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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Petit Mal Panic

Last night I dreamed I was on a cruise ship in a storm and I almost spilled my drink (chocolate milk, I think, or iced tea. It's a little fuzzy). I was a bit confused since, in my dreams anyway, my life is normally represented by a house. Then I remembered PYP and its sea-themed offerings and it all made sense. I guess my brain needs to work out this new tack in my writing journey.

I suffer from petit mal panic. I don't know exactly when it started. Seems fairly recent, though, maybe a year? Maybe since 2008. Humorless chuckle.

It's a sudden and unreasonable sense of dread that starts in my stomach and spreads to my heart and lungs. The physical symptoms are clenched muscles, faster heartbeat and shorter breaths. It happens at any time, in any place, for no reason whatsoever. I can be in my house reading a book with a cat in my lap and it hits me. It's happened at work, at church, in the car, and at other people's homes. It seems to happen most when I'm alone, but that could be just because I'm alone most of the time.

I call it petit mal because it doesn't seem to be a full-blown panic attack as I've heard them described. Sometimes, it feels like an over-active conscience pricking me about some sin I've forgotten but which has the power to ruin my life. Other times, it feels like a premonition of some horrible future I cannot avoid. Maybe those are the same thing. Sometimes, it's just an upset stomach.
This may be a side-effect of growing up. Now that I'm noticing the real evil in the world, I am bound to be affected by it. It may be a learned response, an echo of some other time I had reason to fear popping up at unexpected times. A sort of Post-Traumic Stress Lite.

My solution thus far has been to stop and pray. Most times, my prayers are of repentance and praise. Repentance for doubting God and praise, well, because He's God. I don't know the future. I don't remember all my sins. I know God has me covered, and most of the time I remember it. The panic comes when I forget.

Oh, and when it's an upset stomach, I eat some peanuts.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Ask and you shall receive. One day after posting the conundrum of developing a marketing strategy, what should happen but my old friends at Point of View invite James Paris, web marketing guru, as guest for the next two days. Even better, he's offering another free webinar tonight about new forms of web marketing.


I sit poised with notepad at the ready. While I'm waiting...

Earlier today, I emailed PYP about their definition of "book proposal." According to my Everything: How to Get Published book, a non-fiction proposal is what you write before you write the book. It contains a hook, marketing figures for your target audience, comparable best-selling books and an author bio. I don't think this is what PYP wants since some of those things are covered by the questionnaire and they do have one place under "Our Guidelines" where they limit an "e-query" to one to two paragraphs. We'll see.

I do need to write a hook, though, and a synopsis. And an author bio, for that matter.

Anyway, I don't expect an immediate answer. Judging from the website, they tend to do "public interaction business" on Fridays, and real work the rest of the time.

Rule Number One for this turtle is and always will be "Don't annoy the editor." Judging by a blog post on their FB page about 10 things never to do when submitting, I think the cautious approach is more likely to catch fish here.

One odd thing I just realized today...The spirit beings in Star of Justice who create and maintain the magic of Ah'rahk are called "Elementals." Twenty years ago, I titled a book about two princesses Elementals. These two books have nothing whatsoever in common with each other except that word and me as an author. Weird.

I don't know if that will confuse people or if I should use it as my marker, like "I'll be back." I bet I could work the word "elementals" into every future story.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Turtle Steps

Excellent news! The Lioness has agreed to copy-edit the first 3 chapters of Elementals! Yea! I just added a layer of accountability to my goal of manuscript submission. That's important, since my first reaction is to retreat into my shell until October is over.

More excellent news! Blogspot has returned my spell-check button. I can't believe the spelling errors I've been making lately. I can see them only after I've published the post, and, unless I write them down, I can't find them when I sign on to edit. Weird.

I've been doing some reading at PYP's website and FB page. It's important to "know your audience," after all. I like this editor, but it's possible I like all editors. Anyone with the gumption to start a small business in our current economy is either a real scrapper or a real idiot. Maybe a little of both. I respect the former, and, hey, who hasn't been an idiot at one time or another? Without the entrepreneurs, our free market would collapse. So, go small presses!

Yeah, that's a topic for Old-Fashioned Thoughts.

The one thing concerning me most about PYP is the very clear disclaimer that marketing will pretty much be up to me. That's true of small presses, by the way, even Marcher Lord. They don't have the money for extensive advertising. On the other hand, it's not much different than if I self-published, so I'm trying not to freak out too much. If this is the deal-breaker, so be it.

They want to know my marketing plan. I don't have a plan. Well, I kind of have a plan. Once upon a time, Elder Brother gave some excellent marketing advice in a comment on my first whiny-butt post. I'll start with that. I also have some time to read up a bit on marketing. I bet Dave Ramsey has a few recommended books on the subject, or Seth Godin.

They recommend a FB page. Got that. It's currently coated in FV posts, but I have one. I will probably try creating a "business" FB page if this goes well. No point in creating one until I'm ready to use it, and I'm not quitting FV to look serious about writing. Of that, I am certain. I will farm less, but I will not stop until The Users pull the plug (God forbid). I also don't want my FB page to be open to just any yahoo who claims to be a fan. Only real fan yahoos need apply. A business page will, I think, take care of that.

A website is recommended. Got that. Spent yesterday updating it. Now that I have a printer with a scan option, I want to upload some of my illustrations for Elementals. I have a few drawings of Caissa, too.

They want a "book proposal" along with the chapters. I'm not sure I know what they mean by that. I should probably ask.

There's a questionnaire to fill out if I catch their interest. It's posted on their site. It doesn't concern me too much. For all my arrogance, I don't think anyone would classify me as a "prima donna," and that's what many of the questions seem intent on probing. My first reaction is always "no!" and "run!" but I rarely commit to my first reaction. I know my instincts suck. I do need 24 hours to process, but does that make me hard to work with? I'd rather balk at the beginning and do it, than agree first and not do it. Didn't Jesus have a parable about that?

