Posted on February 24, 2014
You would think that once I had published my first book, I would have complete confidence as I started the next book in the series. Well, wrong. It is true that I am more confident, but as an author friend of mine (Kirsten) termed it, the Ugly Voice, is still there telling me that I am not good enough.
I can hear Ugly Voice’s disparaging tone, “Sure you wrote one book, but that was a fluke. And even if you manage to finish writing another, you know it won’t be as good as the first.”
Even when people tell me how much they loved the first book in the series, and can’t wait for the second book, Ugly Voice is there whispering, “It’s a shame they are going to be so disappointed.”
I have tried to ignore Ugly Voice, but it is difficult to block the constant barrage of negativity. It drains so much of my energy that sometimes it is hard to write. It was so bad that for over a month I kept finding other things to do than face starting the next book. Ugly Voice is very powerful and when I took its snide remarks to heart, it grew and became more dominant.
Near the end of January, I sat at my desk and looked across the room at Ugly Voice. It was hunched over with its back pressing against the ceiling. Ugly Voice is pretty hairy with a big head and even bigger nose. Reminds me of a creature I read about in a story once.
With the encouragement and support of my family and friends, I battled with Ugly Voice and managed to keep it in the corner, but it still called across the room, “Why are you wasting your time? You Should be out enjoying life rather than wasting your life away on something that won’t see the light of day.”
Over the next month, my emotions rolled like a stormy sea. One day enjoying my writing time, another day thinking that I will be spending most of this coming year working very hard on a book – and what if it was truly a waste of time?
Recently, another author friend (Eileen) came up with a great suggestion.
Find a wee matchbox. Line it with soft cotton wool and shrink UGLY VOICE down into the size of a pea, and tuck it in the box to sleep. Then rock it sweetly until it dozes and stick a great hulking padlock on the box and never let it out again!
I tried doing this, but I couldn’t quite convince Ugly Voice to get into the matchbox. Ugly Voice looked at the soft cotton wool and only snorted. When that didn’t work, I thought maybe the problem was that I just can’t get rid of all my doubts – at least not yet.
However, even if I couldn’t silence Ugly Voice altogether, maybe I could dampen it enough so it would not paralyze me. I coated the inside of an empty coffee can with self-doubt. It was like scooping up a handful of lard and smearing it along the insides and bottom of the can. Ugly Voice put its nose over the can and sniffed, but kept one eye on me the whole time. I turned my head as if I didn’t know what Ugly Voice was doing, but I watched out of the corner of my eye. Sticking a finger in, Ugly Voice tasted the self-doubt and smiled. An ugly, twisted smile. Then Ugly Voice stuck its head in and started to wiggle their body as they tried to push down to lick the bottom. Its body became smaller and smaller as it twisted and turned to get into the can.
Finally, when the only thing visible was Ugly Voice’s ugly butt, I quickly turned around and slammed a lid on the coffee can. The can shook from side-to-side as Ugly Voice realized that it had been tricked. I put a rock on top of the lid and stuck the can inside my desk.
I can still hear a muffled sound now-and-then coming from inside the desk, but it only distracts me for a moment or two. I no longer become incapacitated thinking about how long it will take me write the next book, and if it will be good enough or not. Now, I just focus on what I am writing that day and make it the best First Draft I can, realizing that Revision lies over the horizon to make it better.
As I look at the coffee can, that still rattles occasionally, I wonder if others have an Ugly Voice? Whether you are a writer, an artist, into sports, at work, with your family, or wherever you face self-doubt, have you encountered Ugly Voice?
Posted on February 10, 2014
If you saw my e-mail last Monday you know that the below post went out early and my blog post on IndependentBookworm.com was not available. Well, IT’S AVAILABLE NOW. Please go check it out and see How Tales are Born – at least the way I do it.
The reason I have posted the blog over at this other website is that I had recently been invited, and have since joined, a group of published authors on a website called the Independent Bookworm (IndependentBookworm.com/). I will continue to post on my Personal Blog (PeterCruikshank.com) on a regular basis, but I will also post an occasional blog on the Independent Bookworm site (maybe every six or eight weeks). I just wanted to ensure Readers, of my personal blog, that I have not deserted you. Please think of the posts that I put up on the Independent Bookworm as bonus blog posts. Though you might also enjoy some of the other authors posts on that website. There are a lot of interviews, with authors outside the group, along with some interesting articles for the site’s readers.
To paraphrase from the site’s About Us:
The Independent Bookworm is a loose group of independent authors. The authors focus is on Fantasy (all sub-genres), Science fiction and stories with history (historicals, historical novels, contemporary stories with historical elements, with or without romance). Each author publishes his/her stories independently from the others but when it comes to the iffy bits (like creating the cover, proof-reading, blogging, advertising) we stick together.
