Monday, March 31, 2014

The Lady or the Tiger

A Malayan Tiger
(photo: Frank B. Baiamonte)
via Pinterest
     How many of you read this piece in school: The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton?  The end both tortured and intrigued me.  The author carried me along with the story and left me pondering the decision-making processes required of myself...and of all humanity.  And, still, I do not know how the story ends -- how it ended after the author stopped talking.  I find myself thinking deep thoughts and examining the story from many angles.  There are so many meanings in its folds.
     What do you think of the author's "humility" in not presuming to tell us how the story ends?  Does it make you evaluate how you think of yourself as a writer?  Sometimes we like the feeling of power as we control our stories and, to a certain extent, the reader's thoughts.  But there are more powerful forces than we are, if only we are wise enough to not stand in the way.
     What were your thoughts on the story?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Short Story: Becoming a Daddy

     I clutched the steering wheel and shot a nervous glance at my wife.  She flashed me an excited smile.

     “This is it,” she said, happily.  “We are having our baby!”

     I smiled back, trying to look confident and reassuring.  I hoped I had brought all of the bags she had packed for this event.  She had poured over her list a dozen times, packing and repacking what she called the “absolutely necessary essentials.” 

     “Oh, here comes another one,” my wife moaned.  Her attitude changed quickly from excitement to dread.

     With one hand on the steering wheel, I reached to squeeze her arm.  “Remember to relax and breathe,” I said.

     She nodded, her eyebrows contracted tightly over closed eyes, and began huffing and puffing like a champion.  I looked up to see the traffic light turn red and slammed on the brakes just in time.

     Her arms flew out, grasping the dashboard, and she groaned like I beat her.  “Don’t do that!” she hissed, still breathing hard.

     The light took forever to turn green again, and I began to fear that we would have the baby in the car.  Somewhere I had read a pamphlet on precipitous birth.  Make sure the baby’s cord doesn’t come out before the baby does…don’t pull on the baby as it’s being born…keep the baby warm…um…my mind went blank.  What if I couldn’t remember what all I was supposed to do?

     Finally, the light turned green, and I turned down the narrow street leading to our birth center.  Never had I been so relieved to see our midwife and her assistant greet us at the door.  They looked so calm and happy.  How did they do that?  I shot worried glances at each of them, hoping they realized the severity of the situation. 

     They ushered us into a room.  The candles flickered romantically, the air smelled like some kind of flower, and music played softly.  My wife sighed and sank onto her knees by the bed.

     “I’m so glad to be here,” she murmured.  I was beginning to feel the same way.  Anything was better than the drive on the highway, and I felt a sense of relief that we had arrived.

     I was sent to bring the bags in from the car while the midwife checked on my wife.  Again, I hoped I had brought all of her essentials.  I dropped the bags in the closet as the midwife was finishing her exam.

     “Hold your wife’s hand, daddy,” the assistant instructed me softly.

      I had never known until this day how strong my wife’s grip could be.  I leaned close and whispered in her ear, “I’ve got you, baby.”

     Her eyes were shut but they crinkled at the corners with amusement.  “No, I’m the one who’s got the baby,” she whispered pointedly.

     I grinned, glad that she still had a sense of humor.  That was a good sign, right?

     “Okay, you are 5cm and you’ve got a bulgy bag,” the midwife announced cheerfully.

     I searched my brain for the interpretation of this mysterious message.  I was sure I must have read the translation in one of the books my wife had given me.  Five centimeters – that was dilation, and I remembered we had to go to 10 centimeters before she could start pushing.  Bulgy bag  -- my mind could not recall any chapters on bulgy bags.

     “Bulgy bag?  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I asked.

       The assistant grinned.  “It’s a good thing,” she said.

     And with that brief explanation, my wife and I stepped into a time warp.  I am sure that is what it was.  Hours passed, ticking by with intolerable slowness and flying by in the blink of an eye – sometimes doing both at the same time.

      During contractions, my wife breathed slowly and deeply, rocking back and forth.  Her eyes were closed and she seemed to sink into a world inside herself, a world that narrowed to her and her baby.  For a moment, I would feel left out of that world and then she would say “Rub my shoulders” or “Please play with my hair” or “Can you push against my back?” and I would realize that I was as much a part of this as she was.

     In between contractions, my wife would open her eyes and laugh and talk.  The assistant came in to time contractions and we ended up swapping stories.  In moments like these it was hard to believe we were in labor.

     After 2 or three hours, things started getting more serious.  My wife moaned through her contractions.  In between contractions, she laid her head against me and slept.  The midwife and her assistant nodded and smiled, assuring me that this was a normal part of labor.  I felt that I completely lost track of time.

     “Thirsty?” the assistant asked me at one point, as my wife rested against my shoulder.

     I looked at her rather blankly for a moment.  I hadn’t even thought about whether I was thirsty or not.  Then my wife took a deep breath and started her next contraction.  It seemed selfish to worry about something as paltry as thirst when she was obviously in much more discomfort than I could ever be.

     As the contraction ended, however, I felt a tap on my arm.  Looking up, I saw the assistant holding out a cup with a straw.

     “Daddies need to take care of themselves, too,” she said.

