Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Booker Award

Megan Adamson from Lady of Muse awarded me The Booker Award!

The rules for this award:
This award is for book bloggers only. To receive this award the blog must be at least 50% about books (reading or writing is okay).

Along with receiving this award, you must also share your top five favorite books you have ever read. (More than five is okay)

You must give this award to 5-10 other lucky book blogs you adore.

My 5 favorite books (although I went with a series for each)
Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
Dragon Prince trilogy by Melanie Rawn

Passing the Award Forward:
Andrea Teagan at The Enchanted Writer
Peggy Ann Shumway at Fragrance of Thought
Donna Hosie at Musings of a Penniless Writer
Ross at Cursed Armada
Jessica Salyer at Just Following a Dream
Ruth Josse at Ruth + Writing

I'm almost through all the awards now!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Fabulous Blog Ribbon

Megan Adamson from Lady of Muse awarded me the Fabulous Blog Ribbon!  (That's two of the three!)

Here are the rules:
1. Post the rules on your blog.
2. Name five of your most fabulous moments, either in real life or in the blogosphere.
3. Name five things you love.
4. Name five things you hate.
5. Pass the Ribbon on to five other bloggers.

5 Fabulous Moments
Marrying my wife
The birth of my children and grandchildren
My English professor insisting I had talent
Finally completing my first novel's first draft
*Reserving this slot for getting published

5 Things I Love
My wife
Making someone laugh
Playing with the grandchildren
Boldly going where no one has gone before
Excursions into realms of fantasy

5 Things I Hate
Being asked to think
Being asked not to think
Arriving too early
Arriving too late
Wasting time

Now, to pass it on...
Von L Cid (of The Growing Writer)
Alyssa (of Life is Good)
Terry Ervin (of Up Around the Corner)
Brian Wilkerson (of Trickster Eric novels)
Patrick Stahl (of Into The Ravenous Maw)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Top 25 Ways to Blow a Book

7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great  (Writer's Digest)

Dividing a Novel Into Chapters

Writing the Ultimate Query Letter  (Advice from Jolly Fish Press)

I Write Like  (Determines which author your writing style is most like.  It said my prologue and chapter 34 was like Tolkien, my first chapter was like Neil Gaiman and a scene centered on my dragons--within chapter 34--was like Ursula K. Le Guin.  My contemporary short story, Cathryn's Bay, came up with Dan Brown.  You get a little badge too.)

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Heaven Welcomed a New Angel Tonight

Over twenty-eight years ago, I married and gained a mother-in-law.  She welcomed me into her family with open arms and a warm heart.  For twenty-eight years this wonderful woman treated me not like a son-in-law, but like her own flesh-and-blood son.

She enriched my life by simply being a part of it.

For those who may not have known, my wife's mother has been seriously ill now for some time.  Her struggle ended this evening.  Darlene passed away peacefully in her sleep.

Your thoughts and prayers for my wife's family is appreciated.

Heaven welcomed a new angel tonight. 

Frances Darlene Coltrane
Born: March 24, 1940
Died: June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Post by A. J. Walker on Military Fiction

It's my pleasure to introduce A. J. Walker to you today.  And be sure to check out Hard Winter, A. J.'s latest book and first in the Timeless Empire series.  The book's links and description immediately follow the post.

Writing military fiction for those who have never 
heard a gun (or longbow) fired in anger

by A.J. Walker
Let’s face it: most writers are wimps. We spend our time in front of the computer or curled up on the sofa reading while our heroes are out slaying dragons and bench-pressing fair maidens. Yet so much fiction, especially fantasy fiction, is set in wartime. How can we write about this experience if we haven’t been in it?

Of course, some writers have, and it improves their work. Glen Cook spent time in the Navy and knows the military life.  It shows in his Black Company series. David Drake writes military science fiction informed by his time fighting in Vietnam.

For the rest of us there’s research. The first thing you learn when you start reading soldiers’ memoirs and books about military life is that a soldier’s primary concern is not the enemy. The average soldier only rarely confronts the enemy. His day-to-day concerns are more mundane. While some enlist in order to escape their past, they tend to find the past following them.

In my fantasy novel Hard Winter, the action takes place in an army marching to war. Recorro, the protagonist, is trying to figure out the secret of the Gatherers, strange spirits who randomly steal people from their beds. They’ve taken his wife and even stolen his memories of her. His unit is soon split apart between those who support their rulers and those who suspect the government to be behind the Gatherers. Like the Russian army in 1917, many lose faith in the war and soon there’s a second army forming inside the first.

Politics is only one of Recorro’s worries. Supplies is another. This is the case in every army. Rations are bad, pay comes late, boots wear out, weapons break on first use. Soldiers become scavengers to survive, and this gets them into all sorts of adventures before they ever see a battle. Like with many campaigns, the soldiers in Hard Winter find their lives growing steadily worse the further they march into enemy territory.