When PYP first came to my attention, I intended to write a post about "timing," and how I'm either early or late. I realized, for once, this seems to be right on time. That doesn't mean it will work out. It just means for me, "poor timing" seems to be a subjective issue not an objective one.

We'll see how it goes.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weak Reaction

At the risk of incurring Elder Brother's wrath, I will indulge in a little whiny-buttism under cover of musing.

Last year's MLS contest showed up when I wasn't ready. I suppose I could argue I was totally ready since nothing came of it, but I didn't feel ready.

Last night, a new small press appeared on FB, PYP, which is looking for YA fantasy of 50 - 100K words. Sound like a book you may have heard about recently?

My first reaction? Panic. Reluctance. Uncertainty. A strong desire to go to bed and not think about it.

This is my first reaction to every new situation: panic, reluctance, uncertainty. In therapy school, I learned it's a "weak" reaction as opposed to a "strong" reaction. Removing the negative and positive connotations, the words in this context simply mean rather than charging like a bull, I slip away like a rabbit when confronted. How about snake? I'd rather be a snake than a rabbit. I slip away like a non-poisonous snake.

So, this PYP is brand new and looking for books that almost exactly match Elementals.
Where do I focus? On the issue of cutting 8000 words to qualify.

I'm already cutting words. What's the big deal about cutting more?

I don't want to. Why don't I want to? Because someone else wants me to. How immature is that? I could only act worse if I thumbed my nose and shouted "nanny-nanny, boo-boo." It's that old sin nature rearing its ugly head to say "you can't make me."

I could also say cutting 500 extraneous words is one thing, but cutting a chapter or two is something else entirely and I don't know how I'd do it. That would move the immaturity factor back into the realm of problem-solving instead of knee-jerking.

As I think about it, October is a whole month of 30+ days away. I should be able to revise this book in 30 days, and maybe if I get close enough to 100K, the editor will have some suggestions on what to cut. Or not. Maybe she'll bend and say okay to what's there. Hey, if I'm going to go with arrogance, I may as well go all the way, right?

I could always get rid of the prologue.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Favorite Books? Hmm.

Autumn approaches. This happens after every summer solstice, but I dread it more each year. Yes, I love sleeping in the cool, but I hate waking up to cold air. I hate it when the sun takes a bit longer each morning to arrive. I do not bounce out of bed in the dark months. I will have to rearrange my FV schedule.

Yesterday Wordcrafter posted his top 10 favorite books. If he's anything like me (and we share some personality traits) he had a hard time winnowing down to 10. I have a special shelf with about 30 books on it, and I would be hard-pressed to pick even 10 to qualify as my favorites.

Each book on that shelf taught me something - something about life, something about writing, something about imagination. So, this isn't an exhaustive list, but here are some of my most cherished.

In the Something About Life category:

Anything by George MacDonald. The Lost Princess is probably my most quoted/mulled/applied, but I love his short stories -"The Light Princess," "The Day Boy and The Night Girl," "The Golden Key" - as well as his longer books like The Princess and the Goblins and Lilith. He has a way of illustrating deep principles in memorable characters. I do not wonder why C.S. Lewis admired him so greatly.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. My copy is almost entirely underlined. I might as well memorize the thing.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I've posted on it before, so I won't elaborate here. It even made a fairly decent movie.

In the Something About Writing category:

Anything by Anne McCaffrey. No other author has influenced me so heavily. Yes, all her books have some obvious themes/characters - the extraordinarily gifted yet misunderstood and persecuted youth, the ambitious slut, the psi-abilities. Still, she has wonderful descriptive turns of phrase and her worlds are fully realized, if only because she's written like a 100 books. The White Dragon is probably the one I've read the most.

Jerusalem Fire by R. M Meluch. This was the first complicated sci-fi book I ever read. It has numerous characters and character back-stories, plus an alien world and culture at once familiar and totally unknown. Fascinating.

Dune by Frank Herbert. Another complicated sci-fi book. Maybe it had something to do with Kyle McLachlan playing Paul Mua'dib, but I love this book. I hate the rest. I learned too late I didn't want to know what happened to Paul.

In the Something About Imagination category:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. How a book with a nihilistic worldview can be so funny continues to puzzle me, but I laugh out loud every time. Especially when listening to the audio book read by the author. Irony and a British accent are made for each other. This is a book where the weirdest, most horrible thing will happen next, but since it isn't happening to me, I'm okay with it.

E.T. The Book of the Green Planet by William Kotzwinkle. Don't laugh. Ever wonder what happens to the little guy after he gets on the ship? He goes home to a world of plant-based technology, that's what, and with the help of his friend the Flopglopple works his flat bottom off to get back to Earth and Elliott. This is one cool planet and one surprisingly good read.

Golem in the Gears by Piers Anthony. I could put almost any early Xanth novel in here, but this is my favorite because I love Rapunzel of the magic hair. Xanth was something completely new, and while the stories are all basically the same characters with different coloring, the original idea is sound.

I have one book I love that doesn't fit into these three categories. Maybe that makes it my favorite.

101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith. Because of this book, I will not watch the Disney movie. They got Missus' name wrong. See, the happy couple are Pongo and Missus Pongo. Perdita was a liver-spotted Dalmatian who got brought in as a wet-nurse to help Missus with the original 15 puppies. Thanks to this book, I love tea with milk and hot-buttered toast.

While I'm thinking about it, I suppose I should add Elfquest. It's a series of 20 comic books, not a novel per se, but it influenced me in all three categories.