The aim of the Independent Bookworm is to produce quality books for all those interested in the genres regardless of age, gender or any other distinguishing feature (like tattoos, braces, color of skin, or educational background).
Posted on February 5, 2014
I recently saw an Apple commercial that reminded me of one of my favorite movies. As I watched the commercial, it made me think about why Writers write. This isn’t the first time I have thought about this question, but it was the first time I actually sat back and let my mind focus on it.
We don’t write because it is easy. Taking a year or two, or even longer, throwing all your energy into something that may never see the light of day, is not something one takes on lightly. I know writers that have invested over a dozen years, almost daily, pouring their heart out, and only have a drawer full of unpublished manuscripts to show for their efforts.
So why? Why go through all this effort?
Many writers will tell you that they have a story inside them that has to come out. There is something that they are passionate about, and if they don’t share it, even just writing it down for themselves and their family, they will explode.
Passion is a strong motivator. As I considered the role of passion in writing; I stumbled across a quote from Joss Whedon, the well-known author & screenwriter, film & television producer, and director of fantasy/science fiction:
“Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted… unbidden… it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us… passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace… but we would be hollow… Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead.”
I think the simple answer is that we are human, and humans have passion. Writing is one means for us to share that passion. As a famous poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed what passion does for all those that write:
“It is a fact often observed that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.”
We write because we have such passion that we have to write. Too simple an answer? Maybe, but that does not take away from the truth of the statement.
Back to the Apple commercial. Below is the commercial itself.
If you want to see the original clip, from the movie, that Apple used for their commercial, here it is:
Oh me, Oh life of these questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless.
Of cities filled with the foolish.
What good amid these,
O me, O life?
That you are here.
That life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?
My verse will be love of family and friends. My verse will be a fervent heart and a kind word. My verse will be a collection of stories – a gift of worlds to get lost in, just like the ones left by those authors that came before me.
So I have to ask you – What will your verse be?
Posted on January 29, 2014
The title of this post is a quote from Epictetus, a Greek sage (AD 55–135). I figured he was pretty wise – it took a lot of street smarts to live 80 years back then. Especially when he was a slave. So taking his advice on writing seems like a good move.
Another of my favorite quotes comes from a more recent writer, Ernest Hemingway. If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
Both of these quotes are pertinent to my life, and this blog post in particular, because lately I had been thinking I wrote a book, I wrote a book. OMG, I have to write another book!
I spent the month of December and most of January relishing the fact that I finished my book, it is published, and I am actually selling copies.
“So why are you so glum?” Willoe entered and leaned on the back of my chair, looking over my shoulder.
Glum I thought. Was I really glum? Then I realized I was. “I guess I am a little blue.”
“Blue.” She turned me around and peered into my eyes. “Melancholy is more like it.” She stepped back and dropped into her worn leather chair. “You’ve been moping around for weeks.”
“Yeah.” I could feel the depth of my frown as I pushed back into my chair and looked down at my lap as I twiddled my thumbs. I knew she was right, but had been afraid to admit it.
“I have had a lot of fun with my book release.” I lifted my eyes just enough so I could see the sharp edged shape of her nose and her bright eyes.
“As well you should.” Her eyebrows knitted and I could understand her confusion. “You should feel proud what you have done.”
“Well, it is more than just being a little proud. My ego has been in overdrive and it has been a blast.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I have to write another book.” I was taken back by how loud the sigh was that escaped my lips.
She didn’t speak, but the tilted head asked the question just as well.
“I have been coming up with every excuse I can, why I can’t find time to write. I think the problem isn’t that I can’t find time, I think the real problem is that the first book was so big, coming up with a book just as big, or nearly so, is such a daunting task. “ The sighs just wouldn’t stop. “So daunting I can’t seem to get started.”
Her lips twisted and she stared at the ceiling, a sign she was mulling over something. Then her eyes dropped back down and centered on me. “What was the most fun you had when you were writing Fire of the Covenant?”
“Well not Revision or Editing.” I grinned
“You won’t get an argument from me.” She smiled back. “But seriously, what engaged you more than anything else?”
Lately, I had been focused on all the hard things that I went through with the first book and not what had I enjoyed about it. But when she asked, the answer came easily. “Sitting down and telling a story. Having a general idea of where I want to go with the story and just writing it. Not focused on a specific goals, just telling the story.”
“Then you should do that.” She shook her head slightly like it was a no-brainer.
“That’s how I ended up with such a big book the first time.”
“It will take forever.”
“I have a lot of other things I have to do.”
“What if it isn’t as good as Fire of the Covenant?” I blurted.
Her eyes narrowed. “Seriously?”
I opened my mouth to give another excuse, but there wasn’t anything I could say. It struck me that the only thing getting in the way of my writing… was me.
She let me sit for a few moments then asked, “What are you going to do now?”
