Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Twas The Blog Before Christmas...

   Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, or whatever phrase means the most to you. This time of year is not about what we say, but what we do. It's a time of giving and helping others. It's a time for forgiveness and reaching out to those we've disagreed with in the past. Life is too short, and we are only hurting ourselves by holding a grudge.
   Three years ago, I started this journey to become a writer and it has been amazing. I've always had trouble making friends, not because people didn't like me, but because I was reluctant to let others into my life. At my age and inability to get out much, I had resigned myself to the idea I would spend the rest of my life lonely. The number of friends I've met on Social Media, and especially the in-person friends I've found through critique groups and writing partners has given me a new lease on life. I've reconnected with classmates from the sixties, most of whom live thousands of miles away, and shipmates from the seventies who I thought I'd never talk to again. It turned out one of my Navy buddies had lived only a couple miles away for years, and we never knew.
   My greatest pleasure comes from the writing partners I've found. It was a huge step for me to invite someone into my home, and it wouldn't have surprised me if they had declined my offer. It is such a blessing to have someone you can share your hopes and dreams with, and who understands the frustrations when the story bogs down and isn't progressing the way you want it. I feel all of us have improved as writers, and our stories are richer and more meaningful. It really helps when we can use each other as a sounding board to work out difficult scenes.
   If you are a writer, my sincere hope is that you find others to sit down with, face to face on a regular basis, and work together through laughter and a few tears. As the saying goes, "Iron sharpens iron".
   Thanks for reading, and I'll see you all next year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Free Downloads

   A quick post to promote my three stories. For the next five days, click on the book covers displayed on the right side of my blog and download for free. Enjoy, and have a Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Do I Keep Trying?

   The holidays are upon us once again, and along with that comes the challenge of dealing with it. Many folks have a hard time during the holidays for many different reasons. For me, other than my usual depression which is a never ending battle, it's the passage of time.
   Every year my Christmas card list gets a little shorter. Parents are long gone, most aunts and uncles, and a number of favorite cousins. High school classmates are disappearing, and old Navy buddies are no longer there to swap sea stories. It pains me to wonder who may be next.
   It's also a reminder that another year has passed and I still haven't reached any of the goals I set for myself. It's been almost a year since I published my first book, and I had planned to publish at least two more this year. Didn't happen. I had hoped to make some extra money on a few side projects so I could afford something nice for all my family this Christmas. Didn't happen.
   All this brings me to the question of why do I bother, and the answer is hope. As long as I can get out of bed in the morning, pick up a pen and write something, there is hope. My depression and low self-esteem keep telling me I'll never succeed, but I refuse to believe that. No one can go their entire lives and never accomplish at least one thing positive.
   One thing I do know is I would be lost without my critique group and writing partners. They genuinely seem to feel I help them in some way, and they consistently appear to enjoy what I write. Some complain that I write final drafts and leave almost nothing for them to critique. I don't know if that's good or bad, just the way I write. Maybe it saves a little time by not having to write multiple drafts, but when it takes a week to write a thousand words, it feels like I'm not making much progress.
   I am making progress though, even if it's slow. I will publish the first book in my epic fantasy next year, and hopefully the second book in the series I started last year.
   If anyone is interested, I'll be offering both short stories and the novella for free for five days starting on Dec 19th. Please take a look if you can and let me know what I can do better. I'd hate to think I've just been spitting in the wind.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

   Another year has passed and we are approaching the holiday season here in America. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving when family and friends get together around a traditional meal to give thanks for what they have. For the ones with more than they need, I hope you remember those less fortunate and reach out to help in any way you can.
   Over the years, for any number of reasons, I've been far from home at this time, but because of the generosity of good friends, I never had to spend Thanksgiving alone. Of course there was the year I probably would have been happier spending the day alone, lol. It was definitely a learning experience to see how some families act behind closed doors.
   I have been the driving force on Thanksgiving in my family for many years, cooking, baking and organizing the entire meal. Age has finally caught up with me and my grand-daughters have now taken over. They still want grandpa to roast the turkey and make his world famous deviled eggs (nobody makes em like I do, lol), but they will handle everything else.
   I hope and pray everyone will set aside their political and religious differences for at least a day and appreciate their family and friends. Someday they will no longer be there. Life is too short. Count your blessings, however small, as there is always someone with less. Develop a good attitude as that is the one thing that can never be taken from you.
   Happy Thanksgiving to all my G+ friends and thanks for reading.
   Picture is of my grand-daughters helping out last year after I fell behind.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Failed Experiment

   On Monday I published the first of two short stories with the second one going live next week. Not that it will accomplish much, but I said I would and I usually follow through. I have others, but these are the only ones I could afford to have edited.
   The initial response I received on both Google and FB was overwhelming with all the plusses, likes and shares. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful group of friends who encourage me and would like to see me succeed.
   Unfortunately, I've only had one download so far, and that's okay. I have to look at this for the long term. I'm a slow writer and will take many years to build up a collection of stories. My hope for the future is if someone reads and likes one of my stories, they will take a chance on another. When there is nothing else to choose from, I might lose them forever.
   Part of the problem might have been since Amazon puts up 10% for a look inside, only the cover and title page appeared. Thanks to the kindness of D.W. Metz, who took the time to explain to me how to change that, it was easy to contact Amazon and have them increase the look inside to 20%. The other problem is I still don't fully understand how to use key words or phrases correctly.
   This is all still a learning process for me. Every time I publish something new, I become more comfortable with the process. I'm more confident in my formatting and cover design ability with each new project.
   It means so much to me to see more than one cover image on my author's page. Someday there will be many more, but for now, it's just one at a time.
   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No More Contests

   Today's blog is part whining and part frustration. Several years ago, I entered a couple writing contests on the suggestion of my daughter. I received some recognition from both contests which spurred me on to continue writing. I knew nothing at the time, and those stories were unedited, first drafts. After I learned that you're not supposed to submit your writing that way, I figured if I polished the stories and had them edited, I would do better in future contests.
   During the last couple of years, I've written a number of short stories, run them past two critique groups, posted online for feedback, and had them professionally edited. They've all been entered in contests and accomplished nothing. I tried different genres, including literary fiction, and still no luck.
   I hadn't paid much attention to the winning entries before, but decided to read a few to see what I was missing. I couldn't believe what I found. Oh, they were obviously well written with flawless grammar and perfect punctuation, but the stories themselves were meaningless.
   One story was about how this person made numerous bad decisions that ended up with him in serious trouble, and he blamed it all on someone he met in school. Another one was just filled with name dropping of famous people the writer had met. None of the stories held the least bit of interest for me. If these are the kind of stories the judges are looking for, then I won't bother entering anymore contests. I have better things to do than write meaningless stories in an attempt to win a contest.
   My focus will be, and probably should have been all along, to write entertaining stories I enjoy writing and hopefully others will enjoy reading.
   If you are interested in what I'm writing now, check out #saturdayscenes every Saturday on Google Plus and let me know what you think.

