Saturday, September 30, 2006

Movie Night Theatre

At my house we have something called Movie Night Theatre. This grammatically odd nomenclature was derived from somewhere that I've lost track of but that's not important. Tonight we moved the living room table out of the way, turned the lights out, made popcorn and cookies, and temporarily suspended the No Eating Outside of the Kitchen rule to watch the movie Holes. I have to say this was a good movie for writers. First, it has all the clever plot points that make for an instant classic. The quirky characters all have great stories to tell and they are so well done that you don't mind how implausible all the intersecting arcs are. Second, it has a large backstory that is told in flashback but out of sequence. That in and of itself was very interesting to watch. The scenes came up as they became important to the present day story and in my view they came up at just the right time. Everything came together for a happy ending. Go find this movie at Blockbuster and rent it. You'll thank me later.

Number One Sees Red

This morning I got another page written in my story of the centurion. The working title is "Faith" and I'm starting with a scene inside his house between him and his sick servant. I want to show the bond between them so I thought having the centurion cleaning him and changing the bed linens would be a touching way to show it.

After that the family split up and took charge of the day's activities. Wife took the minivan and sons number 2 and 3 with daughter and went to number two's soccer game. (They scored a goal!) I took son number 1 to his dojo and watched him test for his red belt. I was pleasantly surprised to see him work his way through the techniques. He was much smoother and in command of himself than I thought he'd be. The sensei was also impressed and said his was one of the best performances of the day. I was happy to see that number one had set a goal to get that belt and worked hard to overcome whatever obstacles (some self induced) that got in his way. Yay him.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More About 'Write on the Sound'

I should give a little more detail about the writers conference I'm going to.

http://www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/ArtsCommission/wots.stm

It's a two day event. At least it is for me; there's a Friday session that costs extra and is more one-on-one workshop oriented. I signed up for classes on a wide range of subjects, hoping to gain some insight from people in genres I usually don't travel in. Mysteries, humor, and thrillers to name a few. There are also sessions about theme and marketing that I'll attend.

All in all, I think it will be especially helpful. There are two other writers conferences in the Seattle area and I'll probably go to them one of these years but this one I'm looking forward to the most. Unfortunately there is no hope that I will get a novel finished in time to pitch it to an agent or editor but maybe next year.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Two From Number Two

This morning I was taking son #2 to his soccer game when he came up with a couple of interesting points. They might be writing lessons but I haven't taken the time to cleverly figure out how.

First he asked who came up with the shape of a star. I wasn't quite clear on what he meant so I asked for further explanation. He said, "You know how you draw a star but the star really doesn't look like that." I had to think about it for a moment. Who did decide to draw a five pointed star the way we do? The answer I gave him was that light has a way of reflecting or refracting with four, six, or more points and some caveman must have tried to draw stars that way. After that, it's just a matter of picking how many points you'd like. It sounded plausible and authoritative and it may have been true.

Next he started commenting on what he would do if he really had a wish. "I'd wish that the whole world had people in it that were nice to each other all the time and that there was no war ever." Then he stared out the window for a moment. "If I had a second wish... I'd wish for a guitar."

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

The weekend started well for me. Home from work, get chores done, help son #2 with his schoolwork, watch an episode of 'House' with a glass of wine, and off to bed early. Then this morning, instead of waking up and playing Medieval Total War for those crucial quiet hours I started the next story I have in mind. It's the story of the healing of the centurion's servant from Matthew 8 and Luke 7. This will be the first biblical story I've attempted. I'm excited about it because the story has always intrigued me. When I did some research I found it even more interesting. There seems to be some rich characterization possible with the centurion and his relationship with the city of Capernaum and its Jewish leaders. We tend to think of the Romans as brutal occupiers, and they often were, but this man was respected, had some level of wealth, and was a friend of the Jews. The more I think of it, the more I like how this story should turn out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

David Gemmell

This entry falls under the category of 'where the heck have I been?' I just now found out that one of my favorite authors died almost two months ago. David Gemmell died due to complications after heart surgery back in July. That's tragic.

He wrote exactly the type of fiction I love. Strong heroic fantasy with good bad guys and bad good guys. It was high stakes, fight for your lives, type stuff. I'm reading one of his books right now by the way, Ironhand's Daughter. It has a great protagonist; Sigarni, the last in a line of Kings and destined to become a great leader for her people. The event that ignites her drive to eradicate the occupying forces from her homeland is a brutal rape by five soldiers in a dungeon cell. Back in her home village a shaman/seer character knows all this. When another character asks where she is and what's happening, he looks up through teary eyes and says, "She's a sword... going through fire." Great stuff! (Holy cow does she get immediate revenge on the five perpetrators.)

Anyhow, the world will miss David Gemmell. My prayers are with his family.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Upcoming Writers Conference

I got my confirmation in the mail yesterday for Write on the Sound, a writers conference in Edmonds, WA. After three years of saying I was going to go to a conference someday, I finally found one that was within my budget and nearby and not scheduled on one of my drill weekends. It's October 7-8 and I'll be sure to share everything I can with anyone who cares.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Babies and Blogs

Since the two newest things in my life are this blog and our fourth child, a friend recently asked how babies and blogs were similar. After a few minutes of thinking I came up with this Top Ten List:

10. They both cry a lot and demand attention.
9. They're both going to grow up, and when they do, boy is it going to cost you.
8. Both have creators that sit around and lovingly admire them.
7. Both have audiences that smile politely but inside are thinking, "My God, that's an ugly baby."
6. Their audiences are forced to view them no matter how busy they are and it's quite rude to turn down an invitation.
5. They both were derived from previous activities (oddly both stressful and enjoyable.)
4. If you don't save them often, they'll crash and you'll lose everything.
3. Leave an uncapped marking pen laying about and things can get out of control.
2. Their brothers and sisters try to cooperate but when you get right down to it, they're all competitors.
1. Every now and again, something shows up on them that really stinks.