     “Oh, I’ll be fine,” I said.  “I can manage.”

     She scowled at me.  “We’ve still got a little ways to go and we don’t need you passing out at the end,” she scolded.

     I grinned and took the drink.  At the same time, however, I was hoping that we didn’t have too much farther to go.  My wife was tired.

      Not too much longer after that, everything changed again.  My wife cried out during a contraction.  Her eyes flew open.  “I can’t do this!” she cried.  I froze, unable to respond.  I had never seen her so desperate, so at the end of herself.  Was this how women died in childbirth?

     The midwife slid into a seat in front of my wife.  “Yes, you can,” she said, firmly but gently.  Like a tender coach, she started talking.  “You can do this.  Take a deep breath, all the way down to your baby…”  Her voice droned on, and I could see my wife latch onto her every word.  My wife nodded and breathed.  I still felt lost.

     “I can do this…I can do this,” my wife murmured.

     Part of me felt shame that I panicked.  Obviously, at the moment, the midwife was helping my wife more than I was.  But the other part of me still felt very worried.  How did the midwife know that this was okay?  I knew my wife, and I had never seen my wife like this before.  I knew my wife was not a weak person – did the midwife understand how serious this situation was?

     My wife’s eyes were closed again.  “My back,” she moaned.

     The midwife looked at me, nodded to me, expected me to help.  I reached my fists down my wife’s back, applying pressure as I had before.

     “Thank you,” my wife murmured with a sigh of relief.

     The assistant flashed me a “thumbs up” signal.  “You’re doing great.”  I was glad somebody thought so.  I leaned down and pressed my lips against my wife’s shoulder.

     “Now let everything go,” the midwife instructed my wife.  “Lean back on your husband.  Rest.”

     And so we started a new normal.  During contractions, my wife was barely kept from the brink of desperation by the midwife’s steady coaching.  In between contractions, she leaned back against me and appeared to sleep.

      “I can’t keep doing this,” my wife moaned quietly.  “I need a break.”

     I had to agree.  How much longer before she couldn’t do this anymore?

     “You won’t have to do this forever,” the midwife said.  This is the hard part.  It doesn’t get any harder than this.  This is the hard part.  You can do this.  You are doing it!  You will get a break when the baby is out, okay?”

     My wife nodded again, whispering under her breath, “I can do this…I can do this.”

     The next contraction started and my wife talked herself through it, murmuring “I can do this” through the contraction.  I found the words playing over in my own head.  Suddenly something changed and my wife jerked in my arms.  She shrieked like someone had startled her and her eyes flew wide open.  My adrenaline went through the roof.

     “Ahh,” she protested, seeming to have lost her use of English in the excitement of the moment.  I looked down and saw water seeping everywhere.  It was running down her legs.  The puddle spread across the floor.  I felt some wetness soak into me, and my stomach turned.  This was asking too much of a man.

      The midwife and assistant, on the other hand, seemed thrilled.

     “Good work, mama!” the midwife praised my wife.  “That was your bag of waters that you popped.  Nice job!” 

     The assistant grabbed a towel and cleaner and started cleaning it up with a huge smile on her face.  My wife responded to their praise with a cheerful, lopsided grin.

     The next contraction was hard again, but my wife had a tone of confidence as she murmured “I can do this” through that contraction.  Even I felt a surge of hope.  Surely this was a sign that we were getting closer.

      The next few contractions were the same, hard but exciting.  I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that the assistant was double-checking the birth equipment.  Were we that close?

      “My back,” cried my wife.  I pressed harder against her back.  “No,” she moaned.  “It’s not helping.”

      “That pressure is not going away, mama,” the midwife said.  “That’s the baby’s head moving down.”

      I moved my hand away, figuring that it was useless if it was not helping.

      “No, no!  Come back,” my wife yelled.  I slid my hands against her back again, feeling like a naughty schoolboy for moving them.  As the contraction faded, my wife reached a hand to squeeze mine.  “It helps a little, after all,” she said.

       The next contraction started as the one before it.  Then my wife caught her breath involuntarily in a little grunt…then again…then… “I have to push!” she shouted.

      “Okay, let me check you,” the midwife said with a nod.  A quick exam confirmed it, and, just like that, my wife was cleared for pushing.

       The atmosphere in the room changed.  My wife, who had been so tired only moments before, was suddenly awake and energetic.  She shifted around until she found a position that worked for her and then she started pushing with contractions.

     Pushing was hard and long.  I did not understand how it took so long to move the baby only a matter of inches.  The midwife kept saying things like “great job” and “your baby is coming” and “you are moving your baby with each push.”  But we did push after push after push, and I still saw no baby.

      “It’s a process,” the midwife said.  “You are slowly stretching with each push, letting the baby come down a little bit more.”

     Finally, the midwife said, “I see hair!”

     I half rose out of my seat behind my wife, trying to catch a glimpse.  “He’s out?” I asked, breathless.

     “Oh, no,” the midwife said.  “He hasn’t even come all the way under the pubic bone yet.  He is still inside.”