You'll notice Tolkien isn't on my list. While he did set the standard for almost all fantasy books to come after him (and several generations of role-playing geeks) and created a world and characters I love like family, I don't actually like his writing style all that much. He's long-winded, and I just plain skip over his poetry. The Hobbit is the most readable, but some 60% of the population can't get past the first 100 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring. I've read the series three or four times, but it isn't on my special shelf.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Pox on Love

This is another post on marriage. Ready?

Love should have nothing to do with the decision to marry or the decision to divorce, for that matter.
Yep, that right there almost makes me unAmerican. 'Cause everybody knows love is the only reason to marry. Be sure to use the sing-song-y emphasis on that italicized word, like this: luuuuhve.
Do I have to resort to the Greek lesson here? Does anyone want to hear another sermon about the difference between eros and agape?

I don't know when it started. Maybe with movies. Probably before that. We Americans seem to think being in love is a requirement for marriage and falling out of love is a reason to quit.

I flatly disagree. I don't believe in soul mates, or love at first sight, or only having one chance at happiness. Happiness is a choice. Unless you're married to Satan, a marriage can be good. And if the father of lies is willing to make it work, even that might turn out okay. Hmm. Maybe not.

Love isn't blind, it's stupid. People who marry are "stupid in love" not "blinded by love." They are intoxicated by some kind of chemical wash overriding reasonable brain activity and making them determined to forge ahead despite all warning signs to the contrary. My time in therapy only cemented this belief.

This same kind of chemical wash keeps us from smothering crying babies the first night. It has to be God-designed to allow for propagation of the species. So I can't fault people for thinking the presence of this feeling is a reason to marry or the lack of this feeling is a reason to leave. Oh wait, yes I can. We ought to know better.

Dare I offer a Biblical example? Deut 22:13-21. If a bride's virginity is doubted and then proved, the husband has to pay the parents a fee for dishonoring their daughter and keep her as a wife. Can you imagine how much fun that house would be to live in? Yet God commands His people to do it. Why? Because He's serious about the commitment of marriage, and He understands love is a verb, not a noun.

TT: All you Biblical scholars who want to give me grief about misapplying Biblical texts, feel free. It is an example of the importance of solid marriages to society, whether we practice it today or not.

Have you noticed love is the main argument in our current culture war concerning marriage? If love is the only requirement for marriage, why not allow anyone to do it? Oh wait, we are.

I read a story years ago about a Swedish woman who married a dolphin. How does that work? I mean, if she dies first, does the dolphin get everything, including the car? If that dolphin gets caught in a tuna net and drowned, is it murder? What constitutes adultery in that relationship? Where exactly are they supposed to live? Whose parents do they visit on holidays, and who gets custody of any children they might adopt?

Am I making my point here? Love has nothing to do with whether or not to marry.

Love is a symptom of a good marriage, not a precondition. Love grows. As children are produced, as problems are faced, as good time are had, love grows. You should love your spouse more at the end of your life than the beginning, and that only happens when the feeling of love isn't the main goal.

Now, I will acknowledge some kind of mutual attraction is useful. I would not care to enter into a marriage where I did not see the possibility of love growing (hence, "no" to Satan should he ever ask). But it is by no means impossible to have a great marriage even when love is sparse at the beginning.

So, if you possibly can, marry first, fall in love afterward. If it's too late to do it the smart way, don't worry too much. You have the rest of your life to really fall in love with the spouse you have.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I cannot seem to stop myself. I write gore.

I don't intend to do it. I don't start out with a blank screen and think, "How gross can I get with this?" It just happens.

I'm typing along, a battle scene comes up and heads start flying. Eyes get gouged, limbs are severed and blood spurts with arterial regularity.

See? I just did it again.

Irony? I'm squeamish. I couldn't watch any of this stuff happen. If I saw it on screen, I'd have to turn away or get sick. Maybe both. I can't stomach (heh) the thought of doing any of the things my characters do. I would never eat a person's heart out, even if he did try to kill my dog. Well, maybe. Hmm.

The gore trips a lot of folks up, too. Perfectly nice people turn green and skip pages. You'd think that alone would make me stop writing it.

But I can't. I mean, if a fire-breathing dragon attacks a city full of flower-clad civilians, there's gonna be some gore. I would argue, there's going to be a lot of gore, and, yes, I seem to write it all down.

This is one of those things that got debated during the MLS contest. I'm afraid I don't remember the name of the entry, but it began with a battle scene involving demons and swords and cowering humans. Things got bloody, as I would expect when swords are involved.

TT: Is that why Lucas invented lightsabres? To get around the gore factor that might catapult Star Wars into the dreaded "R" realm? On the other hand, lightsabres are just cool, so maybe it was a two-for-one.

My biggest issue with the whole entry was it wasn't bloody enough. After a second read, I saw a few more demons going squish, but it was a bit clinical for a fight to the dismemberment. I was in the minority on this one.

Now, I'm not one of those who would argue for writing incorporating such things for the purposes of realism. I would never justify foul language in my writing using that argument, and I am shocked when I read foul language in literature labeled Christian. I also tread carefully around the use of sex in a story. I'm a firm believer that some things should be private (and that goes for real life, too!). But gore is an area where my hypocrisy runs rampant.

Can I blame the Bible for this? Remember left-handed Ehud and the sword through the fat king's belly? I love that story (Judges 3:15-25). Or the prophets who challenged Moses during the Wandering and got "consumed" with fire from heaven? God directed the Levites to go among their "smoldering remains" to collect the melted bronze censors and turn them into the altar cover (Don't believe me? Numbers 16:36-40).

I'm not writing scripture, so I will not claim God directs me in my gory details. No, it seems to be my own black heart that spits up this stinky, slurpy goop. Another irony? It doesn't affect me when I write it. I'm like a chef wearing goggles while chopping onions. I have no idea what kind of stench I've created until someone else walks in and yells about it.

