was a testament to the years of clandestine lessons she had received from the Palace Guard’s retired arms-master.

 A wave of silence spread out from the Princess as the sea of courtiers parted in front of her on the way to the Throne. Even from far away the Queen could see the anger smoldering in the eyes of her youngest daughter. Knowing her daughter wouldn’t have created a dramatic entrance on purpose, something or someone must have delayed her. The barely suppressed smirk and look of distain on the face of her middle daughter, Princess Dianna, confirmed her suspicions.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do you become emotionally attached to the characters in the stories you read and/or write?

   A number of children, while growing up, develop imaginary friends. My imaginary friends were in the books I read, but to me they were real people. I would fantasize being in the adventure with them and doing my part. I would laugh when they laughed and cry when they cried. I remember having nightmares every time we would just barely make it out of a situation alive. In my nightmare, we would both die.
   I no longer need imaginary friends but I still become emotionally attached to characters, both in the stories I have fallen in love with and in the stories I have written. I have never seen myself as a leading man so I usually identify with one of the supporting characters. Over the years, several authors have killed off the supporting character halfway through the story. When that happens, I lose interest and rarely finish the book. When I was young, occasionally I would write the rest of the story keeping the character alive.
   As you can probably tell, the stories I like to read and/or write are all character driven. Sometimes this makes it difficult for me as a writer because I will start to tear up at an emotional scene and can't continue. I will have to step away for awhile before I can come back and finish the scene.
   I have always been a fairly un-emotional person who rarely laughs or cries. It's not that the emotion isn't there, it's uncomfortable for me to display emotion in front of others. Books give me a safe outlet for my emotions.
   I sometimes wonder if I am alone in this or are there others who have to live their lives in a similar fashion?
   Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Love Writing Characters In Supporting Roles.

   In my story "The Eyes of the Deluti" I put together a team made up of a 'light shifter' and an 'ogre' to protect Navon, one of my main characters. Emma is descended from a race of tree dwellers with the ability to shift the light around them rendering her invisible. This ability enhances her profession as an assassin. Sebastion is a mountain ogre with a natural defense against magic. He relies on his size and mastery of weapons to get the job done. Sebastion is twice as tall as Emma and easily four times her weight.
   In this scene, Navon has disappeared and Emma is forced to contact their master. See how she handles it.

All eyes turned to her. Once again, silence filled the clearing except for the quiet whimpers of the pups and a low rumbling growl from Bright Star that Emma could feel.

Sebastion stood, then sat again, hand clenched on the hilt of his sword. Slowly and carefully he spoke. “Little one, somehow we have failed. This is beyond any of us and we need direction. Only you have the power to contact the Old Man.”

Emma nodded and reluctantly reached inside her tunic to pull out the talisman she kept on a chain around her neck. The Ancient One had given it to her many years ago to contact him in an emergency. She had only used it once before and the experience had been unpleasant. This time would be worse. At the touch of her finger along with a small release of power, a misty figure formed in the center of the clearing.

A deep, powerful voice filled the clearing as High Lord Demitrios faced Emma.

“This had better be important, little one.”

“What, did I wake you from a nap?” she bristled. “Of course it’s important, Your Ancientness.”

Sebastion let his fangs show in a smile, and then quickly put on a serious expression as the image of the Ancient One turned to him.

“Sebastion, I am disappointed in you. I had hoped you would have her under better control. Now, I see all of you gathered here except young Navon and what is most disturbing, I can no longer sense his spirit. What has happened?”

Sebastion could only shrug while holding his hands out to the side.

Emma approached the glowing figure, hands clenched at her side. “That’s the problem. We don’t see him either. According to the wolf pups, he and Moonlight have been taken away by your Deluti Spirits. You should have warned us.”

“What do you mean? And who is Moonlight?” He stared off into the forest before turning to the elder wolf. “Bright Star, may I question your young ones?”

With a bark of command, the pups moved forward to sit at the feet of the old Deluti High Lord. He stared into their eyes for a short period of time, and then released them. They rose and returned to their parents, no longer whining.

The Ancient One paced back and forth with a look of concentration on his face as he pondered. “Which one of the Councilors inhabit the amulet that Navon wears? He is not ready. What is the purpose of the bond to the she-wolf? This changes everything.”