“Tomorrow I am going to get back to writing the next book.” I smiled.
“What if the book is even bigger than Fire of the Covenant or if it takes you a long time to finish it?” She leaned forward saying the words slowly.
“It doesn’t make any difference. The story needs to come out and I need to tell it.” I felt like I had been hauling around a eighty pound backpack and just put it down.
She put a hand on my knee and with a self-satisfied smile told me, “We will tell it and it will be just as good as, if not better than, Fire of the Covenant.”
So if I don’t return an e-mail right away, or I don’t answer my phone, or if you see me and I look like I am daydreaming (well that is normally how I look), don’t be offended or worry about me. I am just writing my next book or thinking about it.
What are you keeping yourself from doing? Something that you know, deep in your heart, you can do, but something else, in your own mind, is throwing up roadblocks.
Posted on January 19, 2014
Have you ever been coming off an entrance ramp, onto a highway – one of those ramps where it starts out as two lanes, and then one of the lanes merges into the other so that the ramp narrows to only one lane before it dumps into the highway – and another driver next to you on the ramp, though further back than you and in the lane that is supposed to merge into your lane, suddenly guns their car and races past you barely squeezing into your lane before the ramp ends? Normally causing you to break or swerve so you don’t hit the other car?
“Noooo.” The voice, as much in my mind as out, answered with a tinge of sarcasm.
“You don’t even drive.” When had she come back from vacation?
“Your question didn’t specify if I drove or not.” Her answer more than a tad snippy.
I turned my chair to be greeted with a smirk. She walked across the room and instead of dropping into her well-worn leather chair, she stopped by the window looking out at the mountains.
“But what I meant—“
“You should have said what you meant.” She turned back leaning on her hands against the window sill. Her strawberry hair hung down her front, her blue-jean shorts and sleeveless top an indication of the unusual 80 degree weather we were experiencing. “You’re an author. Aren’t you supposed to be able to express yourself so that people can understand what you mean?”
“Listen—“ I ended in a sigh as she turned her back to me, staring at the mountains, just to irritate me.
“What point were you trying to make?” She asked without glancing back.
“I was trying to make an analogy between my example and what it feels like when you have a character that does something you are not expecting them to do.”
“Don’t you mean a metaphor?” She swung around again.
“It’s not important.” I sat back, twisted my lips and wondered when did Miss Grammatically-Challenged, at least when working on my books, all of sudden become so picky?
She shrugged her shoulders and crossed over to her chair and dropped into it, slouching with one leg over the chair’s left arm.
“As I was saying… “ I glared in her direction, but she only smiled, lifting her eyebrows. “As I was saying, when someone races past me like that I ask myself why did they need to do that? Why couldn’t they just fall in behind me? It’s not like I am going too slow, and their rash action can cause a wreck.”
Her nod told me at least she was listening.
“Unfortunately, I can’t ask them why.”
Her eyes rolled back and I knew; from experience, she was losing interest.
“The difference is I can ask a character when they do something like this.”
“Characters cut you off on entrance ramps?” She didn’t need to narrow her eyes to express her disbelief; her tone was enough, but she narrowed them nonetheless, for emphasis.
“That was just an analogy… metaphor… “ I closed my eyes for just a moment. “Whatever you call it. The point is that while I— we,” I changed the pronoun as her stare went from sharp to a razorblade, “are writing and have one thing in mind, but sometimes a character will say or do something that I didn’t expect. Something that I thought might happen later in the tale, but it shows up on the page then and there. It is as if the character couldn’t wait for when I planned the words and just had to have me put them down at that moment.”
“Don’t you think the characters know better when they should do something than you do?” Her eyebrows went up with the question mark.
“But I created them,” I argued, but for some reason I thought I was going to regret it. “Don’t you think I would know what they should do and say, and when?”
“Did you know about all these characters before you started writing the book?”
“No.” I wasn’t sure where she was going with this, but I would play along… as if I had a choice. “Outside of a few main characters, most of them appeared as I came to them in the story.”
“So how did you know to add them to the tale and when to add them?” She was staring at me like my sixth-grade teacher when I couldn’t get the lesson; which was more often than I cared to remember. “Didn’t they tell you they needed to be part of the tale?”
“That is true.” Of course they talked to me; which only reminded me that when I tell people, those that aren’t fiction writers; people would get a strange look in their eyes. The same look as when they are told someone was kidnapped by aliens. It’s another way I can tell if someone is a fiction writer or not. Fiction writers just nod with understanding.
“So if they told you they needed to be part of the tale, why wouldn’t they have the same right to tell you when they needed to do or say something?” She even sounded like my sixth-grade teacher.
“Hmmph.” She had a good point. “I guess you are right. I shouldn’t be too surprised when they show up without my knowledge. I trusted them with my first book and shouldn’t change as I write the second book in the series.”