   Thanks for reading, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Selling Books Locally

   This is a follow-up to a post from several months ago. Myself and four other writers got together and rented a small space at a local bazaar. The bazaar is located inside the largest mall in the area that sees a lot of traffic, especially with the holidays coming up.
   This was never intended as a money making venture, but more of an attempt to promote name recognition. Although it is nice that I've actually sold a number of books. I have to believe that some positives are happening as a number of people have approached the owner asking if and when we will have a book signing in the mall so they can meet us. I've also had two requests from folks who bought my book to meet them at the mall to personally sign their copy.
   I have been talking with the owner about the book signing, and we have tentatively scheduled it for next spring after all the holiday buzz has worn off. I'm also trying to work things out with a friend of mine, who is a local independent publisher, to have her give a presentation on e-book publishing. We think that will draw a lot of folks just to hear the presentation.
   Like I said in the earlier post, the space only costs us $25 a month, so between the five of us, that's only $5 each. Not a bad deal for getting our books out in front of the thousands of people who visit the mall every month.
   Sickness and pain the last couple of months has severely hampered my writing efforts, but I still hope to have my epic fantasy published in time for our book signing. Since I've had a number of folks ask me about the next novella in the series I started, I began writing the second book for that also. It would be great if I can get both done in time, but I'm not holding my breath.
   The picture is of our display in the mall. It sits just inside the door, and can be seen by those walking by.
   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Temptation to Complain

   When I sat down to write this blog, I thought about complaining because I've been under the burden of depression again for quite a while. I began to take an inventory of my life and realized I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Sure, things could be better, but they could also be a whole lot worse.
   I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and I'm in fairly good health for my age. I can no longer do the things I used to enjoy, but have found something new to fill my time and a number of new friends as a result. Writing stories has opened up a whole new world for me.
   While it is impossible to enjoy anything while depressed, at least I've avoided the temptation to zone out in front of the TV or game console. I force myself to sit down and think about my stories and struggle to put something down on paper. I may fill only a single page with words, but it does give me a slight sense of accomplishment.
   I've gotten involved with Saturdayscenes again in an effort to pressure myself into creating something new every week for the second book of the series I started. The experiment in writing scenes out of sequence is working so far as I've made some progress there as well. It remains to be seen how much trouble I'll have later on arranging all these scenes in the proper order, but at least they'll be written.
   For my friends who I know also have to deal with depression, you have my sympathy and understanding. Who knows, we might wake tomorrow, the dark cloud will have dissipated, and we can live life again.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Writing Scenes Out Of Sequence

   This will be something new for me. As I've noted in previous posts, I write scenes in my head, over and over, until I'm satisfied and then put it down on paper. Now that I'm approaching the end of my story and the conjunction of several time lines, numerous key scenes are going through my head at the same time. A couple of those scenes are complete, but occur at the end of the story. I normally write each scene in sequence, so I've tried to put them off until I reach that point.
   Unfortunately, earlier scenes aren't ready yet, and I'm having trouble concentrating on them with all the other scenes already in my mind. Nothing is being put down on paper, so I'll attempt something I've never tried before, and write those ending scenes first. Hopefully, once I get them out of my head and on paper, I'll be able to concentrate on the earlier scenes.
   I'm a little leery of this approach since it will require a lot of 'copy & paste' later on to put every scene into the proper order, and it's easy for me to get confused when I'm moving files around. I know others sometimes write the ending of their story first, and then fill in the beginning, so I know it can be done. I'd like to finish this by the end of the year, and this is the only way I'll be able to do that.
   I thought I would share an example of what I talked about last month. This is a scene I wrote down, typed into the computer, and submitted to my writing partners and our critique group. This is exactly as I wrote it, and other than a few edits needed, both groups loved it. Is this as good as they say, or are they just trying to make me feel good?

   This scene involves Marcus, an overly ambitious Duke who is planning to take over the monarchy, but has become the puppet of the Scarred Mage. The evil mage has only one purpose in life, and that is the complete destruction of the Elder Races. He also has a personal grudge against Sebastion, the ogre.

After the council meeting, Duke d’Lorange spent the rest of the day half-heartedly attending to the needs of the Capitol, his mind elsewhere. By late afternoon, his work finally done, Marcus strode purposefully through the halls of the Palace on his way to the family mansion across the square. Oblivious to the nods of the guards now loyal to him, the events of this morning’s council meeting replayed over and over in his thoughts. While the results from his announcement that the Princess had been attacked were exactly what he’d planned, his thoughts kept returning to the ogre.
Damn that meddlesome Prince Mathias for countermanding his orders to the guard, and allowing that animal into the Capitol. The message to him was clear, regardless of what the ogre actually said, the Ancient One was aware of the Duke’s plans and the presence of the ogre was a warning. Why wouldn’t the old man just die and leave the world of men to those with the power and ambition to rule it?
His thoughts scattered when he opened the door and was greeted enthusiastically by his son.
“Father! Is it true?”
“Rumors are all over the city that an ogre spoke at the council meeting this morning. Did it actually speak? What did it say?”
The Duke turned away to pour himself a glass of wine which he quickly downed before pouring another. What else did the rumors say? He shook off the sudden unease and turned back to his son.
“What the ogre had to say was meaningless. He’s just an animal taught to mimic the speech of men. Forget about him.”
Rafael grabbed his favorite history book from the table where he’d been reading, and held it up like a shield. “But Father, an ogre’s honesty and loyalty are legendary. Their intelligence has never been questioned, only their ability to learn to speak properly. According to this, they were instrumental in winning the war against the Dark Lord.”
“Nonsense,” Marcus retorted and tossed back the second glass of wine. “Men made up the back-bone of that army while the animals were just in the way. Whoever wrote that book must have believed the Deluti lies.”
Recognizing the look in his son’s eyes, he decided to put an end to the argument before it even began. He didn’t have time for this. “And to prevent you from getting any ideas, I expressly forbid you talking to that ogre. Now tell your mother and sister I am not to be disturbed. Is that understood?”
Marcus sighed as his son stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. Tempted to pour another glass of wine, he refrained, knowing that no amount of alcohol would diminish the pain he was likely to experience from what he had to do.
Fumbling with the lock on the door to his study, Marcus took a deep breath and turned to face the tapestry on the wall and what was hidden behind it. Even without the cloth covering, it would take more than a casual inspection to discover the near invisible seam outlining the door. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he stepped behind the tapestry and lightly touched the wall with his fingertips. A section of wall, barely wide enough, swung open soundlessly and then returned after he’d stepped through.
He’d learned long ago not to assume what his master knew or didn’t know, and just reported the events as he saw them. By the time he’d mustered enough courage to speak the words of calling and watched the great eye in the mirror disappear, beads of sweat once again covered his brow.
The scarred face of his master soon appeared in the mirror. Those hate filled eyes always made him feel like he had to confess something, anything. But he would not soon forget the consequences of speaking before being given permission, and used every bit of his resolve to keep his mouth firmly closed.
After an eternity, the Dark Lord’s lips twisted into a parody of a smile as his eyes froze the blood in the Duke’s veins.
“Listen very carefully, my little Duke. Plans have changed. I am aware of the attack on Princess Sofia, and her sister will pay dearly for attempting to cross me, but none of that matters to you. What matters to you is that Princess Sofia now belongs to me. If by chance she makes it to the Capitol and you discover her, do nothing except contact me. She is not to be touched. Is that understood?”
“Understood, my Lord,” Marcus answered, but worried about his own plans, asked without thinking, “What of the betrothal?”
Slammed up against the wall, every bone on the verge of shattering, the Duke stared in horror as the scarred visage of his master appeared to emerge from the mirror just inches from his own.
“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, my pathetic would-be King. There is no more betrothal. Sofia belongs to me. Now, do you have anything more to say?”
Released from the wall, and unable to control the tremors that wracked his body, Marcus struggled to remain upright. Afraid to speak, but afraid not to, he forced a word passed the tightness of his throat.
“What did you say?”
“An ogre addressed the council this morning,” he gasped. “He claimed to have been sent by the Ancient One and issued a warning.”
“Didn’t I order you to ban all non-humans from the Capitol?”
“Yes,” the Duke rushed to explain. “I gave specific orders to the guard, but that meddlesome Prince Mathias intercepted the ogre at the gate and reversed my orders. The Prince welcomed the ogre to the Capitol and accepted full responsibility for Sebastian’s saf …”
The tiny room plunged into darkness as Marcus held his breath. What did he say? Faint blue tendrils of power surrounding the mirror were the only things visible. He soon realized he couldn’t draw a breath even if he’d wanted to, but no longer had the capacity to care.
Slowly the Duke became aware of the returning light and his body had resumed the process of breathing. His master’s face had returned to the mirror, and Marcus didn’t miss the splatters of blood caught in the hideous scars. The voice that hissed from those twisted lips was barely recognizable.
“Kill the ogre.”
“But …”
Once again, that face hovered inches from his own.
“Find a way, human. Your life depends on it.”
The Duke collapsed to his knees as the face was replaced by the eye in the mirror and the door opened on its own. He managed to crawl out of the room and onto the chair at his desk, his master’s last command consuming his thoughts. Once able to stand and fortify himself with another glass of wine, he unlocked the door and pulled the servants rope. A plan began to form as he waited for his personal servant to arrive.
“How may I serve you, my Lord?”
“Set someone to watch the ogre that arrived at the Palace today. I want to know where he sleeps, who he talks to, and every move he makes.”
  “It will be done as you say, my Lord.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Less Science, More Fiction, Please