So, I'm sorry for the gore. I don't see it going away. I'll try not to bury too many important details in the steaming pile of entrails, but that's the best I can do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Camping Out in Reviews

Yesterday, my blog's Google Ads had something about learning how to kiss. I suppose they think that relates to marriage. It kinda does. Focus on the Family interviewed an author who said one of the most important tricks to maintaining a marriage is the good-bye kiss, and it should involve the swapping of spit. Grossed out, I walked away for a bit, but for those married folk who aren't as germaphobic as I am, have at it. On with the post.

I recently read a warning from an author about how writers like to "camp out in reviews." I'm not sure that's the exact wording but it's close. It got me wondering "Is that true?"

Do writers prefer to review other writers' stuff? Prefer it to what? Writing their own stuff?

I don't like to write reviews. I don't mind discussing bits of a book, but I'm not good with the "summing up."

On the other hand, many of the blogs I follow regularly review books, movies, video games, whatever. I have reviewed some movies and TV show episodes myself when excited or disgusted enough.

TT: Fringe should be starting up soon. Woo-hoo!

Studying someone else's writing is beneficial. If you've put in the time, why not write about it? 
I see two caveats, and this is probably what that author was talking about.

One, review-writing could be a way to avoid writing your own stuff. That would be a bad thing, if you think you are supposed to be writing your own stuff.

Two, readers might get tired of reading reviews all the time. Fact is, I get tired of it. I don't have the money to buy all the recommended books I've seen, so I tend to skip reviews unless I'm bored or avoiding work.

In the blogs I follow, I haven't noticed anyone neglecting their own writing in favor of writing reviews. (How could I possibly notice that? I can't, really, but the discussions about their own writing journeys don't seem significantly impacted by the presence of reviews. Plus, it's possible review-writing is the current leg of their writing journey. I can't fault anyone for that.)

As for Caveat Two, well, that's the risk we all take when we pick a topic of the day.

I've already decided I need to read more. I don't know if this will translate into more reviews.

I don't read like I used to. My eyes get tired faster, and my attention wanders more. I've been working on that Agatha Christie book for two weeks, and its about 100 pages. I just can't bring myself to care. I will admit, though, she has a few "gem" sentences in there, like "she followed her bust out of the room." Classic. If only she didn't use so many exclamation points!

0 : - )


One, it may be a true statement that most writers like to camp out in reviews.

Two, I'm not most writers.

But we knew that, didn't we?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prologues and The Longest Sentence Ever

I never paid much attention to prologues. To my mind, if the info was that important, it would turn up somewhere else in the body of the story. I tended to think of them as trivia repositories, and, oddly enough, avoided them unless I was really bored.

This was a matter of some debate during last year's MLS contest. Sword of the Patron started it all with an action-packed prologue detailing events three months prior to the action in the first chapter. Some folks were annoyed with this. I would normally have skipped the prologue altogether and been unaffected. Since it was a contest, I had to read it.

This was the first time I saw a use for the prologue. Sometimes, an author has important info that doesn't fit smoothly into the body of the story. A prologue can introduce that info in a way the reader accepts. It's kind of like "telling" without offense.

The prologue should be well-written, and hopefully have the flavor of the rest of the story, but it doesn't necessarily have to make sense right then. I'm more open to reading them now, and using them if I wish.

In another of those great ironies to which I am prone, I had written a prologue years ago for Elementals. Since the story is about two sisters who each have their own adventures, I wanted to introduce them at the same time. A little "quick background," as it were, to set the stage.
After the prologue debate, I decided to keep the prologue in the story. I actually intend to record myself reading it and post it as a file on my website on the Elementals' page (I have not yet decided if I will read it in my own voice or Stuffy English Guy voice). It's not very long, only a few hundred words, really, but it does contain a ridiculously long sentence. Here's the first paragraph:

  The Aveesan sepulcher is the heart of the mountain city. All occasions of notice are honored within its hall - births, betrothals, judgments, and, most importantly, deaths. Carved from living stone first by water then by the industrious hands of the first Aveesan settlers, the semi-circular tomb reaches through layer upon layer of rock until the mountain itself ends and the sky gleams through a hexagonal opening above. This was the first of three openings into the sepulcher and not meant for the living to use. The spirits of the honored dead would escape to the heavens through that gate.

I bolded it in case you hadn't noticed how ridiculously long that sentence is. I've cut it down, actually. It used to have another modifying phrase. Word's Grammar Check hates this sentence. Maybe it's just the dangling preposition at the end.

TT: I just noticed some tense issues. Is it okay to start with a present tense sentence and shift to past tense in the same graph? I have found this kind of issue throughout the mss as I'm revising. I suppose some moments I felt closer to the action than others. Ah well. I'll pull out my English for Dummies textbook and figure it out.

I could argue that sentence is my zooming set-up shot. The camera begins at the ground and pans up to the highest point of the ceiling. It is definitely the kind of sentence Stuffy English Guy would read. It is representative of the ornate, ritualized culture of the Aveese. It is not representative of the tone of the rest of the book. Does that make it wrong?

I suppose it's one of those things I could present to a critique group. I have several of those things in this story. The problem, as my Best Friend pointed out, is I trust my own skill too much. I control my story worlds, I decide what happens there, and my brain often coughs up things I don't understand at the time but somehow work to my advantage later. If I doubted myself every time that happened, I would never write again.

Wow, I just got more arrogant than usual. Sorry.

I am not attached to this sentence. It is long. I just can't decide if it's too long. Since I don't have to decide at the moment, I'll move on and come back to it if I must.