Shut Up v. Shut Your Mouth

This is an interesting conversation that my wife and I had. It's amazing how 16 years can go by and you still come up with new stuff that you hadn't considered before. Here's the gist of it: Which is worse, 'Shut up' or 'Shut your mouth'?

I happen to think that yelling at someone to shut up is more insulting and demeaning. My wife thinks that yelling at someone, "Shut your mouth" is more aggressinve and therefore a worse thing to do. I won't tell our kids to shut up but I say shut your mouth all the time. My wife will tell them to shut up and when she really loses it she'll yell shut your mouth. The funny thing is, because of the way I see the two phrases, when she's really losing it I think she's finally gotten some self control back.

Anyhow, like most things there is no answer. The reason I bring this up is because we as writers have preconceived notions about what things mean. We could be wrong.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Writing Report

OK, the current draft of Skyman has been sent off. Something came to me this morning; I'm seriously considering switching the two main characters. Right now the guy comes along and realizes that the damsel is in distress so he charges off to the rescue. What if the female was the lead character and had to go rescue the guy? I think that might offer some interesting twists on the classic rescue fantasy story.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Life Lessons Are Writing Lessons

All writers should be keen observers of the human condition. If you are to write convincingly, then you must be able to connect with readers at a variety of levels. I try to view everything in my life around the phrase, "How would I write that?"

Case in point: I work in the construction equipment rental industry and while loading a customer's personal truck I caused a scratch in his paint. I was basically goofing around and swinging myself down on some other piece of equipment. It was uneccessary and frankly a bit embarrassing. The customer's reaction is the lesson here. He starts in with semi-smart alec comments about what kind of discount he's going to get on what he's renting and who he should send the bill to for a new paint job. (Never mind that this is a work truck and is bound to rack up several scratches a year. You should see my F150.) The writing lesson is how to present his reactions. There was something in the way he held up and waited for a response that really aggravated me and made the whole situation very uncomfortable. I'm clearly in the wrong but there's no way I'm offering to pay for anything. I think this customer is just the type that likes to get one up on someone and then enjoy watching them twist in the wind, i.e. he's a jerk.

So do you write this from the outside and just describe the way he laughs and asks about new paint? Or do you write an internal reaction from my perspective and get into a character's thoughts? Which way would be faster? Which way would be clearer?

The great thing about these questions is that they have no correct answers. They all depend on the situation and the goal of the author. But this is the sort of thing I look for in life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thoughts on the Process of Writing

Here's part of an email I sent to a soon to be world famous writer friend of mine.

Did I describe my theory on writing and publication? (I'm sure I saw this somewhere and I'm subconsciously reproducing it here without attribution but since I can't remember the source I'll just say it's mine alone until a process server shows up at my door.) It's like a pyramid, but then a lot of things are. Lots and lots of people (but still shockingly fewer than there should be) can spell correctly and put a sentence together correctly. Take another step up the ziggurat and you find the people who can string sentences together and come up with some paragraphs that mean what the author thinks they mean. Next level and you find the people who can pull together writing correctly and writing creatively, i.e. merging ideas with properly constructed prose. On top of those, near the heights but still getting stepped over, are those that can do all of that below them and also keep an idea together long enough to craft a story or novel. On the top of the heap are those that can do all that AND keep doing it until they are published. All levels within this pyramid are honorable, it's just a matter of where you want to end up.

Other Things of Interest

Until I can figure out the link feature here I'll have to insert a couple of them manually:

www.theswordreview.com
This is an excellent publication as well as all its sister sites. And I'm not just saying that because I made my first sale there. I made my first sale there because they are great people and I can't be more honored.

www.theonering.com
As a Tolkien fan this site is tops. I hang out in the forums at the Scriptorium of Imladris under the pen name Galhadrim. (Yes, I got the idea for this blog's name from there. I'm also a big fan of Latin sayings, especially the made up ones.)

Duty Calls

Here’s a bit on Quantico, Virginia, where I’ve been for the past few days. I’m here on a boring military conference but there were a few highlights.

First, my fellow Marine officers and I went out to a restaurant called the Globe & Laurel just off base. It’s run by a retired Marine Major who knows more about the Corps than anyone I’ve ever met. Every square inch of wall space is taken up by memorabilia of some type. Just about any notable Marine for the past fifty years has given something to him. There are unit patches all over the ceiling and shadow boxes with all sorts of doodads in them. The place is really amazing and the Major can talk forever. We were there for an hour and a half listening to him and he barely took a breath. Fun stuff.

The other Really Cool Thing was a quick trip to the National Archives where the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed. The Declaration is faded and wrinkled now and mostly illegible but if you’re an American and you don’t get choked up while looking at it then there is something wrong with you.

But since this is a writing blog, I'll give an update on my current works. 'Skyman' is my latest fantasy and that got a good rewrite. I'm sending it off to my beta reader (the best in the free or oppressed worlds) very soon. 'Right of Replacement', my Christ allegory, also got a rewrite and polish. So the trip was not a complete loss after all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The First Post

In order to keep expectations low, this post will be of the 'test only' variety and will say nothing of importance.