   I remember, as a young man, reading some of the early, great Science Fiction writers of our time. This was long before we actually put a man in space, but the idea of space travel was always taken for granted. The stories were about the experiences of the characters, and how they dealt with the situations they encountered in their travels. It was rarely about the science involved.
   Even in later stories such as Star Trek and others like it, Warp drive, transporters, etc, were just means of travel, not the point of the story. You never saw an episode where Spock goes into a long discussion on how transporters work, or Scotty explaining the physics of Warp drive.
   Someone writing a modern murder mystery doesn't go into an explanation of how jets fly or how the internet works. These things are part of the world and accepted by the people involved. While some may understand the science behind flight, the majority of the population doesn't give it a second thought, it just works. Why do some writers feel it's necessary to fill up their story with scientific discussions of how everything works in the world they've created? Is it important to the characters and their journey, or is the author trying to impress me with their technical knowledge?
   This applies to Fantasy stories as well. I don't need, nor am I interested in all the discussions about how a particular magic system works and why. What is important to me is how the characters with this special ability use it. Do they use this power to help others, or help themselves? How do others without this power perceive those who do?
   Also, a fantasy doesn't need hordes of magical creatures to make it a creative story. I've recently read a fantasy without fiercesome beasts or an all powerful wizard. Transportation was by horse or wagon, weapons were swords, and a small portion of the population had the power to heal with their mind. The story was about relationships, political power and greed. The power to heal was an important part of the story, but not the focus. It was one of the most engaging stories I've read in a long time.
   Personally, don't try to impress me with your knowledge of physics or your ability to create outrageous creatures. Tell me a story about the human experience. How do your characters handle their emotions, strengths and weaknesses, compared to others in your world? Technical advances are expected in science fiction, and so is magic in fantasy, but they shouldn't be the focus of the story.
   Maybe I'm just a simple man, but less science and more fiction works best for me.
   Thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Draft - Edit - Done

   For the past several years I have attempted to emulate the writing style of others, and it's been nothing but frustration. So many writers talk about daily, or weekly word counts, and write multiple drafts, I thought I needed to do the same. I've finally accepted the fact I can not write that way.
   I write in my head. Where others do draft after draft on paper, (or on the computer), I go over each scene in my mind as many times as it takes until I'm satisfied. Part of that is because of my ability to envision the scene like a movie. I continuously hit replay, changing the characters voice, interactions and actions, the setting, etc, until everything fits together correctly and I can put it on paper.
   I have to thank my writing partners who convinced me this was okay. I felt bad only submitting maybe 8-10 pages for critique while they had written 20-30. They pointed out that they would end up re-writing those pages three or four times, where as mine, after little or no changes, was done.
   I'll never be able to pump out a story every couple of months, but I've already got many of the important scenes for the next two books set in my head. Like one of my partners said, "Even when you're not writing, you're still writing." The closer I get to the end of this book, the easier it is to write since I've been developing these scenes in my head for over a year. Whoever said you should know the end before you start, had it right. It's so much easier to put in foreshadowing and gauge the progress of your characters when you know where they need to be at the end.
   Hopefully this means I'll have this book ready to publish before the end of the year. I still have to find the time to sit down and write what's in my head into a notebook and then into the computer. Sometimes that can be a challenge with the way my life is.
   I can't imagine I'm the only one who writes like this. If this is similar to your writing style, I would love to hear from you.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Is Quality Writing A Thing Of The Past?

   Not long ago, a fellow writer lamented the lack of quality books available either traditionally published or indie. Personally, I believe that person has become a little too critical, but I also believe the quality of writing has steadily declined over the years. I will try to explain what I mean.
   Years ago, when there were many publishing houses, the competition for quality writing was extremely high. Not only did the story have to be nearly perfect just to be accepted, the publishers had an army of editors who would help the authors polish their work to an even higher standard. Obviously, the idea being the best books got the best reviews, sell the most copies, and make the most money for the publisher.
   With the advent of e-books and self- publishing, it feels like the emphasis has shifted from quality to quantity. Where before, the expectation for the author was to sell a large number of one quality book, the reality now is the hope to sell a mediocre number of many different books. Profits have dropped, forcing the publishing houses to reduce the number of editors, yet increase the number of books. The small number of editors no longer have the time to ensure the quality of the books being offered.
   Some self-published authors understand that to have any success, they have to make sure their stories are at the highest level of quality and will hire several different editors to help that happen. Unfortunately, without a large advertising budget, these authors are hard to find. The only thing on their side is time and word of mouth.
   The other problem I see is with the ability of the average reader. It's a sad fact that reading comprehension has been on the decline. The last report I read claimed the majority of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. This is reinforced by the fact that most popular books are written at a lower grade level than ever before.
   Having decided to become a writer myself and learn the proper mechanics for creating a quality story, it's easy to spot many of the mistakes made in today's books. However, as someone who is more interested in story telling than perfect grammar, I can forgive a multitude of errors if the story pulls me in and takes me for a ride.
   Whether this is a bad thing, I have no idea. I'm certainly no expert, and these are just some of my observations. I would love to hear your thoughts or opinions on the subject.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Weekend Wasted