     The pubic bone, as I soon found out, was a formidable obstacle to birth.  The midwife was very calm and cheerful as she told us that he was rocking his way under the pubic bone.  But contraction after contraction passed, and he was still “rocking his way under the pubic bone.”  I felt a sense of worry again and wondered if God really meant to put that pubic bone there.

     My wife was frustrated with the pubic bone as well.  She pushed with all her might, but he was still “rocking under the pubic bone.”

     “Can’t you please just pull him out,” she asked the midwife.

     The midwife laughed.  “No, honey,” she said.  “You’ve got to do this part yourself.  You are doing great.”

      And so my wife continued to push – farther, harder, and deeper as her midwife told her.  Sometimes she held her breath and then let it go in a little scream.  I clutched her shoulders as if I could hold her here on this earth.

     “Not so tight,” she moaned, brushing her fingers against my hands.

     “Okay, push, mommy!” the midwife said.  “Push hard!”

     …As if my wife had not been pushing this whole time.

     “Come on, mommy!  Don’t pull away from it!  Push!  Push!” the midwife said.  There was an urgency in her voice, and my already rapid heart rate increased again.  My hands felt shaky.

     “Okay, blow, blow, blow, blow!” the midwife called.  The assistant put her face in front of my wife’s and coached her to blow instead of push.

     “Head!” the midwife called.  I felt the room swirling around me.

     “Time of birth, somebody!” the midwife’s voice rang out.  And suddenly she was passing a limp form from my wife’s legs to her chest.  The assistant was there with a blanket to wrap it, rubbing the bundle vigorously.  And then I heard the screaming cry of a newborn infant.

     “Awww, sweet baby!” the midwife crooned.

     “Daddy!” the assistant’s voice snapped through the fog that was gathering in my brain.  “I need you!” she said.  She was looked sharply at me as though she sensed that I was fading away.  “Help me settle the new mommy and baby into the bed.”

     The fog cleared and I slid my wife back onto the pillows.  Then I crawled up next to her.  She was crying and laughing.  “We did it,” she exulted.  Her face had never looked happier or more beautiful.  “That was amazing,” she said.  She looked at the midwife.  “Thank you so much,” she said.  Then her eyes found mine once more.

      “I love you,” I said.

      She settled into the pillows like a contented little bird in her nest.  “Look at our baby,” she murmured.  “She is so beautiful.”

     I peered into the blankets at the newborn baby.  Her eyes were open already, staring wonderingly at her mother’s face.

      “Hey, little one,” I greeted her softly, rubbing my finger along her hand.  She was so perfect.

     Suddenly her hand opened and then closed over my finger, holding it firm in her little grasp.

     “Look at that,” the assistant chuckled.  “Wrapped around each other’s fingers already.”

       I couldn’t deny it.  In that moment, we had become a family.  Snuggled next to my wife and with those tiny fingers grasping mine, I knew that, from now until forever, I was both a husband…and a daddy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Reaction to Criticism

Always receive it graciously and always re-assess your work.
It may be that the critic has found something you need to work on, either in the art and creativity, the technical aspects, or the communication arena.
Either make an adjustment based on what you found in your assessment
or decide that the critic was in error and your writing is exactly as you desired.
Never give up or quit. 
If you know that you should be a writer, then no amount of criticism of your work will dissuade you.  Criticism is meant to help you become a better writer.  It is never meant to discourage a writer from writing.  Keep working on it!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Short Story Break

via Pinterest
    It has been a while since I penned a short story.  Usually it takes something like a "short story contest" to inspire me.  But I have noticed my writing skills improve with each contest so there is something to be said for writing short stories.
     I say all this to lead into the fact that I am going to try another short story.  There is no contest looming on the horizon, but it has been so long that I think I am due to write a short piece.  Life cannot be entirely devoted to novel-length plots...
     I am rolling around different ideas in my head.  There is no one to give me the first three words or a picture to base my story on.  There are no restrictions, no props, and no judges.
     Methinks I will try something that is both epic and ordinary...something I have seen before.  After all, personal experience, great things, and the expression of the ordinary are part of what makes a story.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Making Sense of the Imaginary

from a scene in City of Ember
via Pinterest
     Okay, you read my post yesterday and you felt a little confused.  Your story involves people that can fly and a fish that can talk.  It doesn't make sense, you say, and yet...that's the way a fantasy story is supposed to be, isn't it?  Am I restricting authors' imaginations to the ordinary parameters of real life?
     No.  The fascinating thing about fiction literature is that it doesn't have to be realistic in order to make sense.  Strange but true.
     There are two things required in making a fantasy or sci-fi story "make sense."
1. Have a panel of experts explain it.
     This is easy.  If the world is to be destroyed by an exaggerated natural disaster, have a panel of experts use important sounding words to convince everyone that this is a possibility.  If your hero has just landed in a world where everybody flies, have some child explain this in a matter-of-fact tone (while looking at your hero like he is crazy for not knowing this already).  Your type of "expert" will vary depending on your story.  You only have to make it sound convincing.
2. Stick with the laws of your world.
     This may require you to make a list on a separate sheet of paper, but, if you have decided that the world you have created is to have different laws than the world we know, you should keep those laws in mind. 
     In our world, we have a law called "gravity".  What goes up must come down.  We can overcome gravity temporarily with force (for example, the force of jumping will propel you up into the air temporarily, and then gravity brings you back down) or with another law like the law of aerodynamics (this is how we fly a plane in spite of gravity). No matter where our story takes us, we are subject to those laws.
     If you have different laws in your world, define them to yourself and then make sure your plot follows those laws.