Now, if I can just keep the cats quiet for two and a half minutes, maybe I can get it recorded. While I'm asking for a miracle, Lord, can I have a Suburu Outback, too?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Who's Telling The Truth?

When I read Christian fiction, I've noticed a tendency to wonder which character is speaking or exemplifying the author's worldview.

I don't remember ever questioning the motives of secular authors. With secular books I look for universal truths, but I don't expect them to be presented with intention. That's an odd thing to say, I suppose. I just realized it's an odd thing to think. I expect a secular author to tell a compelling story, but I don't expect him to radically change my understanding of Life, the Universe and Everything.
This bias may be the result of worshipping at the bookshelf of C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald. I seem to believe a Christian author should tell a true story, i.e., a story that expresses some universal truth.

I also seem to expect that truth to come from a particular character, usually the hero.

I don't think I'm alone in this expectation. In the critiques I've received for Star of Justice from authors and non-authors I've gotten questions about "What really happened?," "Are you trying to say...?" or "So, who's the Christian here?"

Ready for the irony? I expect something from others I don't do myself. I cannot point to a single character in Star of Justice who embodies my entire set of beliefs as a Christian. No single character has a complete understanding of God as He exists in the story, let alone a complete understanding of what really happens during the course of the book. Each character has pieces of truth, but none of them has it all.

As an author, I wanted to answer the most pressing questions, but leave room for speculation, too. Maybe I'm the only person in the world who thinks about a book after I've read it. Maybe. At the rate some of my new writer friends turn out reviews I don't know they would have time for processing a book.

(I don't mean that as a slam. Maybe they process faster than I do. Maybe they don't need to process. I have issues with mastery. Part of my OCD. I want to know the why as well as the what. I know why things happen in my stories, whether I state it or not. I want to have those answers to the obscure question at the book-signing.)

There seems to be a tendency in Christian writing (or possibly Christian assumptions about Christian writing) to make the main character The Hero, the good guy. Technically, the main character is the Protagonist. The Protagonist spends the most time in the spotlight but is not necessarily the good guy. The word itself (while being remarkably difficult to type quickly) is neutral.

Caissa is a Protagonist, not a Hero. She does follow the Hero's Journey as outlined by Keven Newsome of The New Author's Fellowship, but I would not classify her as a Hero in the traditional sense. I would not expect any reader to find universal truths about God spilling out of her mouth. Truths about human nature? Absolutely. About God? Not so much.

She also does not overtly express my beliefs about God. She might express my beliefs about what some people believe about God, but that's not the same thing.

I suppose my conclusion is to relax and let the story unfold. I should allow the characters to be themselves and not little projections of the author.  I'll be thinking about the story for days afterward anyway. Why worry upfront?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More on Marriage

I got a little crazy last night. Seems many couples I know are experiencing marital difficulties right now. Some of them are about stupid things. Some of them are serious. Some of them could have been prevented. All of them are painful.

Perhaps yesterday's post belonged in Old Fashioned Thoughts, but my beliefs about marriage are so much a part of who I am they will appear in anything I write.

The sanctity of marriage is a major theme in Elementals. The seriousness of the arranged marriage is the driving force of every character. Divorce is not an option in that society, no matter how complicated or uncomfortable a marriage may be.

I wanted that idea in the book because I don't see it anywhere in today's society. Maybe with the Amish. I don't know. I don't read Amish romances.

Operation Rolling Thunder places marriage as one of the seven major issues needing prayer today. I encourage you to pray for marriage as a whole. Satan understands how important it is. That's why his efforts are focused on destroying it however he can.

Support marriage. If you are married, work at it. Remember your first love - your wife or husband. Remember why you got married in the first place and tend that spark until it once again burns in your heart. If love has faded it's because you let it. Shame on you.

Support married couples, young and old. When someone comes to you to complain about a problem, remind them of their commitment and help them see the long view. Don't commiserate with selfishness. One of the major causes of divorce is friends who encourage it. Don't be one of those.

If you're not married, consider long and hard before you make that commitment. Don't stay in a relationship where marriage is not an option, and for goodness' sake, don't remain unmarried when you have children together. Put on your big boy pants and man up to your responsibilities. Give those children a real name and a real place in your life. Then do the man-lier thing and make your marriage work.

And, women, don't you settle for less than marriage. Marriage is the safest place for you to be - financially, emotionally and physically, and no Femi-nazi has yet come out with a legitimate study that says otherwise. Don't believe the lie that you can have it all with no responsibility. That's nonsense.

Can you tell I'm passionate about this? I may not practice Marriage and Family Therapy anymore, but I know how important strong marriages are.

Dear friends, tend your marriage. Pour your energy into loving your spouse and encouraging other married couples to do the same. Let's turn our society around before it's too late.

And for those damaged by divorce, love them. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a marriage cannot be endured. A selfish, unreasonable spouse is like dragging a dead ox while plowing a field. If society itself is not structured to force that spouse to conform, divorce may be the only remaining option. Just be sure it's the last option, not the first.

Well, I don't know how to end this second rant in a row. Perhaps with a prayer:

Lord, strengthen marriage. Grant each spouse Your grace and patience to practice within the marriage relationship. Help us to fight for marriage as You fight for us. Help us to remember marriage is representative of your relationship with us The Church. Bless our marriages and keep them holy, as You are holy. In Christ's precious name, Amen.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Prepare for a rant, my good readers. I am ready to blow.

"Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us togevher today." For the seven people in America who don't know, that's from The Princess Bride. It's a joke, an ornate priest with a funny voice and speech impediment.

It's not funny today. When did he become the symbol for marriage?

People seem to think marriage is all about love, and happiness, and feeling good. What a load of rot!
Marriage is about commitment. When you say "I do," you commit to do it. To work at it. To suffer through the horrible parts, even when they seem too horrible to bear.

