Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, This is Interesting...

Robyn Russel at The Amy Rennert Agency just sent me an email requesting a full copy of 1000 Things About Me. Even though I've been sending out proposals for weeks I have to admit that this caught me by surprise. I've never actually printed this thing out so I'm not sure what it looks like. She also asked for a thorough proposal. Hmm.... That's what I thought I already sent in. Guess I have some work to do this weekend.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gardens of the Moon

I'm taking a break from The Dresden Files to read Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson. I forget who suggested this series to me (I think it was Howard von Darkmoor) but I thought it looked good so I picked up the first book. It is good.

But it is also a bit confusing. I normally suggest that writers should just get right into the story and worry about explaining things later. This is exactly what Erikson has done but I'm on page 147 and I still a bit in the dark about what's going on. There have been some explanations about the magic system and character backgrounds and there have been enough historical references for me to gather what's happening on the political front but I'm a bit lost on the overall arc of the story. There have been three or four times where I've sat back and wondered what that scene was all about. At first I thought it would clear itself up but that hasn't happened yet.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a good book with great characters and compelling writing. I'm just a little mystified.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dresden 4: A Fairy Tale

I finished the fourth book in The Dresden Files, Summer Knight, while in Hawaii. It is very good but it doesn't have the knockout punch of Grave Peril. What I noticed is a sense of maturity in the series; there are several elements from previous books that make their way into the story. Plus, Jim Butcher's writing style is growing on me.

The plot involves a war between the faerie courts that Harry gets involved with. He'd rather not be anywhere near dueling fae but there's a little matter with the wizard vampire war that he started in the last book. If he doesn't make nice with the Winter Queen he will be found guilty by the White Council and given over to the Red Court as a peace offering. Quick note: peace offerings to vampires work wonderfully unless you're the offering. Another quick note: this all makes perfect sense if you've read the first three novels.

Butcher's best decision with this work is to reveal more of the continuing characters he's developed. That is the key to the survival of any series. They cannot become a rehash of the same story told again and again. (BTW, that's exactly what happened to Star Trek and James Bond, which is why both franchises are getting restarted.) In this book, we find out about Harry's first love, his first mentor, his current love, and some kids he helped a couple of books ago. All of this brings the reader in for a satisfying journey.

Three stars for Summer Knight.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Swimming At Sunrise

This morning I drove out to Ala Moana Beach just before sunrise and went for a swim in the ocean. The sun comes up over the hotels of Waikiki this time of year and the sky was just beginning it's turn from black to blue. Out over the water crawled a massive thunderhead with rain dragging beneath it like it was smudged by a painter's brush.

The beach was populated by surfers and an early morning yoga class. While swimming I was able to watch the clouds change from purple to peach to yellow. When the sun rose over the glass and steel of Honolulu the colors in the sky drained out of the clouds and hid in the storm below as rainbows from God.

It is a good thing to be reminded in whose hand true power and majesty lies.

Friday, August 24, 2007

This Guy Can Write

I have added Micheal Ehart to my list of Links Notorius because he has some excellent stories that have run in The Sword Review. They're set in a quasi-fictional Ancient Near East world (which is like The Bomb or something, whatever the kids are saying these days) and the main character lives an eternal life in the service of a really nasty critter who likes to munch on dead human flesh. The Servant of the Manthycore series is good, gritty writing with solid characters and clever plotting. I highly recommend them as well as the new novella that will be published soon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hawai'i Is Not Just Palm Trees and White Beaches

Today I did something that I think is pretty neat but most of you will think is stupid. I took some of my companies line cards and made a few sales calls. Yes, I had just gotten off a twelve hour shift and could have gone back to my room and slept. However, I figured it would be fun to see if I could drum up some business.

So I drive around Pearl Harbor on H1 and go to the James Campbell Industrial Park. This is an area with smoke stacks and dirty trucks. There's garbage blowing on the street and a lot of broken chain link fences. I stopped by a few places and was marginally successful at seeing people.