    Does that make sense?

via Pinterest

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

That Doesn't Make Sense!

Wait a minute!
That doesn't make sense!
via Pinterest
     So I am looking for things in BB that don't make sense.  You know you've seen these anomalies before.  An athletic man walks for three days to get to a secret cave and then, in a climactic scene, a little boy with a limp runs to the cave in a matter of hours.  Really?  Or, in the days before electricity, a woman forbids the use of fire in her home and then proceeds to cook a nourishing soup.  Now how do you suppose she did that?
     I found one such anomaly in BB by doing separate short stories (summarizing the book) for individual characters.  I had character A tie character B in a shed somewhere.  Then character A went and did about a week's worth of activity, maybe more.  He visited some people and took a long trip and did all sort of things before returning to his captive.  When I looked at character B's story, I realized I needed to address the fact that the poor man is tied in a shed for a really long time.
      Sometimes it will be little things that don't add up correctly.  Let's say that over the course of the book, I told you these three things about Miss B's papa:
     1. He left the village as an ambitious young man, but returned 5 years later with a little daughter.
     2. His daughter is now in her late teens.
     3. He is an old man.
     Does this add up?  Of course it depends on your definition of young man and old man.  Just for the sake of argument, lets assume he was 20 when he left home.  We'll add 20 years to that for his daughter to grow up.  That makes him 40 years old, which is not old.
     So, in this case, I probably need to either make him older when he left home or change his present age to something younger than an "old man."
     Do you see what I mean?
     When an author proofreads her book, she looks for grammar, spelling, communication, flow, and many other areas of the editing process.  But one of the areas she should examine is the does-that-make-sense area.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Twists: Who knew?

via Pinterest
     Twists and surprises are one of the things that keep a book interesting.  I read a book the other day that did that for me, and now I am reading it again.  Funny thing about that.
     But who is your twist is trying to fool? 
     Sometimes it is the reader.  She is reading along, thinking one thing, and then, BAM, there is a shocking revelation and your reader gasps.  This occasion is usually followed by the reader thinking back over the story and kicking herself for not seeing it coming.
     Sometimes it is not the reader -- it is a main character.  Maybe your reader knows who the villain is but your hero does not.  Now your hero is blindly trusting the bad guy, and your reader is biting her nails or yelling at the hero (something along the lines of "No, no, no!  Don't go with him!  He's only going to...!").  Your reader sees things coming.
      So if you have a big secret -- something you are going to reveal later in the book -- you have to decide who gets to know early.  Does the hero know?  Does the reader know?  Do any, all, or none of your side characters know?
      This is part of what I am deciding for BB right now.  Twists -- who knew?

Friday, March 21, 2014


The way I figure it there are two kinds of scary:

bad scary and good scary.
Bad scary is the way you feel when you are in danger.  This is a special feeling designed to warn you that you are in a bad place and you need to get out of there quickly.
via Pinterest

Good scary is the way you feel when you are taking a leap into the unknown.  It is not always a bad thing.  You might have this feeling when you are changing careers or leaving home or, if you are a writer, talking to a publishing company.  Good scary carries both fear and sometimes a little thrill.  Often we find that it accompanies a fork-in-the-road decision.
via Pinterest
I had two "good scaries" today.  Heart-pounding, adrenaline-surging, I-hope-I'm-making-the-right-decision-and-I-think-I-am kind of scaries. 
I feel like I researched my decisions.  They may leave me breathless, but I am as confident as a 3rd time parachuter (I survived the last two times, right?). 
All of us face these types of decisions.  And if you, like me, have decided to step forward into the unknown, I guess the only thing left to say is:

One, two, three...

via Pinterest

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Character Stories: A Way to Track Subplots

I found this cat today on Pinterest.
I think he may look like Rab

     I am trying a new trick with BB.  In BB, I have multiple characters that affect the story.  I needed a way to see all my strands separately as well as being able to weave them all together in the plot.  So I am writing their separate stories.
     Earlier this week, I wrote the story for the Duke of Northumber.  He is about 50 years old in my story, but, to understand him, I had to go back to his childhood.  My writing of his story was fairly dry (no poetry) as I quickly summarized the highlights of his life from birth to death.  It's a little less than 1400 words.
      Now I can feel like I know about his life, and I understand him better.  Some of those things from his life may not ever make it into my BB story -- they may not matter to it.  But some of them will.  Now that I know what an influential person his mother was in his life before she died, I know he may reference her in the story.  Now that I know how he has reacted to successes and failures in his life before, I have a better idea of how he will react now.  And, as I am weaving the Duke into my story, I have this background story that I can utilize if I need more material on him.
       Not all of my characters will have their own story piece.  I don't think I will need them for any of the Tatums...or for Ronald...and certainly not for Mr. Barnes.  But for all of the characters that are in the forefront of the story -- the characters that I need to know more about -- I am going to write a little summary of their lives.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bits of BB