“Stop babbling, old man, and explain to us what is going on,” Emma demanded.

He turned to the ogre, as if he hadn’t heard. “Sebastion, I must ask that you travel to the capitol city and present yourself to the King. Princess Sofia of Dahlian will arrive soon to fulfill an agreement between the two nations. My vision is unclear but I sense that the Princess is next in line to receive an amulet. One of the Barons is planning something and I have to assume he is an agent of my brother. He will do anything to get his hands on one of the amulets. Tell the King I have sent you to be her personal bodyguard.”

He ignored the fuming Emma and turned to the elder wolf. “Bright Star, my old friend, the fate of your daughter and young Navon is now out of our hands. The Deluti spirits have activated the Arches of Rineron. We cannot interfere or aid them in any way.” The Old Man paused as he raised his eyes and gazed to the south. “They must have passed through the first arch. I now sense Navon’s spirit far to the south in the land of the Shadron Nomads. If he and Moonlight survive their trial they will return to the north through the Shadow Mountains. Wait for them there.”

Finally he turned to Emma with a look that caused her to step back. “And you, my favorite little tree climbing assassin, will accompany Sebastion to the capitol, find out what the Baron is planning, and then contact me again. Stay out of sight and stay out of trouble if you can.”

Before she could respond, the image of the old man returned to her talisman, leaving her and Sebastion to stare at each other in apprehension.

“That went well, don’t you think,” Emma beamed. “Did you hear him? He said I was his favorite! C’mon Sebastion, let’s take care of the wagon and get going. The sooner we can arrive at the capitol, the sooner I can find out what the Baron is up to.”

Sebastion shook his head and chuckled as they broke camp.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Writing fan/fiction for practice from a story I can't get enough of.

Just for background on this story, Elayne has the power to bond someone to her so that they share feelings and strength. Sort of like an over the top bodyguard and friend. Birgitte’s soul belongs to an ancient hero who comes back from the dead to fight whenever the Horn of Valere is sounded. 

Do the strong emotions of this scene come through? If not, any suggestions on how to make it better? 

This is part of a fan-fic I am writing just for practice. 




The coolness and familiar surroundings of the Pavilion helped to settle her thoughts. The servants had attempted to pattern the inside of the Pavilion after her quarters in the Palace, even placing a dummy fireplace against one wall that would hold a brazier if needed for warmth. The bed was certainly not as impressive as the one in the Palace but was probably the only bed in camp. Someone had been thoughtful enough to bring some flowers and arrange them in a vase on the table.

Her thoughts soon turned sour again. Blasted mood swings! She would find a way to make bloody Rand al’Thor pay for the difficulties she’d been experiencing because of her pregnancy. It wasn’t totally his fault but she would make him pay regardless. It was also entirely possible that her mood was being influenced by the pain and despair seeping through the bond from Birgitte. Something was eating at the soul of her friend and Elayne cared too much not to try and help.

“Bloody ashes Birgitte! Will you please sit down and talk to me. I haven’t been able to get more than a few words out of you all day. I can feel the conflict inside of you and it will destroy us both if we can’t find a resolution.”

Birgitte snorted as the faraway look fled from her eyes. “Such language from a Queen. You’ve been spending entirely too much time around soldiers Elayne.” Then in a quiet voice she continued, “Especially a soldier like me.”

Elayne said nothing. The look she gave Birgitte spoke volumes as she pointed to a chair opposite hers. She had assumed the mantle of Queen now and would brook no more nonsense.

“You will not like what I have to say Elayne,” Birgitte murmured.

“I don’t like seeing my dearest friend suffer like this either, so I will just have to find a way to deal with it,” Elayne replied.

She waited patiently as Birgitte struggled with what she needed to say. A flicker of fear began to dance around in the back of Elayne’s mind as the suspicion of what her Warder wanted flared to life.

“You want me to release you from the Warder bond,” she whispered. “Why?”

Taking a ragged breath, Birgitte slowly walked over and sat in the chair facing Elayne. Hands tightly clenched in her lap, she looked up and saw her tears reflected in the eyes of her beloved friend.

“In all of my previous lives, I have never had a sister. You have shown me what I never knew I’d been missing. You have given me a precious gift Elayne. Not only by saving my life but also the gift of the love for a sister. You will always have a special place in my heart.”