Love helps. Love is why you continue to work, because you love that spouse. But commitment is the reason.

A marriage is the basic building block of society. Marriage - one man, one woman - leads to family, the next building block. Family provides a safe place to create children and rear them into adults.
Most animals don't mate for life because they can't. If a finch only took one mate, we'd be out of finches in a generation because finches die all the time. A finch's life is hard and short and they have to pop out baby finches while they can with any male available at the time. Finches don't get sexually-transmitted diseases, by the way, which means nature intended for them to act like that.

Humans mate for life because it takes a lifetime to teach that little alien what it means to be human. A human child becomes physically mature between 11 and 18, but it spends its entire life becoming mature in other ways. A human needs its mother and father, and grandparents, and siblings to teach it to become human.

Marriage is how that happens. Marriage provides a safe place for a daughter to see how to be a wife and mother, for a son to see how to be a husband and father. Marriage is how children learn to contribute to society within a partnership. Marriage teaches vulnerability to another person, and solidarity when the world is against you. Marriage increases income, shares responsibility and stabilizes society as a whole.

When did it become the norm to view marriage as something you do while it feels good?

You can't trust feelings. If I followed my feelings, I'd eat ice cream and cake for every meal and die of complications from diabetes at 50. Come to think of it, that fate awaits many Americans right now.

Don't trust your feelings. God gave you a brain to use. Humans aren't finches. We are a higher order of animals, able to master our feelings and do the right thing, even we when don't like it.

I'm so sick of hearing "Well, I'm not happy anymore." It makes me as sick as "abortion is the woman's choice," another example of following feelings into a decision that will dramatically worsen her life and eliminate the life of another.

It's not about feelings. Feelings change like the wind.

Marriage is a choice. Once it's made, it should be made forever. 'Til death do us part.

My parents had a saying. "Divorce, never. Murder, maybe."

We need a little more of that kind of commitment today. From everyone. Our society is falling apart because our citizens are putting their own selfish wants ahead of their commitments. Our government pays woman to have children out of wedlock, removing the man from the house and leaving him free to join a drug gang instead of honoring his duty to his children and the woman who should be his wife. Our courts allow divorces of "no fault," so any drunken idiot in Vegas can undo what they shouldn't have done in the first place. Our "friends" council us to leave that terrible situation instead of working through it. I mean, who could possibly put up with a husband who wants to buy a motorcycle? What a jerk!

Good heavens, people, wake up! Don't you see how selfishness is destroying us? Families with layers of step-children and ex-spouses. Children who won't allow themselves to get close to a parent because they don't know how long that parent will be around, a trait they repeat in adulthood, by the way. Adults who would rather live together outside of marriage because the taxes are lower and it's easier to leave when things get too hard. Just pack up whichever kids you like or get welfare checks for and move on.

I don't have the words to express my frustration with that kind of thinking, that kind of selfishness. I don't need the words. The chaos rages around us, and yet we wander along, whistling and staring at clouds.

You've heard "marriage is 50/50."

Wrong. Marriage is 100%. From you. If you can't give it, don't offer it. And you don't give it only if the other person is doing the same. It's your commitment. The only one you control is you.

I am not a "stay married no matter what" advocate. Some things cannot and should not be endured.  But I do believe most of the problems that plague marriage today could be solved if both people believed their only choices were solve it or live with it for the next 60 years. You aren't motivated to work at something when you think you have an out.

Divorce should be hard. It should be harder and more painful than marriage. It should cost money and social standing. It should leave a stigma on its practitioners that warns others not to choose it as an option.

It used to do that, and society as a whole was more stable for it.

Yes, horrible things happened then. But horrible things happen now, too. Divorce doesn't stop violence, end arguments or increase the safety of children. Most of the time, it multiplies those things. We have 30 years of "no fault" examples to prove that.

We will never solve the human condition of fallen-ness until Christ returns. I wish we could stop adding to it.

Marriage is serious. Marriage is hard. But when done right, marriage is the closest two humans will ever come to understanding the Trinity this side of eternity. It is worth fighting for.

Please, please, my friends, fight for it. Encourage your friends to fight for it, too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

10 Hours

I picked up Elementals. I read the whole thing in about 10 hours.

I was a bit annoyed.

Not with the story. With the story, I was pleased. It's been a year since I looked at it, and it's okay. I have some tense issues to work out, and some details to smooth, but for a first draft? Not too shabby.

No, I was disappointed with the amount of time it took me to read it.

I don't remember how long it took to write. I didn't have any huge events by which to mark the time as I did with Star of Justice. I'm thinking between two and three months. That's sporadic writing.
Heavens, when I think about how I labored over that story, it's a miracle it got written at all. I was more inclined to throw my mouse at the wall than tackle one more battle of wills with the Achnoi Queen. Sheer cussedness got me through it. That and a feeling Dyana would slap me if I didn't woman up and finish.

But 10 hours?

That's a pretty fast read. Right now, it's about 108,000 words. Simple words, too. No big plot complications. No mysteries. No in-depth character back story. No plans for other stories with these characters (although I might be able to squeeze one out if I had to). I don't even have a name for this planet.

But 10 hours?

I tried to keep it short. My goal was "fast and easy." I suppose I achieved it.

But 10 hours... It doesn't seem like much, does it? That's shorter than the LoTR extended trilogy. Way shorter if you watch the special edition items about fashion, horses and weapons like I do.

Maybe 10 hours is okay. I mean, that's a weekend book. A "start it in the reading room and take it with you into the living room" kind of book. A book that keeps you up to the wee hours on a work night because the chapters are so short you imagine you can afford to turn one more page.

That's the trick, after all. The page-turning. You want a reader to become absorbed in a story. That leads to word-of-mouth promotion and happy thoughts the next time she sees your name in a bookstore.