   For the last several years, the only way we've been able to survive on our fixed income is for me to make a little money on the side. Usually this is by doing minor auto repairs or handyman stuff around the house for friends. The biggest money maker, however, has been buying odd merchandise at the local auction and selling it at the swap meet.
   The swap meet only runs for three months during the summer at the local drive-in, so I don't have a long window of opportunity. There are several of us who have been doing this for years, and we've had a gentleman's agreement that each of us gets a chance to purchase at least one lot of items. They know I can't afford to spend over $50, and usually stop bidding against me when it reaches that point.
   This last Saturday, a new person showed up with more money than sense. She repeatedly out bid all of us and bought almost everything that came up. I can tell you she didn't make any friends. I came away with three small items that cost me around $5. Certainly nothing I could make any money on. I went to the swap meet Sunday anyway with the items I had left over from the previous week, and just made enough to pay my entry fee. Another wasted day.
 I don't have enough items to bother going back until after next months auction, and then there are only two more swap meets before the season is over. I've always been smart enough to purchase items I know will sell, and for an investment of around $100, I can turn that into a $500 profit by the end of the season. I won't make that this year.
   It may not sound like much, but it's the only way I can come up with the extra money for things like car tabs and repair parts for all the little things that usually break around the house. I hope nothing breaks this year. At least one of the members of our Writers Critique Group was kind enough to offer me a ride to and from our meetings. That is a huge help since I can only afford one tank of gas a month.
   One small bright spot in all this is that I always bring several copies of my novella to the swap meet and usually sell at least one copy every week. I've also sold a couple copies at the Bazaar in the mall I wrote about a few months ago. We aren't making any money there, but between the five of us, it's only five dollars a month for some advertising and getting our name out in the community.
   I don't know if anyone cares one way or another, but I've read that folks are more interested in reading a blog about peoples lives, so here ya go. This is my life.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Officially Over The Hill

   Yesterday I turned 65 and entered the final quarter (or less) of my life. To say I'm not where I planned to be at this stage in life is an understatement. Hopefully this won't turn into a pity party, but if there are others out there who have reached this point and are not happy then at least they will know they're not alone. Also for those of you who haven't reached this point, be aware that no matter how well you plan, when life hands you lemons and you make lemonade, sometimes that isn't good enough.
   If there is one phrase that describes me the best, it's "Jack of all trades, master of none". I've always felt there wasn't anything I couldn't do, and maybe I could have reached master status in some of those things, but I always got bored and moved on to something new. I had three things going for me: excellent physical condition, above average intelligence, and attitude. An aneurysm destroyed the intelligence, medications and old age took away the physical condition, and depression finally robbed me of my attitude.
   Unfortunately, the one thing I've never been good at is personal relationships or dealing with people. Part of that is because at an early age, I learned to develop a separate personalty for my public interactions with people. It was the only way I could survive in school and at work. The number of close friends I've had over the years can be counted on one hand. I was always afraid if I got too close, they would see past the public personality and discover the real me.
   I have no idea what the future holds. Some of you may remember I do my best to take care of two disabled women in our home, and it's only by combining our three incomes we can afford to live here. If any one of the three of us pass away, the other two will be forced to move. The house payment is already much less than the average rent payment here so I don't know where they could move to. Every year as our fixed incomes stay fixed, and the cost of everything else rises, it gets harder to survive.
   I'm having a difficult time finding anyone who will hire somebody my age, so the only thing I have left is my writing. This doesn't give me much hope as I'm such a slow writer, and everyone tells me it takes at least ten years and a substantial back list of available titles before I can expect to make any money. Oh well, what else can I do?
   OK, I'll stop whining now. It's said that people like to read blogs about your personal life, so maybe folks will know me a little better after this.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Critique Groups: A Slice of Life

   I have been part of the same critique group for several years now, and while the core members have stayed fairly consistent, the number of people who come and go is amazing. It's fascinating to me how such a small group can reflect society as a whole so well. We've had folks from all over the world, different religious beliefs, young and old, male and female, and rich or poor.
   Unfortunately, as in any group of people, sometimes you experience personality conflicts or extreme differences of opinion. Ofttimes, those can be worked out, but when someone shows up with an ego or attitude a mile wide, you just have to make it clear they don't fit in this group.
   Sometimes I have to smile at the new writers who come to our group, obviously having just read a 'Rules for Writing' book and are ready to fix all our writing problems. If they are willing to stick around after the shock of discovering their 'rules' are only guidelines, we will try and gently steer them in the right direction to develop their own voice while remaining aware of the guidelines. Other times they are so offended by our total disregard for the sanctity of 'The Rules', they never come back.
   I just shake my head at the ones who show up with their fancy business cards and bookmarks with pictures of all the books they have published without any help from anyone. The problem was always the fact that none of their books were selling. I honestly don't know if they were looking for critique or hoping to impress us and generate some sales. Every time we would critique what they had submitted, and pointed out the areas that could be improved, you could tell they were upset by the criticism and never returned.
   Not all critique groups are created equal, and are only as good as the people who make up the core of the group. As with anything in life, you only get out of it what you are willing to put in. Fortunately, I feel that we have a solid and diverse core that has kept this group going for a long time and will continue to do so.
   I can't stress enough how important this group has been in the development of my writing. I feel a good critique group is an essential part of your writing process and would be a benefit to you to join one. As I've told others, if you can't find a group that fits you, start your own and you will draw other like minded people to you.
   Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Silver Lining

   As a writer, I understand not everyone is going to enjoy what I write, and the possibility of a negative review is always there. Fortunately, other than the rare comment from someone that says, "This book is garbage", if a reader feels compelled to write a review they will include what they enjoyed along with what they disliked. The ability to accept the small bits of praise for what they are, and to learn from what didn't appeal to the reader is what's important.
   I recently had someone read my first book and post an honest review on their blog. It was an excellent review even though the story didn't work for them. Honestly, I never expected them to like the book because I'm familiar with their preferences and they are not part of my target audience. However, I was interested in what they might have to say.
   I thought it was telling that the reasons they cited for the story not working for them were exactly the same reasons given by those readers who thought the story was an enjoyable read. It's all about preconceptions and expectation. It was rewarding to me that the reviewer perceived the story exactly how I had intended. I write lighthearted, easy to read and understand fantasy that focuses on the characters and their relationships.
   I know this type of story isn't very popular right now, but I refuse to write grim-dark, or stories where the characters are constantly beaten to a pulp and then given insurmountable obstacles to succeed. At my age, I've experienced enough of that in my own life and the lives of family members. I have no desire to revisit those memories or emotions.
   Bottom line is I will continue to write the kind of story I enjoy reading knowing that some will like them and some won't.
   Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's My Story And I'm Sticking To It

   I have spent quite a bit of time lately pondering the reasons why I write and how my writing changed over the last year. When I first started a little over three years ago, it was strictly for my own pleasure and I enjoyed creating something new. Writing for others never entered my mind.
   I've written about this before how after my friends and family convinced me to get serious and learn how to write to sell, I completely changed my focus. I became obsessed with learning everything I could about writing correctly with the intent to lure the reader. Being a perfectionist didn't help as I was determined to use every new rule of writing I discovered.
   Unfortunately, this took away any enjoyment I had originally found in writing, and it became a chore just to get anything down on paper. I would over-think every sentence or word I wrote down. Was that the right word? Is the sentence structure correct? Could I have written this a better way? Folks told me I had to find a way to turn off the inner editor monster I'd created and only bring him out when ready to edit. This has proved almost impossible.
   Last week, several online friends challenged me to write a story mixing genres. It had to include a cowboy, a mermaid and be somewhat historically accurate. A complete story instantly filled my mind, but I tried to ignore it as I'm desperately trying to finish my first full length novel. I finally gave up on Sunday and just sat down with a fresh notebook and wrote the words as they appeared. It took me the better part of the day, but when I finished, I had over two thousand words. I haven't done that in over a year. I had finally written something again the way I used to without worrying about grammar, word choice, etc. It remains to be seen if I can now apply this to writing my WIP, but at least I now have the confidence that I can still write the way I used to and enjoy it.
   If you are interested in what I wrote, here is a link:

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Works For Me

   I'm still mulling over the revelation from last week when I learned that not everyone can visualize in their mind what they are reading or writing. The thought that others don't see things as I do never entered my mind. This explains so many things I've had a problem understanding.
   It makes sense now why some readers complained that there wasn't enough description in my story while others thought there was too much. They each visualized the scene differently, therefore needing more or less detail to complete the vision. This seems to apply not only to sight, but sounds and smell also.
   I brought this up at the last meeting with my close writing partners and it cleared up some confusion for all of us. Two of the writers can only experience one thing at a time as they're writing so several complete re-writes are necessary to add another dimension to the story with each pass. The other pictures her characters talking to her, telling their story and she writes what they tell her. For me, it's like I'm in the middle of the scene along with my characters and I can see, hear and smell everything.
   I think this has been the cause of my difficulty with writing over the last year. Many of the "How To" books on writing seem contradictory, and like I said before, it confused me when some readers loved what I wrote and others didn't. I was trying to find a process that matched the way others recommended and that pleased all the readers all the time.
   I've finally accepted the fact that I can't write that way. The only way I can be productive is to write the way that works for me. It used to bother me when other writers said they had written several thousand words in a day until I understood that those words might get thrown away or changed during the second or third drafts.It might take me several days to write five hundred words, but once they're on paper, they usually stay. I don't re-write or have multiple drafts. I will replay the scene in my head hundreds of times, rejecting or accepting new characters or situations as they appear. When I'm familiar with every sight, sound, smell and emotion, that's when it gets put down on paper and submitted to others for critique. I may change a few words or add to the scene based on their comments, but other than that I'm done.
   I've included a scene that took me four days to write. Not a single word has been changed since I put it on paper. When I submitted it to my local critique group and to my writing partners, everyone loved it and wouldn't change a thing. I know it'll need a line edit, but other than that this is final. What do you think?
   Thanks for reading.

         Nestled up against the base of Mount Baltok, where the capital 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, the innkeeper never lacked for money. No one remembered the inn’s original name, but 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 corner farthest from the door, two hooded figures sat in a booth, apparently 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 then 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, and why have you chosen to re-kindle that love?”
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.”
Malcom paused to gulp down the rest of his ale and signaled for another round, which gave him the time to order his thoughts before answering. “On the day Sofia was born, I felt compelled to guard the door to your rooms. After everyone had left to allow you and the baby a chance to rest, a Deluti spirit appeared and had me under its spell before I could react.”
He shivered as the memory of that night returned and he felt caught up in its grip once again. “It was like time had come to a standstill and only the two of us existed. The spirit told me that soon the five Deluti Amulets of Focus would return to the world of men and that they had chosen a number of human children who would receive a portion of Deluti blood mixed with their own. Sofia is one of those chosen. The spirit then charged me with keeping that secret and to protect her with my life until she left to be on her own.”
He watched in admiration as the intelligent woman he knew and loved, calmly sipped her wine while processing the information he’d just given her. It didn’t take long before she leaned back, closed her eyes and blindly reached for his hand.
“Well, that explains a lot, particularly why you distanced yourself from me after Sofia was born, and why you insisted on training her in secret when she was old enough. It’s also clear to me that you wouldn’t be telling me this unless something has happened to her.” At which point she squeezed his hand. “Please tell me she is safe.”
“Olivia, the repercussions from what has happened will ripple through both our countries and the resulting consequences are too numerous for me to fathom. That Sofia is still alive I can almost guarantee, but whether or not she is safe, that remains to be seen.”
Her only reaction was to open her eyes and narrow them in concentration. He then proceeded to relay everything young Gilfor had passed on the night before. He also assured her that men and wagons were already on their way to the ambush site to retrieve the bodies of the guards and to bury the attackers where they lay.
“So my daughter has the power of a Deluti inside of her?”
“Yes, and she has already begun to use those powers even if she isn’t aware of it yet. With Ronald at her side, I believe they will be able to take care of themselves. What worries me is how are the rumors going to affect our people, and what the reaction will be from the King of Marlinor is anybody’s guess.”
The Queen set down her glass of wine and pulled him close, a coy smile dancing across her lips. “Those problems will still be there on the morrow. Right now I need you to remind me how much you love me.”
Malcom returned her smile with one of his own. “As my Lady commands.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A New Opportunity

   We have a large, well established mall in our county, but since I can't afford to get out much, I rarely go there. Several weeks ago, however, my wife asked me to go to the mall and buy something for our grand-daughter's birthday from a store she liked there. The place was no longer in business and had been replaced by what you might call a bazaar for local artists and craftsmen. Out of curiosity, I decided to check it out.
   The store was filled with beautiful works of art, hand made jewelry, pottery, racks of embroidery and sweaters, but no books. Well, writers are artists also, right? I approached the owner and asked about the possibility of selling books written by local authors. She loved the idea. For what I thought was a reasonable monthly fee, she would set up a display just inside the front door that would be the first thing people saw when they entered.
   Since I know a large number of local authors, I soon had enough people interested so that each person's share of the rental is only $5. Even if we only sell a few copies, the potential of getting our names and titles out in front of thousands of readers for that price will be worth it.
   I will get the books and money to her by Friday. She'll set up the display on Saturday and it will be ready for the first of the month on Sunday. At the end of May, I'll post the results of our first month in the mall and any positive (or negative) issues that came about.

I don't know if anyone reads the scenes I try to post every week, since no one comments, but here's another. Navon and his companion, Moonlight, (a large, female mountain wolf) step through a portal, unaware of what awaits them on the other side.

Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

Navon, Moonlight at his side, stepped through the first arch as the last words of the Deluti spirit followed him. “Remember, young Navon, others will look at the world with a different eye than yours, but it does not mean they are without honor.”
The world they entered resembled nothing he had ever seen before. Rolling hills of grass as far as the eye could see, with scattered stands of short bush like trees. At this distance it was impossible to tell what kind of leaves they had if any. The sun shone directly overhead in a cloudless blue sky so expansive, Navon suddenly felt very insignificant.
Sweat formed on his brow and he could feel beads of moisture trickle down his spine as Moonlight’s tongue hung out. A sweltering wind at their backs brought with it a sound like a blacksmith’s forge combined with a stampede of cattle. Navon spun around to be confronted by the source of the noise. Fire! A wall of flame over ten feet in height stretched in both directions as far as he could see. In front of that wall were hundreds of animals of all shapes and sizes running for their lives.
His legs had already reacted to the sight and started pumping before Moonlight’s mental image of running burst inside his mind. The faster animals pulled alongside and passed them by. Moonlight stubbornly stayed by his side even after several attempts to send her a command to run ahead and save herself. Not used to running in this kind of heat, Navon could already feel himself slowing down.
His lungs struggled to keep up and his legs felt like burning stumps. Mixed in with the sound of the fire were the screams of the animals not fast enough to outrun the flames. The temptation to look behind was not enough to overcome the fear of what he might see, until Moonlight sent him a mental warning.
He took a chance and craned his neck around to look. Not far behind, a beast, larger than any bull back at the keep, bore down on Navon. He also saw that they were losing the race to the fire. The skin of the beast blistered and turned black as he watched. Somewhere he found the strength for another burst of speed or did the ground begin to slope downward? Ahead of them appeared a solid line of dense vegetation with animals bunched up against it trying to force their way through.