Here are some bits of BB.  Enjoy!
      Light dawned over Chauncey’s face.  “Why not?” he said.  He looked at Grimm’s nonyielding expression.  “Look, Grimm, if we want to get out of here someday, we must grasp at every chance we get.”
     For a moment, Grimm looked like he was weighing the possibilities in his mind.  The other three held their breaths in hope.  Even Annie stopped her sweeping to watch his face.
     Then Grimm shook his head.  “No way,” he said.  “There are too many things that can go wrong.”
     Annie sighed and returned to her sweeping.
     Chauncey opened his hands expressively.  “But should that stop us from taking a chance?  Come on, Grimm,” he pleaded.
     Grimm stood to his feet.  “If you want to take the chance, then ask him,” he said, with a jerk of his head indicating the master’s bedroom.  “I wash my hands of it.”
      Rounding a corner in the path, she suddenly saw it.  There were big iron gates, covered in ivy.  The mansion behind them was dark and in ill-repair.  It didn’t look like anyone had lived there for an hundred years.
     “This must be the Rottly place,” Belle commented to her cat, who was nowhere to be seen.  Slowly she approached the gates.  “I don’t see how Ronald Leen could have seen smoke from THAT place.”
     The gates were slightly ajar.  Belle wrapped her fingers around the cold metal and stared at the mansion.  “Someone lived there once,” she said aloud.  Somehow, even as foreboding at the place appeared, it tickled her story-loving mind and she wanted to know about its previous inhabitants.  “Too late for that now,” she murmured.  “They’ve been gone for a century or more.”  Belle turned away from the gate as if closing the back cover of a book.
     The entire village had gathered in the town square.  Belle pressed into the throng, trying to see the cause of this universal turnout.  In the center of the crowd there was an open space.  But the attraction was not her papa nor his machine.  Instead, the village had gathered around two people – Curt Hanson and the stranger from the forest – creating a large ring around them.  The two men each had a long, stout stick, and they were dueling like two swordsmen.
     “What’s going on?” Belle asked, shouting above the noise. 
     A couple of men from the village turned to answer her.  “You know how Curt loves a good game of crossing sticks,” one said, grinning.
     The other man shook his head, his eyes already bright with victory.  “Nobody can beat Curt Hanson,” he said.
     “Only a stranger doesn’t know that – and this one will find out soon enough, eh?” rejoined the first man, still grinning.
     The stranger was proving to be Curt’s most able opponent yet.  Both men were drenched with sweat, their bodies coiled like springs ready to launch their next onslaught.  Curt’s eyes were lit with the fire of the fight.
      Clatter!  Clang!  Clang!  The two opponents rushed at each other, twirling their sticks in offense and defense.  Each blow by one was parried by the other.  A collective sigh went up from the crowd as both men dropped back to circle one another.
     “How long have they been at this?” Belle asked.
     But no one answered.  The men in the crowd now held their fists as though they were the ones wielding the sticks.  Women, with their hands on their hips, peered around, unwilling to miss any of the excitement.  And the girls watched with hands clasped, all rooting for the handsome hometown boy.
     They were at it again.  Clack!  Clack!  Clack!  Their sticks crashed together with tremendous force.  Suddenly, Curt found the opening he sought.  He brought his stick down across the stranger’s head.  Thwack!  The stranger had not been able to parry fully, and he staggered as blood poured from his head.  Curt spun his stick catching the stranger in the ribs.  The stranger fell, gasping, to the ground.
      Time stood still for a moment as the stranger caught his breath.  Belle’s stomach felt queasy at the sight of the stranger’s blood.  But the stranger smiled, ruefully, and wiped the blood from his face.       “Good game,” he croaked, hoarsely.  He coughed, and pushed himself to his knees.  “I didn’t think I could be beaten by a villager.”
     It was probably Chauncey, talking in his sleep.  The social butterfly was meeting people in his dreams now.  Grimm made a face and lay down again.
By the way, I am over 23k words into BB now!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Writing with Multiple POVs

Afganistan girl
National Geographic
via Pinterest
     What is a POV?  POV stands for "Point of View".  We use it to mean the perspective from which a book is written -- more specifically, which character's perspective.   Huckleberry Finn is written from Huck's perspective.  The chapter in Little Women when Meg goes to parties with her rich friends is written from Meg's point of view.
     A good point of view sees everything that is happening through the eyes of your POV character.  What would that character notice?  How would that character describe what he sees?  This flavors even the narrative in his section of the book.
     Many books have only one POV.  My BB project will have multiple POVs.
     I recently asked Anne-girl to write a post about managing multiple POVs.  This is something in which she has had experience, and I love the way she structures things.  I knew she would have some good tips.  Here is the link to her post on the subject: The Torch Passes .  Enjoy!
     Have you anything else to add?  What do you think of books you have read (or written) with multiple POVs.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Second Cover is On Its Way!