“I don’t understand,” Elayne cried softly. “I need you now more than ever. Please don’t ask me to do this.”

“I must.”

Springing up out of the chair, Birgitte began pacing back and forth. She had never been comfortable sitting while trying to marshal her thoughts.

“Do you understand what I am Elayne?”

“Of course. You are Birgitte Silverbow, heroine of the Ages. She who never misses what she aims at.”

“No Elayne. That is who I was and as long as I’m your Warder that is all I’ll ever be. But that is beside the point. What I am is a hero tied to the Horn of Valere. I must be available to answer the call when Mat blows the Horn at the Last Battle.”

Unable to hold back her tears, Elayne struggled to control her voice. “What are you saying Birgitte? Do you want to die?”

“No one wants to die,” Birgitte murmured as past memories of death rose up to haunt her. “But I am afraid. I shouldn’t be here Elayne. Moghedien ripped my soul out of the World of Dreams and thrust me into the world of the living. Her intention was to see me die the final death and I would have if you hadn’t bonded me, giving me a link to this world. I have felt the Pattern twisting itself around trying to fit me in.”

Stopping at the side table where one of the servants had thoughtfully left a pitcher of wine and a pitcher of goat’s milk, she poured herself a cup of wine and after a moment of indecision, poured another one for Elayne. The Queen wasn’t supposed to have anything other than goat’s milk during her pregnancy but Birgitte felt they both needed something stronger.

Returning to her chair, she handed the cup of wine to Elayne and at her questioning look Birgitte smiled, “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“Why now?” Elayne asked.

“It seems that one of the requirements for being a Hero of the Horn is sensitivity to the needs of the Pattern. Maybe that is why so many of us are born over and over, each time accomplishing something important. Gaidal and I have lived more lives than any other because we are the most sensitive to the Pattern. Yesterday I became aware of what the Pattern requires of me. Somehow I am now tied to Mat. If I am not with him he might die and the Last Battle will be lost before it ever begins.”

“Birgitte, I know that Mat blew the Horn of Valere and he seems to have a certain flair for fighting but Rand is the one who is destined to battle the Dark One and save the world.”

Birgitte leaned forward and gripped Elayne’s knee, her braid of golden hair falling from her shoulder. “Think Elayne. Even if that too handsome man of yours manages to seal the Dark One back up in his prison, what then? Will the hundreds of thousands of Trollocs just roll over and die? Will the Seanchen shake their heads, disappointed that they missed the Last Battle, climb back onto their boats and head for home?”

“Of course not. We have one of the largest armies ever assembled along with the greatest military minds of this age. We will deal with the Trollocs first and then push the Seanchen back on their ships whether they want to go or not.”

Bounding out of her chair, Birgitte resumed her pacing. How to make Elayne understand? Her need to find Mat had become almost painful. It was like an itch she couldn’t scratch. The worst part was she knew she couldn’t do anything until he returned from his insane quest into the Tower of Ghenjei. That would have to stay a secret for now but maybe he would forgive her for revealing just one of his many secrets.

Her eyes glazed over as she remembered the desperate, blood soaked battles many generations in the past. “I fought and died several times during the Trolloc Wars Elayne. It took many lifetimes before they were finally defeated. Your armies are impressive but from the number of Trollocs rumored to be massing at the border, they will roll over your armies like a storm flattens a field of young wheat. Your armies are too fragmented with different loyalties and agendas. You must have one Marshal-General in command of all the armies to have a chance. Who will you choose? Toward the end of the war when all looked lost, one man stepped forward. He rallied the nations together and fought with cunning and a certain amount of luck until they finally drove the Trollocs back across the border.”

Coming to a stop in front of Elayne, her body quivering with emotion, their eyes locked.

“That man was Mat.”


Saturday, January 25, 2014

A scene from Eyes of the Deluti

Princess Sofia accepts the possibility that she has inherited a power left over from a race of immortals who haven't been seen for hundreds of years.

Sofia stood with her eyes closed, arms folded across her chest as if in a hug. A barely perceptible change in her expression caused her face to look softer and slightly wilted. Opening her eyes, and in a voice minus the usual arrogance, she admitted. “This is very difficult for me Ronald. For the first time in my life, I am unsure of myself.”