As I was driving out of the area I was struck by the fact that you don't tend to see this place on postcards and calendars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Writing Lessons From Classified Briefings

What I'm doing here in Hawai'i is running the Sustainment cell of MARFORPAC's Crisis Action Team that is participating in a KTO exercise.

(Definition time:
Sustainment= Everything that goes into maintaining a military force engaged in combat operations.
MARFORPAC= Short version on Marine Forces Pacific, the headquarters of all of the Marine Corps forces in the Pacific ocean area.
Crisis Action Team= A room full of Marines that track a bunch of information fed up to us from subordinate units.
KTO= Korean Theatre of Operations, basically the Korean penninsula and all areas around it.)

My main job is to gather up all the important info and provide the commanding general with a briefing regarding our cell. I try to be brief. Some people do not try to be brief. This is annoying.

My writing lesson from this is to say what you need to say and then stop writing. You really run the risk of causing your audience to lose interest, shuffle through the other papers on the desk, and start checking their watches. As a writer you are looking for different reactions than that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

CSFF Tour From a Distance

The watch schedule here in Hawai'i is pretty odd so I only have a couple of hours in the afternoon of free time. Here's this month's CSFF tour.

Legend of the Firefish by George Polivka.

Hope you like it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hawai'i For Those That Hate Beaches

Hawai'i is much the same as when I left it. The same lazy tropical breezes flow across the lanai I'm sitting on, the same colorful and inquisitive birds hop about the furniture, and the same highway projects are blocking the same roads next to Pearl Harbor.

As I thought, there is no one around to check in with so I have the day to acclimatize before starting the exercise. Since I'll be spending most of my time in a crowded, air conditioned room with no windows it's important to get acclimated. I might go out to Ala Moana Beach again but I'll probably find places like the one I'm at: comfy chairs, cold drinks, and swaying palm trees. A laptop on my lap and CNN playing in the background.

It just doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How to Get Arrested In Two Easy Steps

It's travel time again and I'm going to Hawaii for a week to participate in an exercise for the Marine Corps Reserve. So I'm standing in line for security at SeaTac Airport and I see an interesting lesson that we'll call the Two Step Plan. This is how you turn your day into an event to be remembered:

1. Start yelling and swearing at the TSA supervisor.
2. Keep yelling and swearing at the TSA supervisor.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tragedy, Joy, and Why We're All Here

Son Number One has a friend on the swim team named Andrew that we had not seen this season. We found out yesterday that he died shortly after Memorial Day from a congenital problem with his vascular system. This is upsetting in several ways. First, thirteen year old boys are not supposed to die; they are supposed to play basketball and eat cheeseburgers and dream of becoming an astronaut and fall in love with the girl next door. They are the very essence of vibrancy and potential and enthusiasm and life. They are not supposed to lie on the couch suffering from stroke symptoms and tell their mother they don't want to die. There is a fundamental sense of unfairness here that makes me both sad and angry this morning.

Second, it was undetectable and unpreventable. Andrew was born with a countdown clock that would give him a sixth of the time that most people get here on Earth. He was destined to die early and thus not experience all this world has to offer. Again unfair. You see, if you're smart enough you can prevent disease. If you're quick enough you can prevent accidents. But there's no way to reach inside yourself and rearrange your capillaries.

So now I look at each one of my children and I wonder what their countdown clock says. I want to know how much more of this life they get to enjoy. It is unsettling to be kept in the dark about these things.

But despite the anger and sadness and resignation there is also joy. Andrew was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He is with the Father and he is whole and complete and perfect and he doesn't have to worry about which veins go where. And that, beloved, is a reason for joy and celebration. His mother is like a rock, albeit a misty eyed rock, in her conviction that Andrew is in a much better place.

Her faith in God's providence is how Andrew's death is an event that ultimately glorifies God. I can't always explain His purpose in these matters but I can see when things happen for a reason. I know that it is really God who prevents disease and accidents. Or doesn't. And I know that He moves this world with a sure hand. We're here to trust in that hand and to keep our focus on Him.