The sound of screaming animals as they clawed at each other and at the barrier, combined with the roar of the flames behind him, threatened to overwhelm his mind. He could not think. Was this the end? If it hadn’t been for Moonlight, Navon would have stopped and given up right there, but her constant mental encouragement kept him going. Maybe he could find a way to climb over the top without being trampled by the frantic animals trapped there. The forgotten beast behind him had a different idea. Just before they reached the hedge, the beast’s nose appeared between Navon’s legs and with a powerful thrust of his head, propelled Navon over the barrier to land in water.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Small Success

   First of all, I would like to thank everyone who shared my posts announcing the countdown deal I decided to run, and especially the folks who decided to take a chance and actually purchase my story. Not only did I sell some books at the $.99 level but also a number sold during the $1.99 price point.
   Now comes the waiting to see if my writing is good (or bad) enough to illicit any reviews or comments. I have no problem with constructive feedback, either in an e-mail or a comment on my blog, as I'm always striving to improve as a writer.
   On a different note, our in-home critique group that I talked about in previous posts, is working out great. It's refreshing to be able to spend the extra time to explain not only what bothered us about a particular section of a story, but also why. The casual atmosphere of meeting in a home and since there are just the four of us, if we get off on a tangent for awhile, that's okay. We have known each other for quite a while so it's easier to share personal feelings and jab a little fun at each other during the meeting that might not be comfortable for newer members in our larger monthly public group.
   I was unable to post a blog last week because I had to deal with closing the estate of a relative who I didn't get along with. Old emotions resurfaced that needed to be addressed. That chapter in my story is now over so I can go on with my life.
   I'm sharing another short scene from my novella this week that I hope you will enjoy.
   Thanks for reading!

                        Chapter Ten ~When Darkness Falls
The sun continued on its path towards the horizon, indifferent to the plight of the companions as they hurried along the road in search of shelter for the night. The untended farmland fell behind when the road entered a sparsely wooded area unlike the dense and lush forest at the beginning of their journey.
Long skeletal fingers stretched for the sky from the tops of the stunted trees as if begging for rescue from the brackish water they were drowning in. Sickly vegetation covered their roots and spread its yellow-green leaves over the water, providing shelter for the inhabitants of the bog.
Swarms of insects formed a dark mist that flowed back and forth across the road. The companions were forced to cover their mouths and noses with cloth while attempting to swat the hordes away from their eyes. Fortunately, Aldan had recovered enough strength in his arm to hold a cloth with one hand and swat with the other.
The smell of decay and the flying denizens vanished as quickly as they had appeared as the road began a slow ascent and the land around them changed once again. Undulating hills dotted with rocks and the occasional ancient oak provided grazing for a small number of horses and cattle. A large house and barn could be seen in the distance but no trace of wood smoke rose from the chimneys.
Aldan lay in the wagon, eyes closed, tired of seeing nothing but clouds and sky. The threat of the goblins was a welcomed distraction from the other thoughts that plagued him. What must the Princess think of him now after his bonehead actions during the fight with the outlaws? How could he have been so careless? Granted, he’d never been in a fight like that before but the first thing his old master had taught him was a defensive spell to protect himself.
Attuned to the feel of power, he could sense the lingering signature of the magic used to heal him. Even now, the accelerated healing was sending short bursts of pain through his chest and then itched as the flesh mended. The feel of the magic was like nothing he had ever sensed before and that worried him. He was afraid the Princess had discovered a new source of power and would decide she no longer needed him.
Unable to lie still any longer, Aldan rolled over on his side and struggled to sit up. Odessa reached over to help him and then made room so he could lean against the sacks next to her.
“I feel like such a fool,” he muttered.
She glanced at him a moment and then continued to stare at the road behind. “What you did was foolish but you are never a fool. What really happened?”
“When I saw your life being threatened by those men, I panicked and reacted without thinking,” he confessed. “The thought of protecting myself never entered my mind.”
Regardless of what she believed, he was beginning to have serious doubts. “You and the men would probably be better off without me. You seem to be perfectly capable of taking care of yourselves.”
This time, Odessa not only turned to face him, she grabbed his head and forced him to look into her eyes. “Now you listen to me, Aldan Beaverson. We would not have made it this far without you. The only way I’ll be able to win back my kingdom is to have a mage at my side.” She paused, searching his eyes before continuing. “Don’t ever leave me. I have already lost two very special men in my life and I can’t bear the thought of losing a third.”
“Derek is coming back,” Jon called softly over his shoulder, hating the need to interrupt them. “I think he may have found something.”
Held captive by the intensity in her dark green eyes, Aldan finally tore free and moved over to lean against the side of the wagon, thinking, ‘now I feel doubly the fool’. He had spent his life in books and study, never as someone special. The idea was a little scary, but yet oddly comforting.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Short but Sweet

   It's late and I'm tired from working on the car all day, so this will be short.
   Our first official in-home critique meeting went really well last night even though one of our group was sick and couldn't make it. It's wonderful how much more in-depth our critiques are when we have more time and can discuss issues that encompass more than a single scene. Plus it feels like everyone is more relaxed with this informal setting instead of our normal meeting in a public area. As with anything new, there will be a learning curve at work here but I don't think it will take long to settle in.
   In other exciting news, at least for me, I've received another wonderful 4-star review on Amazon for my book, and I've gotten e-mails from two other folks who are half way through reading and loving it. They said they would post a review also when done. Those made my day.
   Today I thought I would post the prologue to my WIP, "Eyes of the Deluti".
   Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.