“What did you learn from this?”
I imaged myself in a small wooden desk cowering. Yet I only paused briefly as I tried to figure out how to relate it to my previous analogy. Even I could hear the hesitancy in my own voice as I answered, “That like my analogy, I should anticipate a character may do something I don’t expect.”
“No.” She shook her head and sighed. “Your metaphor was stupid. What you should have learned is that you should say what you mean… and I guess also to accept the unexpected, when it happens, and to appreciate it for what it is.”
Actually, Ms. Fletcher was young and really pretty… especially to a sixth-grade boy. Probably why I didn’t understand what she was saying most of the time.
Are you open to the unexpected and how do you handle it? In the many management training sessions, I participated in over 30+ years, I was told over-and-over again that change was the hardest thing for people to accept. Do you adjust well to change? Have you had any surprises that you first thought a problem and then found out it wasn’t so bad? In my analogy, the guy who zooms past me hits a big hole in the road, that I would otherwise have not seen, and messes up his alignment ?
Posted on January 6, 2014
Right before Christmas I was published in an Anthology, entitled Gifts for Holly, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HBBWX6A/
Nine characters named Holly.
Not two of them alike…
… but many with dragons.
Eight author friends of mine, and I, created these stories as a gift to our writing mentor, Holly Lisle. You can go to the above link and see a quick description for each story. The description of my short story is:
The Harbinger by Peter Cruikshank
When dragon hunter Revin hears about a rare, red dragon in the North, she can barely wait to catch it. But people in the little village she visits have been awaiting her for a strange ritual and all of a sudden, she’s the one caught.
Posted on December 16, 2013
Dreams are one’s passions yet brought to life.
“Huh!” She blurted as she walked into the room.
“Hello Willow.” I turned my chair and watched as she strolled across the room and dropped into her overstuffed leather chair. Tonight she had red hair and a bit shorter than normal. That was a sure sign she was going to be a tad feisty.
“What is all this talk of dreams and what does it have to do with someone’s passion?” She talked AT me, but looked to the upper corners of the room as if I wasn’t there.
“I was just saying that when we dream, many times it is about something we have a passion for, whether a momentary passion or a life-long one.” I turned back to stare at my computer. Two can play at this game, I thought, though I glanced from time to time to see what she was doing.
“I definitely don’t have a passion for things like people getting killed.” She finally looked at me and wrinkled her nose.
“Those are nightmares.” I turned back to her and then remembered who I was talking with. “…At least for most people. But you don’t dream. Instead you come up with… come up with stories.” I smiled. “And sometimes the stories are a bit grim.”
“Hmph.” She rolled her eyes, sighed, and then settled further into the chair. “Regardless, what strange point are you trying to make this time?” Sarcasm dripped from her words like the House of Pancakes All-You-Can-Eat special.
“What do you think dreams are?”
“Always questions.” Her eyes were going to roll out of her head one of these days. “Why can’t you just tell me rather than make me guess all the time?”
“The modern interpretation of a dream is a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep, but in Old English, it was defined as joy, mirth, or gladness. While similar there is a distinct difference.”
She closed her eyes for just a moment and sighed.
I love to lecture, especially when I know she hates it. “In the first case it is about individual images, thoughts, or emotions, individual things that are linked together. In the other case, it is about an overall feeling.”
“Ooookay.” She raised her eyebrows, another wonderfully irritating habit.
“I have always dreamed of being an author.” I sat back looking… at nothing, resting my hands on my chest, putting my fingers together to create a temple, as I remembered being 18 and no matter how bad the day became, I would just think of being an author and a sense of anticipation. A good type of anticipation, like knowing you are going to Disneyland the next morning. Something to look forward to with lightheartedness. “This wasn’t something I thought about. It wasn’t like I sat down and thought about doing research, writing a book, trying to get a publisher and yuk… Marketing. It wasn’t individual steps or an itemized list. It was a feeling in my chest, something that filled me with a desire, a happiness I could envision, but not yet feel.” I turned my eyes to her. “It was my dream.”
“And now?” She smiled as she had been the catalyst to make the dream a reality.
“There is joy. More than just contentment or a feeling of gratification, I have a warm-and-fuzzy feeling that fills me now; a sense of euphoria that keeps me smiling at the oddest times.” I smiled at the thought. “I still find it hard to believe I have a book of mine that is published. I AM an Author!”
“Yes you are.” She smiled back.
“I never want this feeling to end.” My own laugher surprised me. “I am excited about the next book in the series and can’t wait to write it.”
“Me either.” She leaned back in her chair and I could already see her working through a new scene for Book Two.
For my Readers: Dreams are a wonderful thing and can motivate us to do those things that give us great pleasure. Have you fulfilled any of your dreams or are they just waiting around the corner to come into reality?