"An Artist at Work"
     Hurray!  I am excited!  Anne-girl is doing a second book cover for me.  I feel very blessed to have won 2 book covers from her.  If you have not seen the first cover that she made for me, look under my "Works in the Wings" and you will see the cover she made for "Dungeon."  There is also a post about it that you can see here .
     This 2nd cover is for a story I wrote before I started this blog.  I don't think I have talked about it much on here, but you will hear more about soon.  I can't wait to see what Anne-girl creates!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Good Ending

swordfight scene from The Count of Monte Cristo
via Pinterest

      I have heard before that, when writing a novel, the first step is to write the finish.  Now that seems a little counter-intuitive.  Haven't we all learned from The Sound of Music that we should:
Start at the very beginning...a very good place to start...
So why would we write the ending first?

     I still have not managed to write my ending first, and I honestly don't think it will be required.  But I have started plotting out my ending before I even get halfway into the book.  I did that with BB earlier this week.  The process goes something like this:

     1. I have a story idea and decide to write
          --- I will have a vague idea of plot, finale, characters, etc with my idea but nothing is pinned down and won't be until I start writing.
     2. I start writing and start exploring my characters
     3. Once I have got my story underway and my characters in hand, I plan my ending.
          --- This helps me to know where I am headed.
          --- This helps me to understand my characters more deeply.  What will be fitting rewards and punishments for them?
          --- This lets me know what little hints I need to be dropping throughout the story to prepare my readers for the finale.

     When I plot out my ending, I don't actually write the story of it until I get there.  Instead, I write bullet points of what happens.  It looks something like this:
Papa goes to town and rants
Stranger overhears
Stranger gets Papa to take him to xxx
Stranger approaches Curt
and so on and so forth...
When I get to the ending (as I write my story from beginning to finish), then I will turn this dull list into actual reading material.

     How do you approach your stories?  Do you write the ending before you get there?  Do you always follow a chronological progression from cover to cover?  What works best for you?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Inspiring Things Like Skeletons and Experiments

     Two other bloggers have recently posted things that I have found inspiring.  One was a post by Rachel Heffington called Skeletons, Blog Design, and a British Holiday .  The other was a post by Anne-girl called An Experiment .
     The Skeleton post was inspiring because it talked about building on your first draft.  Sometimes I cringe part-way through a project as I realize that it is nowhere near publishing quality.  But Rachel points out that this is okay -- no one writes a story that is perfect on the first draft.  Instead we should view our first draft as a sort of skeleton to then build the story on.
     This was also an encouragement to start building more into Dungeon, which has been sitting rather idly this week.
     The experiment post was about writing separate storylines for each of your main characters and then putting them together at the end.  I have really been thinking about doing this for BB, as I have multiple strands swirling in my head.  So it was neat to see that someone else is trying it, and that is an encouragment to go ahead and try it myself.  We will see how it goes.
     By the way, BB currently has almost 19k words.  I am pleased with its progress...even if it is just a skeleton.  :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

18k Words in BB

     This one has a chance of being a full-length novel.  And the road is rolling out in front of me with startling clarity.  What a thrill this is!  To write and see a story come alive in your mind.  I would rather write than watch a movie any day.
     I am trying some new things with this project.  I have multiple characters with their own stories and I am giving more attention to that than I have previously.  It feels really good.  I like the way it adds depth.  It feels more real.  And it gives me more material -- which is why I think I may make it to 50k this time.
     I have passed the 18,000 word mark now.  It sounds strange to say that at this point my two main characters have just met for the first time, but you will not think it strange when you read the book.  I assure you that neither character has been wasting time.  I am, after all, only 21 days into the story.
     I can hardly wait to share it with you!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rachel Answers Questions

1. Where are you from?
     I am originally from Penty Village, but I have spent most of my years in a little town called Runtford -- not far from the castle.
2. What is your greatest hope?
    Before the story started, I suppose my greatest hope was...well...there is a young man...I suppose there is no need to hide anything from you...there is a young man whom I love very deeply...and my greatest hope was that he would ask me to marry him.  There!  That was my greatest hope.
3. What do you pray for?
     I pray for the young man that I love - that he would prosper and do well, that he would always be secure in the love of the Lord, that he would walk in wisdom.  I pray for my little town - that change would come for the better, that the injustice and cruelties would stop, that our food would not be taken away.  I pray for the kingdom - that God would turn the hearts of our leaders toward Himself.
4. What is your greatest fear?
     I try to not be fearful.  The Lord tells us to be anxious for nothing.  He tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear.  I remind myself of that often - sometimes it is hard when that dungeon brute is in town.  I fear for Jacob.  Then I go home and spend time in prayer to remind myself that I need not be afraid when God is on my side.
5. Do you have any pets?
     No, I don't.  Poor people cannot afford to feed extra mouths.
     Oh, Jacob is teasing me!  He says I had a pet bull once.  That is not true.  I only took a shortcut through its field one time, and I never did it again.  By the way, he and I have two slightly different versions of that story...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Molly Answers Questions