Andrew now swims in living water. His arms never grow weary. His legs always kick true. And he is surrounded by a crowd that never stops cheering.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Slow Going

I'm having a tough time getting through the first draft of 'The Battle of Raven Kill.' Like several of my concept pieces there's action and imagery but no pathos. I'm trying to work in ways to build that up and might be able to pull it off in the end but for now it's a little weak. One problem is lack of dialog between hero and villain. Another problem is lack of single villain. (Which might explain the first problem.) I've also confined the action to a single bridge. All of which are mounting up to cause problems, or rather, challenges. And so it goes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Writing Lessons From Grave Peril

Grave Peril fulfilled the promise its beginning made by ending in exemplary fashion. Butcher pulled off an incredibly clever and unforeseen ending that wrapped up the storyline and saved the day neat as you please. That's the focus of the writing lesson for today, or perhaps it is just a writing question whose answer will sound like a writing lesson and I'm good with that, too.

The question is this: How smart do you have to be to be a writer? All of us have read a book and thought, Any idiot could have written that. Perhaps we were correct. Perhaps an idiot did write it. The really clever, really smart and fascinating plot twists are what we all like to discover when we read. We hope that the author is smarter than us because we sure can't figure out how to get the hero out of this mess. This maxim would suggest that you have to be pretty intelligent to be a successful writer. Unless you write chick lit. Don't get me started.

So the actual lesson part of this post is: Agent 86

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Over the weekend I acquired Bullfinch's Mythology from my favorite bookstore, William James, Bookseller, in Port Townsend, WA. This is a book that I've been meaning to put on my shelf for quite some time but haver never gotten around to it. After reading through some of it, I now understand that it is a type of book that you have on your shelf, brag about how erudite you are because it is so prominently displayed, but never read. It is painfully dry but, I believe, a necessary reference for fantasy writers.

Also, last night I was reading faerie poems to Daughter Number One. When we got to The Song of the Bluebell Fairy I realized that there was a bluebell flower right outside the bedroom window. I looked at her conspiratorially and mentioned that since it was sundown there might be a faerie dancing beneath the flower right now. But we'd have to be quiet. We stood on the bed and slowly raised the shades. Just about then Sons Number Two and Three began making a ruckus so unfortunately all the fae creatures must have been scared off. We'll have to try again some other time.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Grave Peril's Michael

Michael is referred to as the Fist of God by Harry Dresden on a few occasions. He is a modern day knight who has a wife and kids and an F-150. He also has a sword called Amoracchius which has a large spike set into its hilt; one of the three nails from the Crucifixion. (One character is told this and says, "What, you mean the Crucifixion?) Michael has been entrusted with this sword, by whom we don't know yet, and he smites the enemies of God with it. He is a rock solid character who would assault the Gates of Hell if God told him to do it. And he would win.

One of his best lines comes when he and Dresden are about to attend the vampire ball. Dresden tells him that there might be innocent people in there being prepped as food and Harry tells him not to do anything stupid like try to rescue them, thus breaking the truce and bringing unholy retribution. Michael just looks at him and says, "I am what I am." Dresden sulks.

As I said before, Michael is not played as a stereotype and that is refreshing. He admonishes Harry every time he swears. He warns him not to mock God. Harry generally behaves himself around him. There is also the gentle persuasion that Michael just exudes by his mere presence. The novels have established that Dresden does not agree with God's hands off policy and just doesn't understand why He can allow all this bad stuff, that Harry feels is up to him to clean up, happen. This book has the two of them working closely together for the first time although they have a somewhat close relationship from the past. Harry is seeing how the power of God works through His creation and is starting to come around. As I understand it, Michael will appear in later books as well. It will be good to see him progress and we will all be rooting for him to bring Harry Copperfield Blackstone Dresden to the Lord.