I expect this to publish before Star of Justice. I kind of hope it does. My greatest concern with my first book is that readers would expect me to always write books like it. Frankly, I don't know if I could.

But books like Elementals? Yeah, I have a few more of those up my keyboard.

Right now, I need to polish this rock and see just how shiny it will get.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When Did I Stop Reading?

New writers hear it all the time. Good writers are good readers. Read all the time. Never stop reading.
So when did I stop reading?

I'm gonna have to blame college. Pre-college I had spending money (spelled A-L-L-O-W-A-N-C-E), I had time (spelled N-O-J-O-B) and I had no friends (spelled L-O-S-E-R).

During college, I had money only for textbooks, a whole dormful of people who started to become interesting the longer we spent together, and a brain full of my own story ideas demanding to be written on my newly purchased for college laptop computer.

TT: If only I'd had the maturity I have now, I would have finished those stories then instead of revisiting them now. Oh well. I choose to believe those stories will find new depths. Yeah, that could be arrogance talking.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I stopped reading altogether. I read about 6 textbooks in their entirety in my 6 years of college, and most of those were for the same class.

I could also blame Mr. Freidline, I suppose, from 7th grade. He was the first teacher who made me write a book report that included a critique. I remember telling him I wasn't qualified to judge someone else's writing. He said I was the only one qualified to give my opinion about it.

Wrong thing to teach me. That's when my "journey of disgust" began, but it took college to really get me climbing that mountain of disdain.

I have become that "two pages or else" reader. Pre-college I always finished a book, thinking if someone took the time to write it, the least I could do is read it. No more. I have thrown books away after a chapter. I don't tolerate inconsistency, poor grammar or stupid characters anymore. I called that an "occupational hazard" in an earlier post.

I doubt I'll find much argument that the quality of literature as a whole has declined in the last 15 years. Many books nowadays are garbage, plain and simple. I blame the writers, of course. When you write from a post-modern worldview of "nothing matters" and "everything is meaningless including grammar," your writing will be garbage.

Cost was another factor. Pre-college books were $2.95 or $3.95. Post-college books were $7.95 and part of a series of 12. That's a lot of money to invest in something I might throw away after 20 pages.
You might argue I could go to the library, but I've explained before I keep books I like. You can't keep library books, and most of them are out of print, which leaves me out of luck. Why would I do that to myself?

And the topics! Again, the post-modern worldview shows up as immorality as a matter of course, unquestioned macro-evolution in the sci-fi realm and goddess/pantheism in the fantasy realm, and I can't blame myself for not reading anymore.

At least, I couldn't.

See, college was where I got broke and gained friends. Now I'm alone and occasionally have a little spending money. I've discovered some good writers are out there if I'm willing to look for them (my thanks to Splashdown Books and Marcher Lord Press for giving them a chance). My only reason for not reading now is I'm out of the habit.

And FV is free.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Difficult People

Yesterday's sermon was presented by a guest pastor on 1 Sam 24. He introduced his sermon with the sentence "This is a passage about dealing with difficult people."

Difficult people? Yeah, right. I Sam 24 is one of the numerous occasions Saul is trying to kill David and David spares his life.

Saul was a homicidal maniac. That seems a bit more than "difficult" to me.

However, the pastor's points were valid, possibly even for dealing with homicidal maniacs.

His point, and I would agree it is one of the points of the passage, is forgiveness trumps revenge. I might argue other historical accounts show it better. Joseph's treatment of his brothers, for example.
The desire for revenge is so strong God limited it in his legal code for the Israelites. "An eye for an eye" wasn't a command to take someone's eye. It was a limitation of you can only do as much as was done to you. Even that isn't God's desire for us.

According to Jesus "You have heard it said 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I say love your enemy and do good to those that hate you."

Jesus knows forgiveness is the only way to regain power over your own life. To hate another person damages you far more than it damages him.

One of my favorite statements from yesterday's sermon was "Hatred is like acid. It destroys its container before it destroys its object."

Forgiveness doesn't come easy to Turtles. Doesn't matter. It is imperative to master it. My own life, my own health, my own eternity depends on it.

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors..."

It is in my best interest to forgive others. Even homicidal maniacs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

TUTAW: Not Everyone Makes It

It's been a while since I wrote one of these. So long, I had to rack my brain to remember the meaning of the acrostic The Ugly Truth About Writing.

Nature gives us plenty of examples of "the survival of the fittest." Probably one of the reasons macro-evolution seems to work at first glance. Salmon, rabbits, sperm...whales. Just kidding. I meant sperm. In fact, almost everything that exists does so in large numbers because life is hard and things die in all manner of ways. I've figured out rabbits are the popcorn of the wild kingdom. Not terribly filling unless you eat two or three buckets' worth. Poor little bunnies.

The concept applies to people, too. Not that we're getting eaten, but that in any given situation very few "make it." Not every good sports' player makes it into the professional world. Not every job applicant gets hired. Not every writer gets published.

Nowadays, the odds of getting published are better in some ways and worse in others. Someone determined to see his name in print can always self-publish. The Internet has opened up a whole new way to connect with that niche market you want to reach. According to...oh, what's his name...Seth Godin? you only need a certain number of devoted fans to maintain you. The trick is keeping them happy enough to remain devoted.

However, the same Internet that opens possibilities to you opens them to others. More people than ever may dream of publication, and now they can submit as easily as you can. The market is flooded with baby writers looking for a break.

Of course, I'm speaking of people determined to get published. I haven't taken into account writing skill, storyline, marketable audience, or any other factor.

The fact is, you can be a fabulous writer with a great book, but if you never submit, you can't be published. And I've read enough horrible books to wonder how many of the authors are related to the publisher or sleeping with the editor. There is no other explanation for how they got printed.

