Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Progress Was Made

Our time at the beach was not all about roasting hot dogs and making obscure observations about the consistency of sand and water. As usual, nobody wakes up earlier than me. That gave me a few mornings to write and play Medieval: Total War. Progress was made on both fronts. The Battle of Raven Kill is now at 2800 words and the Aragonese conquered all of Europe.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Writing Lessons From the Beach

Long Beach was fun. For those who don't know, it is the longest continuous sandy beach in the world at over 28 miles. (You can warm up, run a marathon, and cool down all without leaving the beach or changing direction.) While there, I noticed something interesting while watching the cars drive up and down the beach. Yes, it is considered a public highway and you are free to drive along it. Anyhow, if you drive to far away from the water you end up getting stuck in deep sand. If you drive too close to the water you end up getting stuck in wet sand. Then the surf comes in and kills your alternator but that's not relevant right now. This is a lot like writing. The Pacific Ocean is your story. It's broad, deep, unpredictable, and Japan hunts whales in it but that's not relevant right now. If you get too close to your story you get bogged down in the details. If you get too far away from it you get bogged down in useless fluff. So make sure you write your story while sticking to the flat, slightly damp sand that keeps readers rolling along at the posted speed limit.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Long Bright Days of Almost Summer

Almost Summer is a short season here in Washington. It usually starts in the middle of May and lasts into June. It is marked by nights too cold to not wear a heavy jacket and days that make you sweat in a windbreaker until you take it off, turn the corner into some shade, and feel all shivery and uncomfortable. It's a lot like Mostly Autumn which tends to happen for two weeks in early September before Summer Part Two comes along.

The family and I are going to celebrate Almost Summer by going to Long Beach, WA. My mom has a cabin there that we get to use occasionally. It's just a short walk from the beach. It's always fun, even though it's going to rain on Saturday and Sunday. There's no phone, TV or internet. Strange how our modern world often equates the lack of those necessities as 'relaxing.'

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

E-This, E-That, and the Age of E-ism

Running an e-zine is a unique challenge. Not the least of which is that most spell checkers still don't recognize e-zine as a word. You just can't get no respect. However, the folks at The Sword Review are clearly up to the challenge.

A regular print magazine is such a different medium. You just can't run an e-zine the same way. The TSR staff knows this. They are experimenting with audio stories. They have a forum that is developing into a community. They also have blogs and Myspace. These are markedly different than anything a print journal can do. And since there have been several e-zines that have gone under this last year, these are the things that will solidify the e-zine world and move it along into the future.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Sword Review and Its Place In the World

The Sword Review was created because a guy named Bill Snodgrass was working toward publication of his own stories. When he and an old friend began looking for places to publish their short works they found... nothing. There were the very few top tier magazines, Asimov's and such, but nothing else. So they decided to join the e-publishing trend and The Sword Review was born.

As Christians themselves, Bill and his friend, Cameron Walker, knew that whatever they created would have to hold to those principles and be something that could glorify God. That became a fundamental theme of TSR. What they found, stunningly enough, was that there was a large audience just waiting for them.

TSR is at the forefront of both e-publishing and Christian fiction. From some of the insight Bill provides his readers, I get the feeling that it's like being at the controls of a runaway freight train: Sure, you're getting somewhere quickly but it's not a given that the ride will be smooth.

But I see that there is a need for Christian fiction. The secular world can produce some outstanding work but it is missing that spark of the divine that Christians are looking for. I think there is a God shaped hole in today's fiction market and TSR is there to help fill it.

May CSFF Blog Tour: The Sword Review

The subject of May's Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour is my favorite e-zine: The Sword Review. They were the vehicle of my first publication and they simply do great work. Over the next couple of days I'll be talking about them in more detail.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


yet funny.

New Places I've Bookmarked

Here are a few blogs I've recently bookmarked that I find interesting:

Two Write Hands
Both clever and witty. A dangerous combination.

Von Darkmoor's Thoughts
Enthusiastically seeking publication.

The Truth About Writing
A novelist who's cataloging his steps toward publication.

Allie's Musings
A blog on writing and life and how the two intersect.

And here is a local conference that I'm thinking about attending:
Surrey International Writers' Conference

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Battle For The Battle of Raven Kill

OK, after a little examination of what it means to be a writer (i.e. you write) I have put in some time this morning on 'The Battle of Raven Kill.' I've written the first encounter between the protagonist, who's name is currently Othren Four-Scars but is shortened to Oth, and the raiders that are trying to wipe out his clan, the vile tattooed men called the Pechti. Although I know I am slipping into just pounding out the mechanics of the story there are still little bits of characterization that come to me as I write. This time I'm trying to write quickly and drop in notes to myself when I know that some sort of expansion is needed. I'm also trying to push the envelope a little with graphic combat detail, which I feel is necessary since the whole story is a fight on the bridge. One thing though, I'm seeing the word count rack up past 2000 and I haven't gotten to the meat of the battle yet so some detail may have to get chopped due to space considerations. Getting a story published that's more than five or six thousand words starts to get tricky.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Few Changes

In order to do more things with this blog and make it easier to manage I've had to update the layout with Blogger. So there are a few differences you may or may not notice.