                                Prologue~ End of an Age

Now was the time to finish this. Only Demitrios, the last surviving Deluti High Lord, had the power to locate and if possible, destroy the Dark Lord.  He rode at the forefront of the Army of the North, an alliance he had forged between Northern Ogre, Mountain Wolves, the light-shifters of the Elintria and Humans. That alliance proved to be the turning point in a war that had lasted for decades. The Dark Lord of the South refused to acknowledge the intelligence and fighting abilities of the non-humans. For that reason, his entire army was comprised of humans, whom he treated little better than slaves.
The Army advanced steadily across the Plain of Sarglon and approached the Stagwood Forest. Ahead of them stretched an ancient, densely packed wood where the Dark Lord had established his final defensive line to protect his fortress at Bryhom. At the High Lord’s signal, the army positioned itself for attack with archers and mages to the front, followed by ogres, wolves and human swordsmen. The horsemen were positioned as rear guard due to their disadvantage in the thick forest.
As the first volley of arrows darkened the sky and fireballs launched by the human mages sped towards the forest, lightning strikes sent by the Dark Lord’s sorcerers began falling among the archers. Holding position, the mages and archers continued to provide covering fire until the wolves, ogres and Elintria assassins reached the edge of the forest. The swordsmen then followed to sweep through the forest in the wake of the non-humans. Riding among them, Demitrios provided as much protection as he dared but every death added to the burden of sorrow weighing on his heart.
His personal shield protected him from attack but did not block out the pungent odor of ozone and the sickly sweet stench of burning flesh. They had left behind a plain littered with the bodies of human and animal, but in the forest, Demitrios knew they would have the advantage. The wolves and ogre were formidable forest predators and the Elintria would quickly eliminate anyone attempting to hide in the trees.
 A sudden immense gathering of power alerted him to the presence of his enemy and the shocked realization of the terrible mistake he had made. The forest was a trap. With the last of his energy he sent out a powerful mental command to the entire army to abandon the forest immediately.  Face buried in the mane of his horse to keep from being swept off, they careened through the forest with the roar of an inferno pursuing them. Tendrils of smoke trailed from the burnt ends of the horse’s tail as they escaped through the western edge of the forest and ascended to a rock strewn meadow. The horse, lathered and trembling, stopped a few paces away from the body of a man slumped against the side of a large boulder. Demitrios fell from his saddle and stumbled over to his brother. The face of his twin was beyond recognition.
Compassion overwhelmed all other emotions as he gazed at the burnt and blackened body before him.
“Why have you done this to us Scorpios?” he cried. “Your lust for power has destroyed the last members of our race. The Council of Five gave up their lives by forging their spirits into the five Amulets of Focus that are now scattered throughout both continents. The Deluti are no more. You have placed the future of this world in the hands of the humans.”
The body of his brother convulsed, one eye cracked open and a hiss escaped through burnt and blistered lips.
“Kill me.”
“I can not. Regardless of what you have become, you are still my brother.”
Anger invoked by the senseless destruction and death his brother was responsible for rekindled the power of a Deluti High Lord in him. He rose to his feet and stood straight and tall.
“However, since you attempted to kill us all and took in more power than your body was able to control, I sentence you to live and suffer from those injuries and the knowledge of what you have done to our people.”
Demitrios walked over to stand next to his horse and stared at the smoking ruin that had once been the Stagwood Forest. With a faraway look in his eyes, he continued.
     “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. I have foreseen it.”
Back in the saddle, he turned his horse away from the broken body on the ground and whispered, “Goodbye my brother.”  He never looked back.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our First Meeting

   Myself and three other writers had our first in-home critique meeting last night, and I think this will work out just fine. Since it was our first get together, we had a chance to go over some ground rules (as it were) such as how often we want to meet and how many pages of material to submit each time, etc. We also had a chance to share what our expectations are for the group and how we envision being helped by the others in our writing.
   One of the drawbacks to a monthly critique with a sizable group of people is that they have a hard time visualizing what a particular writer is trying to accomplish with a larger project. It's easy to comment on a short scene or even a full chapter, but sometimes they lose sight of the overall story from the beginning. For example, the story I'm working on is complex with many characters and spread out over several countries. When I post later chapters for critique, it's obvious that the newer members of the group haven't taken the time to go back and familiarize themselves with the story. Their comments are still helpful, but the questions they usually ask would have been answered if they'd read the beginning of the story. The same thing has happened to the others, that is why we decided to get together on our own.
   An advantage to us meeting like this is even though we have read the beginning of each other's story, we weren't all clear as to where the story was headed. Now we are. Last night gave us the opportunity to share that. Now I have a better understanding of what to look for because I know where the author is trying to go with their story, and can adjust my critique accordingly.
   Like I said at the beginning, I think this will work out for all of us. I'll let you know in a couple of months how successful we are.

   This week I will again share a scene from my book "The Princess and the Apprentice." This is when Odessa first learns she has the power of a Blood Mage. Any comments are greatly appreciated.
   Thanks for reading.

           Odessa held Aldan’s hand as she stood and gazed down at his ashen face. Tears burned her cheeks as fear and helplessness knotted her up inside. A longing for the ability to help him filled her in a way nothing else ever had. She only half listened as the old woman gave instructions for Jon and Derek to retrieve the bodies of the outlaws, lay them behind the barn and remove all evidence from the road.
At a gentle touch on her elbow, the princess turned and stared into the face of a mature woman with glossy black hair and milky white skin. It was the eyes that made her stare. Irises the color of old blood surrounded pupils that were no larger than the head of a pin. A tight, humorless smile revealed a set of perfect white teeth.
Not pleased with the deception, Odessa stood straight and glared at the other woman. “Is this an illusion or was it the other?”
“Both are illusions. My true form is no longer pleasant to look upon.”
“Men are never intimidated by an old, fragile appearing woman but that is no longer important. Come, you and I have much to discuss. You stand at a crossroad in your life and what I have to offer may not be what you truly want.” With that she clamped down on Odessa’s hand with an iron grip and attempted to pull her from the room but the princess refused to move.
“I will not leave Aldan alone.”
“There is enough magic in the staff and tome to keep your young mage alive for now. Whether he continues to live or not depends on you. We haven’t much time. Come.”
This time, Odessa allowed the woman to lead her out of the room and over to the table which now contained a pot of tea and two cups, steam rising from the contents. She refused to drink anything offered; instead she focused her attention on the woman seated across the table.
“Who are you?”
“I am Alicia Gertrude d’Morano, Queen of a kingdom that no longer exists in the memories of men, and a Blood Mage. I have waited for generations beyond counting for someone like you who I could pass on the knowledge I have gained.”
“If you are such a powerful mage, why don’t you just heal Aldan and let us be on our way?”
“I have the knowledge but no longer have the power. You have the power buried deep inside you but not the knowledge. The choice is yours. Accept my offer and Aldan will live. If not, he will die.”
Odessa slumped back in her chair, eyes shut tightly as the realization washed over her that Aldan had become more important to her than anything else. Would it enhance their relationship if they both were mages or just the opposite? She decided it didn’t matter.
“What must I do?”
“Kill me.”
Her chair crashed to the floor as Odessa recoiled in horror as if struck a physical blow. Body trembling, she stared at the once queen, revolted by her words. A moment passed before she could whisper, “I cannot.”
“You can and you will if you wish for that young man of yours to live. Don’t you understand? With every fiber of my being, I want to die. Only by the hand of another mage will my journey finally come to an end.”
She reached under the table and produced a normal sized book, bound in a style similar to Aldan’s Tome of Magic. The Blood Mage stood up and beckoned Odessa towards the bedroom. The princess followed slowly, tears blinding her sight.
Once inside, the old woman laid the book on a table next to the bed and instructed Odessa to remove the tome and staff and place them on the floor at the end of the bed. She managed to lift the tome off of Aldan’s chest but the staff refused to be removed from his hand.
Alicia stood, hands on hips, and stared down at the staff which had begun to glow a weak blue light. “You don’t have any more power left than I do, you old goat. This is his only chance and you know it. Now let go.”
After a brief flare, the glow diminished and Odessa was able to remove the staff. She leaned it carefully against the end of the bed then followed the mage back to the table next to Aldan’s head. Alicia lowered herself with a sigh on to the chair beside the table and pulled out a small, thin bladed dagger. She pricked the end of her finger and squeezed until a drop of blood appeared, then handed the dagger to Odessa with instructions to do the same.
As the drop of blood fell from Alicia’s finger to the face of the book, she intoned, “With this token of my blood, I release all previous claims to you.”
As the drop of her blood landed next to the other, Odessa forced words past the tightness in her throat and spoke as instructed. “With this token of my blood, I lay claim to this book as mine and no one else’s.”
With her features beginning to blur, the Blood Mage gently wrapped her fingers around Odessa’s and placed the point of the dagger against her chest. With eyes closed, she continued, “My life I give freely for the purpose of restoring the life of another.”
Alicia’s eyes snapped open and locked onto Odessa’s. “Now push!”
With a cry of anguish, Odessa forced her trembling body to press the blade through the woman’s ribs and into her heart. The body collapsed in upon itself as a wave of power and euphoria washed over her. The book slowly opened with a sound like rusted hinges and a voice whispered in her mind, “Let us begin.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Next Step