Posted on December 13, 2013
The title says a lot. I have been waiting to get the Proof copy of the paperback, for Fire of the Covenant, so I can see if it is ready to be put up on Amazon for sale. The Kindle version is already being sold on Amazon, and I am happy to say I have sold some. This would be adding the paperback version to be purchased from the Amazon site.
I was surprised by how thick the book was. I know it is a total of 510 pages, but in an over-sized 6′x9″ paperback, it seems Damn big
To the right is a picture of me with the Proof. I think the grin says it all.
I need to go through the book, and if everything checks out, the paperback will be available on Amazon within a week.
But I have not just been sitting around. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t believe that anyways. I have been working with my editor, Ethan James Clarke (he works out of South Africa and I understand long fancy names are a must down there), to get the novel available on other digital platforms. My hope is that within the week you will be able to download the book to your Barnes & Noble Nook, as an iBook through iTunes, and for both your Sony Reader or a Kobo eReader.
Because of the extensive printing cost and how big a cut distributors normally take for handling a book, there currently are no plans to make the paperback available through brick-and-mortar bookstores. But you never know… If a publisher/distributor makes the right offer
I will keep everyone posted on the progress of both paperback and the remaining digital formats.
I owe a thanks to a lot of people for encouraging me and sometimes even kicking me in the butt when I just wanted to throw up my hands and chuck the whole thing. I am working on Book Two, tentatively entitled The Sword and The Staff, so butt kicking and an overabundance of encouragement is more than welcomed.
Posted on November 27, 2013
I know many of you have been waiting for this, but finally Fire of the Covenant has been PUBLISHED on Kindle.
Click this link, Fire of the Convenant, to go to the Kindle book on Amazon
In case you didn’t know, this is the first book in the Dragon-Called Legend series.
If you enjoy the book I would really appreciate if you could go back to Amazon and leave a Review. A good review would be even more appreciative
An over-sized paperback will be available by mid-December. Fire of the Covenant will be available on Nook, iBook, and a few other platforms in January.
Book Two is already in the works and scheduled for release later in 2014. The working title is The Sword and The Staff.
If you have any questions about the Fire of the Covenant, please do not hesitate to leave a comment on the site or send me an e-mail.
I really hope you find the book exciting and the characters interesting. Check back on the website as I will provide more behind-the-scene insights into the book and the characters.
Posted on November 22, 2013
After a lot of thought (well at least the last week), I came to the conclusion that people are either Picards or Borgs.
“What are you talking about now?” My ever familiar – familiar, just popped in and of course the first thing she does is question my thoughts.
“I am talking about how people are different.” Explaining everything I say has become a daily ritual.
“Then why don’t you just say you think people are different.“
One, two, three, four– The patient side of my brain tells me only six more to go. Oh never mind another part says as patience is not a well developed part of my character. “Five,” I say out loud. “What I am trying to do is use an analogy to show the difference in people.”
“It sounded more like a metaphor to me.” Her blond hair drops over her shoulder as she tilts her head in a cross between a question and a statement.
“I guess… maybe it is a…” Why do I let her get me off-track like this. “I don’t know. Even my high school English teacher got them confused.”
“Whatever.” She shrugs, but in that way that could make you feel inferior. You know, a casual lifting of the shoulders, but the words that go with it are a bit condescending as if it isn’t that important, but she knows she is right regardless.
“As I was saying, people fit into two categories, Picards or Borgs.”
“If you say so.” She drops into her chair, one leg over the overstuffed arm, her head on the other arm as she stares up at the ceiling.
“I do.” Six, seven, eight, nine, ten I take a deep breath.
“So how are people Picards or Borgs?” She turns her head to look over at me as I sit at the desk.
“Let me ask you a question.”
She continues to stares at me, but doesn’t say anything.
“Okay, what is the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the Borg? You know the ones from Star Trek.”
“I knew which ones you meant.” Her upturned lip tells me that she is only slightly irritated. “I guess that they don’t know how to accessorize. Have you seen how awful their costumes are. Nothing put tubes, pipes, and wires… and everyone of them have this thing over one eye. Why not both eyes? At least that would like a pair of sunglasses.” She smirks as she waits for my reaction.
“Seriously.” I close my eyes and lean back in the chair and when I open them her smile has widened. “You know that is not what I meant. And besides, who cares what they look like.”
“Probably Mrs. Borg, though I guess the female Borgs look pretty much the same.” Her lips twist. “’In fact they all look and act alike”
“Exactly.” I finally smile though she came to what I wanted in a round about – I mean really long round about – way. “They are all the same. It is nearly impossible for a Borg to do something different than what is deemed right by the Collective. In other words, they all follow the same set of rules because working as one unit they can accomplish things that they could not do alone.”