I've become convinced of two things.

First, getting published requires perseverance. P.A. Baines of The New Authors' Fellowship is a perfect example. The man has written for 14 years (if I remember correctly) and is finally getting his first book Alpha Redemption published by Splashdown Books. Congrats on that, P.A.  He persevered and soon he'll be a published author. The hard part will be Book II. Good luck with that.

Second, sometimes it doesn't. We've all heard about the lady who tells her book idea to the guy in the elevator who ends up being the head of a major publishing company and she gets published without even sending a query letter. Hey, it's the exceptions that prove the rule, right? Don't assume that'll be you, though, even if you spend your free time loitering in the elevator at major publishing companies.
Fact is, most of us who write will never get published. We'll get eaten by something along the way, even if it's only our own indolence.

But that's how it is. As Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own: "Of course it's hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it."

Frankly, I'd rather see the prize go to someone who worked for it than someone who happened to be in the right place at the right time. But I'm funny that way.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Call Me Samson

Not really. Samson is one of the more despicable people in the Old Testament. He was a terrible judge and a terrible person. If anybody deserved to get his eyes gouged out and spend his life grinding wheat, it was that guy. I suppose he's proof that God uses anyone to get His will done.

He is a bit of a puzzlement, though. I mean, God picked him. God told his mom to follow the rules of the Nazarite because Samson would be one. But Samson sure didn't honor God with his life. One of those stories of the Bible where you get to work at it. Lots of places like that. Study is good for growth.

That Samson and I should have anything in common is not flattering to me.

However, my mood has brightened in direct proportion to the length of my hair. Now that I am able to pull it back into a -albeit stupid-looking - queue, the depression has lifted and I can view the future with optimism. My strength is returning, as it were.

How sad! I knew I was vain, but I had no idea my hair was so much a part of who I am.

When watching V for Vendetta, I couldn't understand what the big whoop was about Eve getting her head shaved.

Totally get it now. Lord grant such a fate never befalls me. This is as close as I want to get. I can promise you, I won't get this close again. Not deliberately.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Not You

You've heard the same rumors I have. Sometimes authors put real people into their books. They put that little disclaimer in there - you know the one - to assure people they aren't the bad guy or the village idiot or the hunky studmuffin, but we don't really believe it.

Well, believe it with me. 

The reason is simple. I'm far too self-centered to know anyone else well enough to put them into my books.

All characters are me. Different bits of me but definitely me. Me as I am, me as I wish I was, me as I could be if... All me.

Sorry if I burst your bubble. Happy if I prevented a lawsuit.

Just relax and enjoy the book, okay?

'Cause trust me, you're not in it.

Unless I tell you you are.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Agatha Christie? Really?

I've heard from two sources (both British, so maybe "grain of salt" time) that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time.

Is that true? How can that be?

I have 3 Agatha Christie novels: Poirot Investigates, The Patriotic Murders and Why Didn't They Ask Evans? I must have gotten them on sale somewhere.

These are not what I consider classic literature. Granted, I've heard she wrote 39 books featuring Poirot, so maybe these aren't top quality, but I don't see it.

The format is odd. Everyone but Poirot is written in broad, stereotypical strokes. The story is advanced by sacrificing detail. I'm not impressed. I put Poirot Investigates back on the shelf, and I'm forcing myself to read The Patriotic Murders just to see if it gets any better.

Maybe it's the volume of books she wrote that make her the best-selling. Maybe all British schools require a class on her. Maybe she has a head start on other writers because she wrote in the 1940's.
Maybe it's that the books are short. A 100-page paperback is hardly intimidating. It fits neatly into purse or briefcase for those unexpected waiting room delays.

Whatever. I suppose, to be fair, I should find some of her better-known works, like Murder on the Orient Express, before pronouncing judgment on all her writing. Obviously, if she's The best-selling author, she did something right.

I'm just not sure what it was.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I stood on a street corner yesterday in the middle of the day and waved a sign for a candidate I support. It was hot, although thankfully God sent a lovely breeze and partly cloudy skies. I took my green umbrella as a sunshade, and I was glad to have it.

I had plenty of time for reflection on that corner. I've participated in the Chain of Life Network twice, so I know how to stand and pray in public while holding a sign. My sign this time was far less controversial than those times.

I prayed for those cars passing by. I prayed for our country, our judges, our President, our lawmakers, specifically those fighting the good fight. I prayed for family and friends and their futures. I asked for mercy on those who will sooner than they think feel the full force of this administration's terrible laws.

I couldn't help but wonder why I stood mostly alone. There were some other campaigners there, but my candidate had only me. Where were those who said they supported him? It was only two hours. Yes, it was hot, but not Mojave Desert hot. Could no one be interrupted for two hours on a Saturday? What else was so important?

Now, I don't have a lot of room to throw stones here. Actually the one who throws stones is generally the one with the most stones to throw (I think that's a quote from one of my books). We emailed almost a 1000 people about this event and got one "yes" back. I don't think that "yes" even showed.
I don't like to be interrupted. Call it my "linear nature," but I move in one direction at a time, and I don't care to be knocked off course.

But Jesus got interrupted all the time. He didn't whine or pout or snarl about it. He adapted. He used the time to good advantage and advanced the kingdom.

I am trying to be more open to interruptions when they happen. After all, is it more important that I harvest my FV crops or visit my remaining grandmother? I try to plan my day to do both.

It's called Eternal Perspective. It's hard to maintain in a time-limited world where life flies at us from all directions, but maintain it we must.

So, even when it's hot and annoying, I'm going to go wave that sign or hand out those water bottles or attend that judicial committee meeting. Does it interrupt my day? You bet. But it's important.

When I can apply this to sharing my faith, I'll really have achieved something.