   Myself and several other members of our monthly critique group have decided to form a new group that will meet in my home at least every two weeks. The four of us have full length novels that we've been working on for quite some time and are familiar with each others stories from the beginning. One problem with the monthly meeting is that too much time goes by between critiques and progress is slow. The other reason is that the other members of the group are fairly new or don't come regularly and are not familiar with our stories.
   Our hope is that by meeting more often and concentrating on only our novels, we will make better progress and receive more meaningful critique on overall story flow and character development. We have been attending the monthly meetings for several years now and I think our personalities match fairly well, so coming together in a close knit group should not pose any problems.
   Unfortunately, I need someone to hold me accountable to actually write. It's too easy for me to procrastinate when I see that a number of folks have already submitted something for critique and I tell myself I'll just wait and submit something next month. With the new group we plan on everyone submitting at least ten pages for critique every meeting. It won't be a worry for me that I'll get my hand slapped if I don't submit, but more of a feeling that I've let the others down by not doing my part. Hopefully this will force me to get off my butt and start writing seriously again.

For those of you who are interested, I'm sharing another short scene from my book, "The Princess and the Apprentice". This is a conversation between the Spirit of the Mountain Citadel and the ancient dragon who guards the entrance as they watch the companions continue on their way.
   Thanks for reading.

From the shadows of the cavern, two figures watched in companionable silence as the four young humans descended into the valley below.
The spirit of a man gazed with sadness and remorse at the emaciated body of his oldest and truest friend. “Will he come back?”
“He will, if he isss the one.”
“Nice illusion by the way. You fooled them completely.”
Broco shrugged a bony shoulder in reply. “It isss easssy to cassst an image of my former magnificence. Now if I had wanted to look like a toad that would have been difficult.”
A sad chuckle escaped the lips of the spirit. “As time passes, my old friend, I regret more and more the decision I made so long ago. Even though you may have forgiven me, I may not ever be able to forgive myself.”
“It wasss necesssary.”
“Yes but was it right?”
Broco snorted twin puffs of smoke from his nostrils as he turned and began the slow journey back to the wall of the citadel, “Bah! You humansss, alwaysss worrying about thingsss that cannot be changed.”
He snorted again, this time emitting a small flame that caused the spirit to look up at his guardian and friend.
“One thing could have ruined the illusssion. I almossst forgot how to breathe fire.”

The spirit laughed out loud in spite of himself as he passed through the blank wall into the citadel.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Sales Have Flat-Lined. Now What?

   Even though I've been sick for weeks, I still had to undergo two days of mandatory training to keep my HCA Certification. I was going to try and write my blog last night but the classes wore me out. I feel slightly better today so I'll attempt to come up with something interesting.
   From what I've read of other's experiences, the gambit of emotions a writer goes through during the course of publishing a book is similar for everyone and something a non-writer probably wouldn't understand. That feeling of accomplishment when you finish your drafts turns into despair that you will ever get it edited well enough for folks to actually enjoy reading it. Then it's the frustration of formatting and creating a cover that will appeal to readers. The moment you click on the publish button, a void forms in your emotions, ready to be filled with disappointment if it doesn't sell or hopefully a feeling of joy when the numbers start to come in.
   Fortunately for me, because of my wonderful friends, sales started appearing that first day and the pages read was really exciting. In the first week there were over three thousand pages read which is pretty amazing since the book is only a little over one hundred pages. The first 4-star review left me smiling like the Cheshire Cat while others soon followed. Eventually reality set in and sales slowed even though pages continued to be read. Purchases completely flat-lined a month ago and there hasn't been a page read in over a week. Should I try and drum up interest in the book again or just let it rest and concentrate on the next one?
   If you read the story but didn't like it, please shoot me an e-mail or comment here to let me know where I need to improve. I've still got a long way to go as a writer but I can't fix it if I don't know what's broke.
   If you haven't read it yet, maybe I can entice you with a short scene from the book that occurs right after their first battle with the goblins.
   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.”
She nodded and looked over to where the men had started to pile the dead goblins. “I want you to place Harold’s body on top of that pile before the fires are lit. Forever will the spirits know that my man rose above these beasties and proved himself this day.”
They soon had Derek safely loaded into a wagon and sent the companions on their way. The rest of the men and wagons followed shortly. It was decided that the inn should be burned also since it was defiled and no longer fit for use. The old woman stayed behind along with Braun and his men and watched the fire blaze until nothing was left but ashes. By that time, the young man returned with his cart to take her home.                               

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Can't Write When I'm Sick

   Today's post will be short due to sickness. I have the mother of all colds and can't concentrate. I sure you all have been there at some time. Can't sleep cause I can't breathe. Nose is red and sore from constant blowing and my chest and stomach muscles are on fire from sneezing and coughing.
   While trying to come up with something to say here, I thought, why not just share a favorite scene from my book. This is a short scene from 'The Princess and the Apprentice' that I still get a kick out of. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

In the morning, the sound of splashing water brought Aldan up out of the depths of empty dreams. It took a moment for his heavy eyelids to lift far enough to focus on the person standing by the wash basin. Embarrassed by the sight of Odessa running a wet cloth over her nude body he groaned and rolled over to face the wall. His imagination however relentlessly filled his mind with a vision his eyes could not see as the sounds of cloth against skin continued. Silence and a gentle hand on his shoulder brought an end to the fantasy.
“Are you awake?”
“Are you dressed?”
“Then I’m awake,” he answered, rolled over and made room so she could sit on the edge of the bed. Her expression told him nothing but he could feel the heat travel up his neck. “Forgive me, Odessa. I didn’t mean to peek.”
“Did you like what you saw?”
As her dark green eyes pinned him to the bed and a vision of her smooth pale skin flooded through his mind, all he managed was a nod. Words weren’t needed.
“Good. Now sit up so I can change the bandage on your chest.”
Aldan did as he was told and held up his arms so she could un-wrap the strips of cloth. The effort required less than it would have been yesterday and the original pain in his chest non-existent. Her gentle hands and the scent of her bath soap chased away the last of his embarrassment.
With the last strip of cloth dangling forgotten in her hand, the Princess stared un-blinking at his chest. After a moment she raised her eyes to his. “There isn’t even a scar. How is that possible?”
Aldan had known what she would find beneath the bandages and reached out to take her hand, removing the strip of cloth and placing it with the others. “I have read that the original purpose of blood magic was healing so I’m not surprised.”
Fear and sorrow fought for control of her expression as she stood and tried to pull away. “You must hate me.”
“I could never hate you, Odessa. Just the opposite. But you are wise to be afraid. The magic of blood can be very seductive. The temptation is always there to shed a little more blood to gain more power. I will help you if I can but you will have to overcome those temptations on your own.”
She searched his eyes for any sign of deceit and finding none, leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. On the way out she turned back to him with a mischievous smile. “I’ll let the others know you’ll be down as soon as you put your clothes back on.”

“Odessa!” But it was too late. Only the closed door heard him.