“You almost make it sound attractive.” The smile fades and is replaced with a crunched up face, like she is trying to make a rabbit nose.
“Well to some people it is. In fact some people say that the writers of Star Trek were using it as a metaphor for socialism.”
“I told you it was a metaphor.” The smile is back.
“Whatever, that is not important.” My head shakes and I close my eyes just for a moment and take another deep breath. Talking to my Muse takes the place of my deep breathing exercises at yoga. “Other people see it as just a reference to the need for working together. I think most people fall into this category. Not that they are robotic like, but they are used to following the rules blindly or at least only giving it passing consideration. It is easier to leave the decisions to others. Takes away the responsibility.”
She nods, and then asks, “What about Picards. Wasn’t he absorbed into the Collective one time? Wasn’t he a Borg?”
“Ah, but Picard was different.”
She looks at me, her expression quizzical.
“Picard has a bunch of rules – right? Star Fleet has an entire laundry list of things he can and can not do.” I know my voice is rising a little, but I tend to get excited when I get on a subject that really interest me. “But he evaluates those rules in light of the situation and weighs the benefits against the risk of breaking the rule.” I love how he would justify his actions. “Then he would go ahead and do what he thought was right.”
“What about when he was a Borg?” She seemed to be trying to reconcile the Collective and the breaking of rules.
“But that is exactly how he defeated the Borg. He had to become one of them and use their own adherence to the rules to defeat them.” Sitting back I smiled. “He did the unthinkable, from a Borg’s perspective, he went outside the rules.”
“So you are saying that people are either mindless followers or they are willful renegades?” She has an acute sense of sarcasm that would make Bill Murray envious.
“No. Yes. I mean sometimes.” It did not have to be a complex discussion for me to get confused when I talked with Willow. “No one, well at least the majority of people are not just one or the other. I think people are a mixture of both, but I do think people tend to lean in one direction or the other.”
She had sat up while I talked; which was a true indication she was interested.
“So what are you?” Her stare was fixed as she leaned forward.
“In my heart I am a writer.” I did not hesitate. “A fantasy writer.”
“So…” She leaned a little closer.
I could feel my grin as I answered her with a laugh, “A Picard of course!”
As I mention above, I think everyone is a mix of both Picard and Borgs, with neither being all good or all bad. The world needs both so that the book 1984 doesn’t become a reality, and we also don’t end up in complete anarchy. Given a choice (only picking from these two), share which way you think you lean and why? Or maybe you are dead in the middle. Again why?
Posted on October 21, 2013
Below is a link to an article about my weekly Writers Group. When the newspaper does the article on me, you can bet I will post it here also.
Posted on September 26, 2013
Old friends can be a blessing. One such old friend, who I have known for over 22 years, Hikaru, a professor of American Film and Theater from Japan, recently visited and we had a grand time.
“So that is why you’ve been ignoring me.” An accusing voice sounded behind me.
I could see her reflection in the computer monitor. She looked a little haggard as if she had been camping in the woods for a week, without a tent.
“What happened to you?” I turned to look at her as she dropped into her leather chair. She was almost stretched out with her head against the back of the chair, about halfway down from the top. Her blonde hair was pulled back with a scrunchie, except for a few strands that hung in her face. She pushed out her lower lip and blew upward trying to get the hair off her face, with little success.
“Where do you think? You left me out in the woods while your friend was here.” She scooted up so she was more sitting than lying. She did not look happy. “You know I don’t do well out there.”
“Sorry.” I truly was. “I had no idea you would be out there. I am guessing by yourself?”
“Yes, by myself!”
“Why did you go there?” I had never thought much about where Willow went when I was busy for a few days and not writing.
“Where did you think I would go?” She was not settling down at all. “You just take off having all sorts of fun and who knows what, and… and what do you think I am doing?”
“I don’t know. What do you do?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” She had worked herself up so much I could see the beginning of a tear; something totally foreign in my experience with her.
“Nothing?” I was shocked.
“Nothing. When you take off for days on end, your… your Muse is left with nothing to do.” She sniffled. “Who am I supposed to tell when an idea strikes me or when I suddenly realize how to fix a scene that has been bugging the both of us? It is like being in solitude. I feel like I am lost in a forest and not the ‘oh it’s so beautiful out here spending time with nature’, it is more like ‘OMG, I will wander out here forever and never meet another living [or fictitious] person’. It is scarey and it makes me feel unappreciated.”
I could see she was really holding back the tears, but she was straining.
“I am sorry. I really am.” I leaned forward so she could see she had my full attention, though I really wanted to get back to my blog post. “I promise I won’t let that happen again.”
“Are you sure?” She wiped her nose with her arm. Not the most lady-like thing she has ever done.
“Yes, I promise.” I sat back with a smile trying to lighten the mood a little. “If I ever need to be away from my writing for a few days I will make sure to think of you at some point in the day. Even if it is when I first go to bed or when I get up in the morning.”