“We have both been thrust into a situation that neither of us has had to face before, Princess. Why don’t we take care of the horses, see what there is in the coach that we can make use of and then eat something. Afterwards we will talk.”

The Princess was uncommonly quiet as they went about their individual tasks. No caustic remarks were made when he took charge and started giving orders to her just as he would to any of his men. Ronald was seriously concerned, not only for her but for himself as well.

They settled down on a couple of overturned buckets in a corner of the barn. A small brazier provided some light and comforting warmth as the rain on the roof could be heard over the moaning of the wind. Ronald glanced over at the Princess and knew he would have to initiate the conversation.

“I think the first thing we need to talk about is your new found power.”

“Power? I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Her eyes never left the glowing coals but Ronald recognized the signs of fear on her face. He had seen it enough times on the faces of the young guardsmen he commanded.

“What are you afraid of Princess?”

“Even if there was something to be afraid of, I won’t let it deter me. I am afraid of nothing, Ronald.”

“Princess, the absence of fear is death. When we feel fear, it reminds us that we are still alive and gives us the strength to stay that way. You cannot deny the fact that you healed Gilfor and myself with something more than herbs and stitches. And what about this afternoon? It was you who stopped my horse dead in its tracks and nearly killed us both, wasn’t it?”

For a moment, Ronald felt his own fear as her eyes locked onto his and was surprised he couldn’t feel the heat from the fire burning within them. The flames flickered and died only to be replaced by shame.

“By the Eyes, Ronald!” she cried.”I didn’t want to hurt you. I was angry and just wanted you to stop. I acted without thinking. I’m so sorry.”

“Apology accepted. At least you have finally admitted to yourself and to me that there is a power in you to do things that others cannot. It is enough for now. What I would like to know is what is so significant about your handmaiden? I agree with you that those men probably had orders to kill everyone, yet she still lives and you have given up your crown to rescue her. Why?”

Sofia leaned forward to add more coal to the brazier, her eyes once again focused on the glowing embers before she answered. “I don’t fully understand it myself Ronald. She carries an item of great power. I cannot describe it since I have never seen it but I have felt its power. Somehow it made me swear to guard her life with my own. I must find her.”

Ronald jumped up and started pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself. “By the Eyes, it must be one of the lost Deluti Amulets of Power. That means the Princess … I never dreamed …” At which point he stopped to stare with apprehension at the Princess.

“Ronald, what are you babbling about? Sit down and talk to me.”

He slowly returned to his bucket, eyes still locked on the Princess, trying to gather his thoughts. How could he convince her that what he suspected was true?

“Princess, I may be a simple soldier but I love to read history, especially the history of the Deluti wars. As you may remember, the High Lord Demitrios ruled the world through the Council of Five. Each of the councilors wore an amulet that helped to focus their power, as a symbol of their position. Toward the end of the war, the councilors gave up their lives by forging their spirits and power into each one of the amulets.”

Sofia was never interested in history, but when Ronald began to speak of the Deluti, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she felt something stir deep inside of her. “Why would they do such a horrible thing?”

“None of the Five were as powerful as the Dark Lord, even with their amulets. If he had defeated any one of them and gained the power of their amulet, it would have given him an advantage over his brother Demitrios. After they died, the amulets were scattered and hidden throughout the land. He must not be allowed to gain possession of even one of those amulets.”

“But how would that be possible, Ronald? The Deluti War is hundreds of years in the past. Surely, Scorpios must have passed away a long time ago.”

“Princess, the Deluti are not human. They are immortal beings and can only die at the hand of someone who wields the power of a Deluti. It is said that the High Lord still lives in the far northern reaches of Marlinor and I have no doubt that Scorpios lives far to the south of us in the Stagwood Marshe. Even the pirates avoid the evil that surrounds the South Shore.”

Ronald went to check on the horses and look for more coals for the brazier. He also wanted to give the Princess time to absorb what she had just heard before he shared his conclusions on the source of her power. When he returned to their corner, the confusion was still evident in her expression.

“I must admit that what Floane carries could very well be one of those lost amulets, but what does that have to do with me?”

“The last thing written in the history I read was a foretelling by the High Lord himself. ‘Many generations from now, the blood of the Deluti will return through the line of humans even stronger than before and our time on this world will come to an end.’”

