Monday, September 9, 2019

In the Armchair, Author Interview

Giddy to a be "in the armchair" on Nillu Nasser's wonderful blog. Nillu is the purveyor of exquisite, elegant prose, a fellow EP author, and, I am grateful to say, a friend.

Writing's Secret Formula: How to Write Stories that Matter

Always an honor to write for the talented and unfailingly kind Katie Weiland.

Does writing have a secret formula? How do we craft stories and characters that people care about?

Here's my guest post on Katie's award-winning website:

Release Day: The Awakening of David Rose

At once exhilarating and humbling, this writing thing, but you just keep on  truckin'. What a long, strange trip it's been.

Some 13 years after first conceiving it, and 3. 5 years after watching my first publisher go under the same week it originally launched, The Awakening of David Rose has been rebirthed, and I am grateful. I am blessed to be part of an amazing project team at Evolved Publishing, and I want to thank them profusely:

Kirstin Anna Andrews – Editor
Lane Diamond – Senior Editor & Interior Designer
D. Robert Pease – Cover Artist

It truly takes a village.

EP is a great publisher who places quality first and I am thrilled they are down for the three-book D Rose series(I am hard at work on Book II, David Rose & the Forbidden Tournament).

And I remain ever grateful to my children, who inspired the tale and continue each day to make me luckier than I deserve. 

I hope you'll read the book, and I hope you'll like it. I hope you'll consider going over to Amazon or Goodreads and leaving an honest review. I hope you'll perhaps tell a friend. Most of all, I hope you'll take a lesson from me, that it's never too late. Sure, deep down inside I retain a bit of that schoolboy wistfulness and wishfulness,that I might catch lightning in a bottle and hit it big, but I understand those are long odds, and I understand what's truly important: I have wanted to be a writer since childhood, and it means the world to me to have been blessed with the ability and circumstances to accomplish it, even all these decades later. I want my children to see that whatever their passion, whether they ever make a penny from it or achieve critical acclaim, they should never give up on their dreams.

Thank you, each of you, for your friendship and support. The Awakening of David Rose launches today:

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Descartes, with a Twist

My advice to aspiring writers?


Aspiring, that is. Just write.

If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Spare me the caveats, of which I’m well-aware: I’m an aspiring PROFESSIONAL writer; I’m an aspiring PUBLISHED author. Fair enough. Say that, then. But if you’re a writer, you know what I mean. It’s in your blood, in the agony and exhilaration, the undeniable gospel which speaks to you when you hit your stride and know this is exactly what you were meant to do. Whether or not you publish that novel or hit it big or make a dime, in your heart of hearts, you know the truth, that you’re a writer, and it is your calling. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

We are, as a community, conditioned to qualify or downplay our standing, abilities and worthiness. Again, this largely tracks with misguided definitions and determinants, sometimes intermixed with our own insecurities. Maybe we need the old Stuart Smalley daily affirmation, or just to lean into it a bit more and embrace and celebrate this passion we harbor. Not everyone will get published; fewer still will make serious bank or achieve critical acclaim. None of those things is impossible, though. And it’s even more important to remember this: not everyone can write. Others may judge (and yes, fear of this exacerbates our writerly angst), but again, YOU KNOW. You are possessing of that fire and of that gift and if for no other reason than to feed that hunger and follow your dream, you owe it to yourself to heed that clarion call. The world will be better for it, for you’ll have contributed your verse.

It’s okay to be afraid. But don’t succumb. “It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people,” notes Scott Berkun, “it’s the fear of not writing well; something quite different.” I struggle mightily with this one. Struggle to abide knowingly producing junk, but that’s all the more reason to stay at it, to keep writing (and reading), so that we may improve our craft. Some scribes are possessing, it seems, of otherworldly talent—I wish I could pen one sentence like Cormac McCarthy. In the end, however, I believe it more often than not comes down to perseverance and pluck. “A professional writer,” said Richard Bach, “is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Ray Bradbury cuts to the quick: “You fail only if you stop writing.”

Perhaps Descartes wouldn’t mind a slight variation: How about, I write, therefore I am. Writers write. It can be tough, for many reasons. It can be a fight. But ignoring the call can feel akin to fighting the very essence of who we are.

My favorite nonfiction author is Erik Larson, and he once proffered me the simple but sage wisdom that the key to this writing thing was “completion.” So many of us—I am definitely culpable—begin projects but never finish them, letting them languish or quitting or moving on to something else (only to repeat the same process). I view these moments as small tragedies, the birthing then abandonment of an idea, a character, a story—the extinguishing of a small flame which, if properly kindled, had the potential to blaze a glorious path. Larson also questioned my tendency to be working on multiple projects simultaneously, urging me to focus on one at a time. He’s right—at least with me—it’s hard enough to find/make time for one project, and meandering between and among multiple at a minimum delays each, and can mitigate against the completion of any.