I've also decided to join the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour in order to more specifically target my efforts in that direction. See their link to the right.

I've also finally gotten around to posting a photo of me. I was hoping it would be a tad bigger but there it is.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Making Things Worse

Here's an interesting writing lesson from The Blood Knight. One of the many techniques for writing riveting and compelling fiction is to get your characters into a bad situation and instead of freeing them make things worse. Keyes has an interesting situation in which some characters are trying to figure out how to get past some bad guys only to face a much more serious problem. A horde of transmorgified villagers come screaming through the area ravaging and destroying everything that gets in their way. They are an unstoppable (semi) human wave. The group of main characters decide to climb up a tree in order to get away from them. (This brings up another lesson that Keyes teaches with this scene: Creating Great Fiction 101- a) get your characters up a tree, b) throw rocks at them.) Now comes the point of this post; you want to constantly make things worse for your main character(s). So how do you do it in this instance? One thought that came to me was to make the tree fall over. That would definitely be Very Bad for the characters. But the problem would be that the internal logic of the book demands that they be ripped to shreds. In order to arrange for their continued journey towards The End, Keyes would have to come up with some kind of miraculous way for them to survive. There are only so many miracles that you can stick into a novel. Therefore, making things Impossibly Bad for your main characters is something you cannot do. Be careful about that. You want things bad but not too bad. If you are writing something and you feel you need a miraculous escape, you've probably fallen into this trap.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Not everyone has that special something deep down inside them that makes them respond properly to children in distress. Thank God one Marine did. When faced with a decision to make the ultimate sacrifice for complete strangers, MSgt Michael Wert did exactly that.

Semper Fi, Marine.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Two Things

This weekend had two events of noteworthiness. On Saturday we had some friends over for a murder mystery party which we do a couple of times a year. They're great fun if you have the right friends and enough wine. Somehow my character always ends up being a drunk so I try to meet the role half way. This time I was a worthless French yacht captain. My accent kept wavering from a caricature of a French pervert (thank Heaven, for leetle girls) and Ricardo Montalban, who is not French but has an accent and vocal mannerisms that I can successfully pull off for an entire evening.

Today was the construction of my first raised garden bed. I'm not so sure it came together the way I wanted but I've finally got a place to put all the compost I've been creating. Now my wife and I get to figure out what to plant. Maybe, just maybe, this thing might work.

Triond Report

I've been writing a series of advice columns and posting them through Triond. They can be found by clicking on the link to the right: Life Lessons From the Marines. Last month I made a whopping $1.04. Like I said before, nothing to get rich over but I enjoy writing them. Since I control the rights to them, unlike Associated Content, I may move them or use them in some other fashion but I haven't decided yet. Anyhow, that's the status of that project.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Blood Knight of the Living Dead

The Blood Knight has started off exactly the way it should. The undead usurper Robert Dare assassinates one of the mid level characters in the prologue and Anne Dare starts Chapter One by staring dumbfounded at the blood of a dead man against the snow. My estimation of Greg Keyes is rising like a thing that rises a lot and gets higher up than anything. It is very likely that his series, The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, could surpass C.J. Cherryh's Fortress novels as the best modern high fantasy series. Anyone who cares to disagree with any of that may meet me on the town square, at dawn, with sword or pistol.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sometimes Life Lessons Are Not Writing Lessons

Spent most of tonight trying to get Son Number Two to do his schoolwork. He complained about not feeling good and being tired and the usual round of excuses for not working. I scolded him, punished him, cracked a few jokes at his expense and then felt like a real heel when he ran to the bathroom and threw up. Hope he feels better tomorrow.

Storm Front

Storm Front by Jim Butcher continues to be an interesting and basically good book. It is, however, displaying some of the problems I have with first person narration. It is written in a casual style which might work fine for Garrison Keillior but makes it a little difficult to get into a supernatural thriller. The problem comes from what us third person practitioners call authorial interference. This takes place when the author speaks directly to the reader in one way or another. First person almost demands this constantly. The major problem with this is that if the protagonist is telling me about the battle he had with a demon, then he must have survived the battle and therefore there is no suspense about the outcome. In my opinion, this is the biggest drawback to first person narration.

Anyhow, I'm picking up my copy of The Blood Knight from B&N today so I'll likely put Butcher's work down for a while.