1. What is your job?
     I am an undermaid.  In the castle, servants are at different levels.  The upper servants serve the royals directly.  They don't talk much to the lower servants.  The lower servants do the background work.  The royals might never see the lower servants.  And me?  I'm lower than the lower servants.  I run and do whatever I am told.
2.  How long have you been a maid? 
     Most o' my life.  And I've been at the castle for almost 6 years.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
     Mercy me!  I don't know.  I don't think I am very strong.  I try to be but there are many who are stronger than I am.  I am just so glad to be here, even when it's hard.
    I have a lot of weaknesses.  I'm not nearly strong enough or fast enough, and I make mistakes sometimes in my work.  Plus, there's a lot of things I am scared of.  I'm scared of the dungeon.  I'm scared of Gorgus.  I'm scared of Regina.  I'm scared I might lose my place in the castle -- where would I go then?  The world is scary.
4. How did you meet the princess?
    I was listening to a story when I was supposed to be working.  I couldn't help it - it sounded so thrilling.  But Regina caught me and sent me running.  And then there was the princess!  My poor heart jumped into my throat!
5. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
     It's probably very wrong of me, but I sometimes wish Regina would disappear.  Since that won't happen, then I wish I could be braver...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Jacob Answers Questions

1. Where did you come from?  A little village called Runtford, near the castle.
2. How old are you?  I don't know -- you will have to ask Rachel.  She remembers ages and birthdays and other similarly useless facts. 
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?  Quick mind.  Impartial judge of people.  Reader of men's characters.  Able to spot a lie.  Strong sense of right and wrong.  Not a lot of patience for silliness.  Prone to action (regardless of logic or insurmountable odds) if my sense of right and wrong dictates it.
4. How did you meet Rachel?  When I was a boy, there was a bull in a fence behind the blacksmith shop.  Everyone knew to leave that bull alone.  I was heading home one day, and I saw the bull pawing and snorting.  Then I saw this little girl, smaller than myself, standing in the pen like fool.  I looked at that pale face that should have been rosy, the dark curly hair, and the big frightened eyes.  She was going to get trampled for certain.  I couldn't leave her there.  I darted into the pen and dragged her to safety.
5. How did you meet the princess?  I had been in a cell for weeks, plotting some way of escape.  The best I had been able to do was locate the resting place of a set of cell keys.  How I was going to retrieve them was a different story.  It seemed impossible.  Then I heard shuffling footsteps of someone feeling their way through the dark; I was sure one of the prisoners from another tunnel had gotten free.  I could hardly believe it.  If only I could convince this prisoner to get the keys, we might both have a better chance.  But then it turned out that the footsteps did not belong to an escapee after all.  They only belonged to a wandering princess.  Ha...I knew I couldn't expect much help from that quarter.  So that's how we met.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Villain Answers Questions

Here are the answers to the questions for my villain:

1. Who are you?
     I am a man of great talent and experience.
2. How did you become a villain?
     Ahh, why do people jump to use the v-word?  I personally do not see myself as a villain.  I have done much for this kingdom.  Does anyone thank me?  Does anyone recognize my greatness?  No.  Regardless of my sacrifices, they will only say that I have done my duty to my superiors.  I have had enough of these people who think they are so far above me for no reason other than pedigree.  Their loyalties lie with bloodlines and not with true greatness.  They underestimate me.  They are the villains.
3. What is your greatest strength?  My strength is an ability to play a part -- any part -- as needed.  It is the most vital -- and the most rewarding -- part of my plot.
4. How do you face opposition?  It makes me angry.  I hate to be thwarted.  However, if I can keep my temper quiet long enough, I will eventually find a way around the opposition.  It just takes patience.
5. What is your goal?  Justice, reward, revenge.  Revenge for the hundreds of snubs that I have felt for every day of my life.  Power, fame, glory -- this is justice and my due reward for the things I have done.  Justice, reward, revenge.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dungeon Cover

Cover design by Anne-girl at

     So, in February, I won a raffle hosted by Anne-girl on her blog.  The prize was a "for fun" book cover designed by her.  She contacted me promptly and we began working on this cover.
     My job was to give her some info on the story -- something she could build a cover around.  Her job, of course, was the artistic part.
     This opportunity to have Anne-girl work on a cover with me was, in my opinion, a fantastic opportunity for me to walk through the steps.  I've never had someone make a cover for me before.  What would it be like?
     After I sent my initial information to Anne-girl, she came back with a set of drafts that she had created -- different covers she had come up with based on the information I had given her.
     Looking at those covers, I could see what "rang true" to my story and what didn't.  I emailed her back with my favorite two covers and what I liked about them, and we went from there.  That helped me to communicate better.  I could see where I had neglected to give her necessary information.  Looking at her pictures helped me to explain what I did want and make sure we were on the same page.

Here is an analogy of what happened (in oversimplified terms):
Me: Dear Anne, I want you to draw me a shape.
Anne: Okay, here are some shapes. Which one do you like? Or should I start over with different kinds of shapes? (She includes sketches of a circle, a square, and a triangle)
Me: Oooh, I like that round one, but I wish it had four corners like the square one.
Anne: Okay, here is a picture of a square with rounded corners. (sketch included)
Me: That's nice. Can you make that square longer?
Anne: How about a rectangle with rounded corners? (Sketch included)
Me: Perfect!