A smile crept onto her face. “You’re not just telling me this?”
“Well… yes, I thought I was telling you.”
She grabbed a little pillow, stuffed in the side of the chair, and threw it at me. I guess my grin was a little much. But she had a wide smile herself.
“I can’t always be writing every day, but at least I can think of something that you can participate in at least once a day. Even if just for a few moments.” I didn’t want her to fill unappreciated, but being a guy I don’t always get the whole feeling thingy.
She nodded her head.
“The life of a Muse is a tough one. You just don’t understand.” She sniffed a couple of times and the arm came out again.
I handed her a Kleenex. “How about later we go into the woods and find the beauty together.”
“Thanks. That would be great.” Her smile widened as she took the Kleenex and stood to leave.
“Where are you going?” I thought she wanted to work.
“Oh, I’m busy right now. We can work later.” She started toward the door. But before she left she looked over her shoulder to say, in her normal cheeky tone, “The first line really sucks, you should change it to ‘Old friends can be a blessing.’ That would make a better beginning.”
I smiled again as I thought, ‘Yes old friends… and new ones’.
Any old [or new] friends in your life that make it brighter?
Posted on September 17, 2013
With publication less than a month away, I thought it would be good to reflect on the last eighteen months, starting when I wrote the first words of the, soon to be published, manuscript until now.
“Didn’t you say it was a lot of crap.” Ah, here she comes barging in again, and as usual I have no idea what she meant.
“I beg your pardon?” I spun my chair to watch her come through the door. So much for a little private time.
“You always told me that First Draft was crap.” Her smile reminded me of a cinnamon bun, all sweet but something I would regret afterwards.
“True.” She had me there. It had become my mantra during first draft and even through the revision that followed. “And I guess it was a big part of the last eighteen months. A lot of crap ended up on the monitor.” I had to smile as the memories came flooding back, though I also remembered that they weren’t all pleasant.
The leather chair and Willow went together like peanut butter and jelly, they just seemed to stick together. I guess I have seen her sitting there, more often than naught, one leg swung over the arm of the chair, her head lying against the soft and supple back. I turned as she walked across the room and I remained quiet until she dropped into the chair. As usual the leg up was thrown up on the overstuffed arm and she put her chin on her balled fist looking at me. “So, what are you reflecting on?”
“I was thinking how when I started taking Holly’s course almost two years ago and then started the manuscript a few months later, I had this idea that I would zip through it and be publishing by Christmas.” I remembered thinking these thoughts and chuckled at the naivete. “Six months to do the first draft. Another six months to revise it. Add another six to edit, run through beta readers, format, and work through all the details of publishing.” I sat back in my chair, rubbing the shadow on my chin. “Well at least I will be publishing by Christmas, unfortunately twelve months later.”
“It has definitely been a journey.” She held up a glass of red wine to toast.
I started to agree, then realized. Wait, where did she get wine? She can’t– then it came to me, she can do anything she wants. Lucky.
“Yes a journey.” I know where I got the wine that I held up for the toast. Box wine isn’t all that bad. “I have learned so much. Holly’s courses, the other writers in the forums that I talk with every day — yupper, every day, and my writer’s group. A lot of wonderful people that have turned me from a writer into an author.”
“Don’t forget Carol.” Willow pointed toward the family room. “Without her support and her willingness to let you disappear for hours on end into your office, like a monk sequestered in a monastery, you would still be plugging away on the first draft.”
“Here, here.” I held up my glass again and downed it like a monk that had bbeen cloistered for twenty years.
I thought about all the things that had happened. When I first realized the story I was writing was not the story that I needed, or wanted, to write. The times when I had to rip out entire chapters and throw them away — it was like cutting off a limb. “Yes, it has been quite a journey.”
“The first of many journeys to come.” Willow held up her glass once again.
“Yes. Many more books to come and each one will be a journey of discovery.” I sipped on the wine and wondered what the next thirty years would bring. I didn’t have to see it to know the smile on my face had grown into a full-blown grin.
Do you have something you are looking forward to doing in the years to come? Tell me about it and what obstacles you anticipate in your journey.
Posted on September 15, 2013
To see the official unveiling of the book cover for Fire of the Covenant, please go to the Dragon-Called page with the Fire of the Covenant Book Cover Another special treat provided to only those who have subscribed to either my Blog or the the Dragon-Called website.
Posted on September 8, 2013
My editor and I finished going through my manuscript and I sent it off to my four Beta Readers a couple of days ago. I am so excited, as I imagined I would be, yet I find myself simultaneously petrified. What if it is so bad they can’t even get their way through it? What if they do read it completely through and find so many problems that I have to spend the next month making major edits to the document? After all, these are all fantasy writers so I can’t fake it with them.