Soldiers also have lives back home, and these lives become obsessions when they’re in the field. A good example is the Civil War novel A Fine Likeness, written by military historian Sean McLachlan. While there’s plenty of fighting, the two heroes have other thoughts on their mind. The rebel guerrilla leader is thinking of his sweetheart back home (who’s being wooed by a rival) and figuring out how to get percussion caps for his men before they run out and can’t fire their guns. The other protagonist, a Union officer, is deeply in grief over his son’s death and agonizing over his wife’s visits to spiritualists.

Notice that I’m taking examples from all across history. The experience of the regular soldier hasn’t changed all that much. Whether he’s wearing armor made of bronze or Kevlar, he’s hungry, homesick, sleep-deprived, and alternately bored and terrified. It’s in these emotions, not those of the battle, that the real story can be found.

Here are some books that provide insights into the experience of the common soldier:

The Face of Battle by John Keegan. A celebrated military historian gives us a soldier’s-eye view of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. The medieval section is the most useful for fantasy writers and includes such interesting details as how you’re just as likely to get crushed to death in the crowd as you are to get cut to pieces.

War by Sebastian Junger. An embedded reporter’s study of one American unit’s time in Afghanistan and the lasting impact it had on their lives.

Eye Deep in Hell by John Ellis. A detailed and grim account of daily life in the trenches of World War One. How do you take a bath in a trench? This book will tell you!

This list could go on for pages. Do you have any favorites you’d like to share?

A.J. Walker is an archaeologist specializing in the medieval period. In his spare time he writes fantasies and mysteries. Find out more about him on his AmazonPage and his blog, where he hosts the popular Medieval Mondays series. His latest book is Hard Winter. The back cover blurb is below.

His past has been erased, his future is uncertain, but he knows one thing—in the coming revolution he must choose which friend to support and which to betray.

The Dragonkin have ruled the human race for centuries, but now the eastern territories have broken away and a blight has left thousands of humans destitute. Assassinations and riots plague the cities.

While the empire’s future is in peril, one man struggles to reclaim his past. Recorro lost his wife to the Gatherers, shadowy beings that prowl the streets on moonless nights. Those who witness their passing are forever changed. Recorro can remember nothing about his wife beyond the fact that she existed.

Aimless and struggling with despair, Recorro joins the army gathering to crush the rebels. What he discovers there may answer all his questions, and topple the empire he swore to uphold.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sunday Surfing

Just a note while you're waxing your surfboard... It's come at long last. 

Uncle Orson's Writing Class

That's where I'll be Monday and Tuesday.  Never been to a writing class, workshop, conference, etc. in my life (excluding college, of course.)  :::taking deep breaths:::  Wish me well.

Now, Surf's Up!

NovelRank - Amazon Sales Rank Tracker

Questions About Editing

Fantasy Book Critic

Mythic Scribes

5 Story Mistakes Even Good Writers Make

Free Reviews of Your Book (hosted by Book Tweeting

The Writer's Diet Test  (How lean is your writing?)

SmartEdit  (Free automated edit checking)

How to Develop a Story Idea into a Book  (Writer's Digest)

How To Make Money on Ebooks  (from A Newbie's Guide to Publishing)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Curse of the Time-Starved Writer

Hideous.  Oppressive.  A curse worse than most.  A curse inflicted upon the creative souls who love to write.  And I have it.  My guess is you've experienced it too.

The curse?  Life.  Or rather those things that life brings to derail the progress we writers crave.

It's worse than our muses taking a month-long vacation in the tropics while we sit at our desks devoid of the creative sparks that propel our fingers into a furious frenzy of typing.

It's worse than spending weeks polishing dry prose into vibrant excitement while our still unwritten tales slip deeper into the recesses of our minds, waiting.

It's worse than air-starved lungs attempting to breathe fresh, unique life into cardboard characters that stubbornly refuse to be defined by their creators.

It's a nasty little curse, for sure.  And those of us not named J. K. Rowling or Stephen King must endure it.  There are no charms to protect us from it, no voodoo timepieces into which we can poke needles, no incantations we can utter that will dispel it, and no silver bullets with which we can terminate it.  It envelopes us like the very air we breathe. 

It's the lawn that needs mowing, the empty cupboards and refrigerator that needs filling, kids that need a ride to soccer practice, and the office from 9-5 with nights and weekends on call.  Relatives and obligations, unplanned errands and unexpected guests, they're all part of the curse.  It strikes without warning.  It strikes without mercy.

Never enough time.  Squeeze a minute as hard as you can and you'll wring not another single second from it.  Whether time is relative or absolute doesn't matter.  Sixty minutes is all you're going to get from an hour.  There is no more. 

I've heard some say that if you want time, make time.  Alas, my talent for making time ranks right up there with my talent for growing younger.  Oh, what I wouldn't give for a time machine.  Drop in a few quarters, pull a lever and out pops an hour.  That would be better than chocolate!

But alas, we can't make time.  We can't buy it either.  We can only use wisely the time we're given.  That, and nothing else, offsets the power of the time-starved writer's curse.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stylish Blogger Award

Megan Adamson from Lady of Muse awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award!  (She gave me a couple others too, but I'll post about those separately since they require more thought.)