Once again he stood, pulling his sword and holding it point down as he knelt before the Princess who shivered while searching his face for any sign of deceit.

“The power of the Deluti is in you. As long as there is life left in me, I will stand by your side to support you and be your friend, if you’ll have me. In memory of my father who gifted me this sword, this I swear to you Princess.”

“Never call me that again, Ronald,” she whispered. “The Princess is dead.”

Just then a bolt of lightning and the corresponding thunder shook the barn to its foundation. As the thunder continued to echo off into the distance, the two of them shared a look filled with apprehension and no little fear, then smiled.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Do I Have To Write Every Day To Be A Writer?

   Over the last several weeks, I have seen more and more posts from writers complaining that they haven't been able to write every day. Some haven't been able to write anything since November or have tried to write but it's all garbage. They ask the question; 'What is wrong with me?' or 'Can you help me'. The underlying statement they are afraid to post is; 'I can't write every day so I feel like a failure'.
   Now I have nothing against NaNoWriMo, since it is a positive experience for many writers, but for some, it can be a nightmare. Maybe you just could not achieve the number of words required to win, so immediately the word "failure" comes into play. Maybe you did actually surpass your word goal, but have spent the last month trying to make sense out of the whole thing and have finally thrown up your hands in disgust. You ask yourself the question; "Am I a failure as a writer?"
   The simple answer, is no. We are all different. What works for some writers will not work for all. Some writers can generate a readable story in six weeks and some will take six years. They are both writers. A grandfather may write down his memories of war or experiences growing up to pass along to the next generations. He is a writer. A young parent will make up stories and write them down for their children. They are a writer. My grand-daughter has a closet full of spiral notebooks she has been writing in for ten years. Is she a writer? Of course she is.
   A writer writes, but a successful writer sells. Will my grand-daughter ever be a successful writer? Only time will tell. To reach that point, you not only have to write, but be willing to let others help you by providing feedback. Listen to comments from a critique group and others you have let read your work. Above all, edit and/or re-write based on those comments.
   Write what you can, when you can, and enjoy the experience. Be willing to let others help you and eventually you will be successful.

   If you can't write x number of words every day, are you a failure? Absolutely not! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Time For Reflection - The Journey Continues

   With the new year upon us, I felt the need to reflect on the changes in my life over the past year. Some of you, who have read my previous posts, know that I have had to deal with bi-polar depression most of my life. The early years were tolerable because out of the many kids I grew up with, there were always a few who would be my friend no matter how I acted. That continued on through my years in the Navy and afterwards during the years I worked in a large shipyard. Being surrounded by so many people, there were always a few who wanted to be my friend. However, after I retired, all that changed. When I left the shipyard and went into business for myself, the only people I came into contact with were customers or employees. Friends drifted away as I became more involved with my business. Eventually, the economy forced me to shut down, my wife was no longer able to work and we had to sell everything and move into a small trailer in a mobile home park. Throughout my life, reading had always been my only escape. I spent the next several years reading books from the library but mostly re-reading books I had from my favorite authors. You know how sometimes when you finish a book, you wish the story wouldn't end? Well I decided to write my own stories based in those worlds, that I later found out were called fan fiction. A little over a year ago, my daughter asked to read some of what I had written and convinced me I needed to take it more seriously. I bought a few writers magazines and saw that you could actually enter contests. I wrote a short story that was all mine, entered several contests and had some minor success. I then attended a writers meeting at the local library put on by an independent e-book publisher who was looking for more writers. After several meetings, I felt comfortable enough to ask her to read one of my short stories. She came back with a contract offer to publish my first book but told me I needed to develop an on-line presence. Not wanting to appear stupid, I waited until I got home and then asked my grand-daughter what an online presence was since I knew she spent a lot of time on the computer. She told me about blogs and that there were communities I could join on Google+. So I joined and set up a blog, which I am still trying to learn how to use.
   Once again, thanks to the internet and joining several local writers groups, I am developing some friendships again. Now when depression rears it's ugly head and tries to tell me this is all a waste of time, I can look at the wonderful words of encouragement that my followers have written and it gives me the strength to continue writing. Hopefully in the coming year I will be able to post more meaningful content on my blog and get my first book published. For those of you who have helped me improve my writing, thank you. For those of you who decided to follow me because you love my stories, God bless you.
   Happy New Year everyone!