Now that I have shared the things that keep me up at night, I don’t seriously think that it will be as bad as my nightmares make it. However, that does not make me any less anxious to see their feedback. The optimal situation will be that they only find a few issues (few being relative when considering a 700+ page book) and that their feedback will greatly improve my manuscript. With any luck my editor and I can incorporate their feedback with no more than a week effort. If that is truly the case, then you could potentially buy my first novel for your Kindle, Nook, or iBook by the beginning of October and in paperback by mid to late October.
For those that don’t know what a beta reader is, in my case it is four writers that I know and trust to read my manuscript and honestly tell me what they like and dislike about it. They will tell me if the story flows well or if there are places where they stumbled; if the world I created is believable; if the characters are interesting and if the characters act consistently (considering the events that they go through); and, most importantly, do they care about the characters and the things that happen to my characters. They will not correct typos – that is my editor’s job and hopefully he has done that well.
When we writers ask each other to read our work, the one question we have above all else is, did you care? Did you care about what happened to the characters? Did you care how the story ended? Were you interested and intrigued enough by each scene to see what happened next? This was what was on my mind when I reluctantly turned my manuscript over to these people.
“Why reluctantly?” The voice from behind me asked.
“Because it is my book, my baby, and I don’t want someone to tell me what was wrong with it.” I thought this would be obvious, but I explained anyways.
“But isn’t that the reason you sent it to them… so they could tell you what is wrong before you put it up on Amazon and elsewhere for purchase?” She dropped into her leather chair, off to my right. The weather had turned hot, even inside my office. She wore navy blue shorts and a sleeveless white top, her long blonde hair pulled back into a pony-tail and she fanned herself with a couple of pages out of my edited manuscript.
“Yes,” I said a little too harshly as I knew it was foolish on my part. After all I had sent the manuscript to them specifically so they could find issues before I offered the book to the reading public. “It is just hard to have someone tell you a particular paragraph, or maybe even an entire scene, didn’t work for them – especially if it is one that I thought was one of my best.” I don’t know if this will happen, but the dread remains.
“You don’t have to accept all their feedback you know.” She shook her head gently and from the slight frown I could tell she thought I was being ridiculous.
“I know. But I really want this to be the best book I can put out at the moment.”
“That’s strange.” She tilted her head and looked at me questioning.
“Why?” It was my turn to be curious.
“You said ‘at the moment’. I believe your exact words were ‘…the best book I can put out at the moment.’”
I had to smile. You would think a Muse as being all artsy and her thoughts somewhat scattered, at least some of the time, but Willow had zeroed in on the literal meaning of my words.
“That is what I meant. The best I can do right now.” I swiveled my chair so I wouldn’t have to keep my head turned. “I had a discussion with some other writers recently on this topic. It started when one of them said they were writing their book for a very small niche and that they didn’t expect to sell a lot of picks.”
“Why would they do that?” She wrinkled her nose.
“People write for a lot of reasons. Some to leave their thoughts and experiences for their descendants. Others have a passion for writing, just like a Stephen King or George R.R. Martin, yet have no desire to publish their works, rather sharing it just with their family and friends. There are those writers who are trying to make a social, political, or personal statement. And then those that have a passion for a particular area of study and so their writing is targeted at this small specific area, such as the writer who said they were writing for a very small niche. Then there are those who have no specific agenda other than to entertain, and want to be extremely prolific.” I sat back and steepled my fingers over my chest.
“Like you!” She smiled.
“Yes, like me. I want to spend the next fifteen to twenty-five years producing thirty or forty books. Will each of these books be the great American novel? No… well, I don’t think so. At least that is not my plan.”
Her smirk told me she knew this already. I mean really, she has seen everything I have written.
“I want to put out good books. But I don’t want to spend five years on each one.” I leaned forward, elbows on knees with my fingers still steepled under my chin. “I want to put out books people will enjoy and when they finish reading my books, they will be satisfied and feel like their time was well spent. This is not necessarily the same as writing a book that ends up on the NY Time Best Sellers List.” I leaned back. “I want to be an entertainer.”
She just nodded.
“And I realize that the more books I produce, the better I will get at writing them.”
She smiled. “So this is the best book you can put out at this point and time based upon your writing experience and skill level.” Her smile faded, replaced with a concerned look. “But it will be a really good book… won’t it? I mean you have a professional editor, experienced beta readers, and a circle of other writers that you have been reading and giving you feedback throughout the entire process of writing this novel.”
“That’s right.” I could feel my grin growing. “It’s going to be damn good!”
I’m curious. For those that have writing as one of your passions, what is your motivation? Why and who do you write for? If you are an avid reader, what do you get out of reading a book? Is it a form of escapism? Is it to further your knowledge of the world? Or is there something else you get out of a good book?