The funny thing is, according to my son and daughter, my style is anything but stylish.  I therefore must thank Megan for providing me with ammunition to prove them wrong.  Yo kids, Daddy got style. :-)

Accepting this award apparently requires me to tell you about the last time I was dressed up.  I guess that begs the question "how dressed up?"

If it means a necktie then that would be better than ten years ago when my employer's dress code went from business dress to business casual.  I actually don't mind the whole coat and tie gig, but I forgo them unless they're expected.

If it means a tux, then that would be almost 28 years ago when this crazy, wonderful woman I fell in love with committed her life to me and I to her.  Yeah, still committed, still crazy and still wonderful!

But in truth, my usual style is parading around barefooted wearing shorts or sweatpants.  What did you expect?  I'm a guy.  We don't get gussied up all that much.  I prefer dressing up my characters instead.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How a Geek Writes an Epic Fantasy part 2

In my previous post (How a Geek Writes an Epic Fantasy part 1) I introduced you to Magic Muse, my writing workbench.  But that's only a portion of my Epic Fantasy Writing tool set.  I also wrote an additional program that I call Visual Story.  (One day I'll merge the two into a single application.)  It has a number of uses, but I use it (loosely) as a storyboard or outline interface.

Essentially, the application consists of textboxes that can be sized and arranged on a large backdrop.  Each box contains one section for a title or heading and a second section for content.  Colors can be applied to each box's borders, titles and content.  I prefer setting the border colors according to plots.

I tend to wrap a complete chapter into a single box.  I list a description of the chapter's scene(s) and indicate which character's viewpoint is being used for each scene.  This works well for documenting chapters already written.  For planning, well, let's just say that this is about as close to true outlining as I get.

I've written a number of other applications over the years.  One served as virtual index cards that I intended to use for character bios, description of places and things, etc., but I've found that my scribblet in Magic Muse serves that purpose well enough for me.

But as much as I love my electronic tools, I don't rely exclusively on them.

I have a whiteboard beside my desk at all times.  I've been known to draw on the whiteboard.  I sketched out the Hosiyin Citadel from my first book on it.  There were characteristics I knew I wanted, but I needed my eyes to see it so I could see it through a character's eyes.

I use the fine-tipped dry-erase markers so I can scribble loads of legible text.  I'll occasionally jot down the names of characters that need addressing in the story and how soon.  I'll work out plot mechanics for finding logical reasons for Character A to be in Location B so that Event C transpires according to plan.  I may write about dragons and magic, but even they must adhere to some form of logic.

When it comes down to fleshing out my world's settings, background, history and other such trivia that makes it into the manuscript only by--at best--a passing reference. Journals and diaries are great places for me to discover my world's history, back story.

I used this method for working out details of the last major war in my book, exploring treaty details, discovering the origins of races, even for writing short stories that serve no purpose other than enabling me to flesh out characters before they make it into the book.

The actual manuscript
I sometimes type quick notes, reminders, potential dialog or possible narrative snippets right inside the manuscript itself, usually at the end of the scene or chapter.  I do this when the snippet must be addressed or incorporated before moving too far into the next scene or chapter.

I've tinkered with index cards, college or narrow ruled spiral-bound notebooks, even loose leaf paper, but I really prefer a searchable, organized electronic means to store notes. And of course, I now have my Android tablet.  It's great for proofing what I've written.  The format and display is just different enough that I'll spot mistakes that I've overlooked a hundred times on the computer monitor.

What tools do you use?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Versatile Blogger

Yikes!  I've been double-tagged!  L. G. Keltner from Writing Off the Edge and Jennifer from A Creative Exercise have both awarded me with the Versatile Blogger award!

With this award there are a few things that I need to do:

    Thank and link back to the person who sent you the award.
    Write 7 random facts about yourself.
    Nominate 7 other bloggers for the award.

Random Facts:
I recently received the Kreativ Blogger Award and revealed ten random facts about myself in addition to answering ten questions.  TMI or not, here come seven more.
  1. I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars, but love them both.
  2. I liked the new Battlestar Galactica better than the original.
  3. I was disappointed to see The 4400 cancelled.  
  4. I was even more disappointed that no season of Heroes was better than the first.  (Granted, they set the bar rather high that first year.)
  5. I'd debate long and hard over which superpower to have if I could choose only one.  (Teleportation would save me time, but telekinesis would be so cool.)
  6. I have more than 50 fantasy books (print and eBook) that I still haven't got around to reading yet.  (And I want more!)
  7. I've yet to watch Lost, The Sopranos, True Blood or A Game of Thrones.  (gasp!)
This is the part that gives me pause.  I've learned from experience that some bloggers won't do them, other bloggers crave them and most have already received them.  So, if you've already been tagged or don't want to participate, that's okay.  No pressure.  (I chose eight because I like breaking rules.)

Sara from Cutest Landing
Lauren from Eclectic
Zan Marie from In the Shade of the Cherry Tree
Linda from Writers Do Laundry, Too
Laura from Stranger Than Writing
Shauna from The Frenetic and the Fantastic
Imogen from Dancing with Dragonflies
Leslie from Leslie Pugh, one word at a time