But here I return to my original exhortation: just write. Even if completion or publication or accolade have no bearing upon your considerations. Write because you are a writer. Because it can be downright maddening not to. “A non-writing writer,” observed Kafka, “is a monster courting insanity.”

Life can be crazy enough. “After nourishment, shelter and companionship,” said Philip Pullman, “stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Hear hear. Nourish your writerly soul; don’t feed the monster.

Write on.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Dawn of the Lightkeepers: Prelude to the David Rose series.

The Awakening of David Rose will be released September 9! Grateful to the EP team and to everyone for their support.

Penned this brief companion piece/prelude a few years ago, and I recommend it before reading the novel.

Thanks all, and stay tuned for plenty more news to come!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Making it Count....

My first draft of The Awakening of David Rose was more than 100,00 words. Ultimately, I pared it down by about 1/4, which is kind of par for the editing course, but I remain amazed how we can indeed produce hundreds of thousands of words of prose--millions, really, in the life of many scribes--and still, so much boils down to a few key sections, be it the first page, or even first sentence, or even the query letter or (my nemesis) synopsis in which we must somehow and succinctly capture/convey the essence of all that work...

But that's the deal, right? Agents, publishers, and most importantly, readers, are not going to read a novel to decide if they want to read that novel. We have to hook them, and if and when they DO engage, we must keep them hooked, throughout the arc and journey of even a long and voluminous tale.

I have found writing short stories and micro/flash fiction, helpful toward that end. It helps me make it all count, and consider the flow and arrangement and impact and import of every single word. I know some novelists who don't care much for short fiction, but I find that reading it and writing it helps me distill things down to their essence, a habit which, even in long-form in a novel, is essential.

What do you think? Do you like short/micro fiction? Why or why not? What are some other lessons learned?

Here is a piece I was lucky to have published by the great folks at Amid the Imaginary. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What's in a Word?

What’s in a word?

Well, in a word, everything.

In his terrific guide, On Writing, Stephen King shares this anecdote about James Joyce:

“A friend came to visit James Joyce one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.

James, what’s wrong?' the friend asked. 'Is it the work?'

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at his friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?

How many words did you get today?' the friend pursued.

Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): 'Seven.'

Seven? But James… that’s good, at least for you.'

Yes,' Joyce said, finally looking up. 'I suppose it is… but I don’t know what order they go in!”

Every word counts, of course, but I’m always struck that an author can toil over 100,000 words throughout the journey of a manuscript, but the fate of the thing might well rest upon the precise assemblage of a few select components, such as the first sentence, or the last, or the climax.

As for this latter piece, I struggled with mine in no small measure for my YA/Fantasy novel, The Awakening of David Rose, to be released in December by the great folks at Evolved Publishing. I needed it to pop, be compelling, but more than that, TO WORK. To fit, to resonate, to ring true, and to set the path for all to come, not only in the denouement, but the reminder of the series.

A friend recommended some books where similar “awakening” climaxes occurred, and the best of the lot was from the amazing Laini Taylor, and her surpassing novel , Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Her climactic scene (and the book entire) worked marvelously, and while I don’t know if I nailed it or not, I feel my climax works for my character, and my tale.

And now, he knew. Instinct had roused first, muscle memory springing to life in the nick of time and resurrecting a swordsmanship centuries dormant. But now the fog was lifting, memories shaking off their slumber. They burst the dam of what had been his unawakened soul, and he clenched his eyes shut and steadied himself as they flooded over and through him, time unraveling inside him like a waterfall in reverse. Quick, blurring visions that did not stop but roared past, defying resolution, until at last they slowed and images dropped into the picture as though from a thousand different skies, contorting, twisting and then interlocking with other pieces until the puzzle was complete.

It is tempting, with scenes like this, to focus on writing a cool, riveting scene, and while I hope I’ve done so, what matters most is getting it right, placing the reader right there with David, in his head, and in his heart, feeling and endeavoring to reconcile these things right along with him. And just as important as conveying what happened, is laying that groundwork, for what happens next.

The upward waterfall ceased, memories pooling in his mind like swirling eddies of understanding. Marcel had spoken of it as a gift but also as the greatest of burdens. No wonder; beneath the brimming exhilaration—the thrill of knowing he held at his fingertips scintillating powers of untold lifetimes—was the growing realization that along with the power came the pain. People dreamed of immortality, spoke of it wistfully, but what they could not know was that immortality at its core embodied the greatest frailties of the mortal world.

I appreciate so deeply the amazing scribes who craft climatic scenes with such inspiring prowess. I am excited about my December release, and will keep you posted.

So, what do you think? What is your favorite aspect of a good climactic scene? What are the most challenging—and invigorating—aspects of writing them?

Thank you, as ever, for your community, and support.