Things I like about this cover:
---The girl's attitude: There is a place or two in the story that I think is captured well here.
---The dark background:  The dungeon in my story was a dark place.  It is deep underground, and the torches are not often lit.
---The light streaming in: this has a double meaning for me.  There is a place in the dungeon where a small beam of light does stream down, much like the light on this cover.  But also, the light is metaphorical because it is in the dungeon that my princess' eyes are opened to the world around her.
---The lantern: A lantern is never mentioned in my book, but I still very much like this lantern because of its symbolism.  Lanterns are meant to search the dark, and they are meant to bring light.  Both of these things are fitting, in my book.
---The pretty script: one of the drafts that Anne showed me had morbid lettering - it made me think of a horror story.  I realized that I have a very dark title.  The word "Dungeon" looks very good in "horror lettering".  But the inside of my book is not meant to be dark and morbid.  So I needed to offset my title with a pretty script.  I like this script that Anne chose.  It is serious enough to fit my book ("Comic Sans" would not have worked) but still light, elegant, old-fashioned, and pretty.

Anne was easy to work with, and I very much enjoyed having a cover done by her. Thank you, Anne-girl!

P.S. To see other posts on Dungeon, click on the label of that name.  You can also find more info under "Works in the Wings."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Princess Answers Questions

     Below are the answers from my princess:

1. How old are you?
     I will be 19 years old on the 2nd day of the fifth month.
2. What do you look like?
     I carry in my veins the blood of kings.  So, naturally, my hair is a light color, and it is long.  My eyes are blue or green, depending on my dress and mood. My hands are small and soft.  I look like a princess; I am royal.
3. Do you have any friends?
     Whom is my equal?  My parents are above me, although you may consider them my friends.  Everyone else is below me.  I greet the children of our noblemen with proper courtesy.  I wave to the populace in the rare public event.  I confess I sometimes interact with my royal servants: Hatach, or the Dressmaker, or others...but those cannot be called friendships.  A princess is not expected to fraternize with anyone.
4. What is your biggest flaw?
     This one is a difficult one for me to answer.  Princesses are not considered flawed in any respect.  But in one point I feel shame - that is that I did not care more about my people and my responsibilities.  In truth, it did not occur to me to care.  Whether that absolves me or adds to my iniquities, I will let my people ascertain.
5. What is your greatest strength?
     This one is also a difficult one for me.  But you will find that I am determined, once I set my mind to it.  I am willing to learn, if a good teacher presents himself.  And I am not often hasty, which I think will serve me in good stead in my future duties.
6. Do you prefer tea or coffee?
     I am not familiar with the second word, but I find tea can be either pleasant or otherwise, depending on the leaves used.
7. Do you like music?
    Our minstrels make fine music -- very much enjoyed by my father and myself.
8. What is your favorite thing to do?
    I like to walk in the gardens, feed the birds, dance, and listen to Hatach read.
9. What is your favorite season?
     All seasons are necessary, but I find Spring most to my liking.
10. Name a memorable event from your childhood.
     I remember one of my mother's parties.  I am not sure why it stands out in my memory -- perhaps it was the first one I was old enough to attend.  It was a costumed party, and my mother dressed me as a swan princess.  I remember the feathers around the neck, cuffs, and waist of my dress -- they were so soft.  I think I must have told my father how soft they were because I remember him saying "unlike my beard, pet?"  And I reached up and rubbed his beard, laughing in delight at its scratchiness.  My mother pursed her lips over our absurdity, but I think there was some small part in her that wanted to join in our fun anyway.
11. Have you any siblings?
     No, none.
12. What is your greatest fear?
     I am not a fearful person.  What have I had to fear in my life?  But I have a repugnance for grossness.  I don't know if you can call that a fear or not, but I hate things that are slimy and disgusting.
13. What is something you think you are good at?  Someday I will be good at ruling a kingdom...
14. What is your name?  For some reason, my author has not seen fit to release that information.  But I assure you that someone will announce it when she changes her mind.
15. Do you have any pets?  There are wild birds that come to my window when I call, but I have nothing else that you might consider a pet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Snippets of Story February '14

     Katie at her blog, Whisperings of the Pen , hosts a monthly "Snippets of Story" event.  I have done it once before, and I am doing it again this month.  Here are some "snippets" that I have worked on in the past month:
Newport RI Mansion Gate
by Tim Archibald
via Pinterest
If you can imagine how this gate might look if it were neglected for 100 years, then it may resemble the gate at Rottly. :)

The king shook his head slowly.  His face was ashen, and, for a moment, his eyes showed the pain he felt.  With this decision, his son would likely be banished forever.  He knew it, and yet he could not bring himself to say the words.
"The Rottly Place?" Tatum said, startled.  He swung his head to stare at Ronald.  "Why the Rottly Place?  No one has lived there for over a century.  It's abandoned."
"That's what I thought, too," Ronald said with a shrug.  "But I saw a bit of smoke there when I passed it yesterday.  I figured Grayson was the only one crazy enough to be living there."
"Must be a tramp," Tatum mused.
"Brave tramp," Barnes said, idly winding a piece of ribbon around his finger.  "Most folks think the place is haunted."
"Oh, my," Annie exclaimed, looking up at the mansion.  "It's scary-looking, isn't it?"  She shivered.  "But then, maybe it will be better inside," she said, hopefully.
"Don't count on it," Grimm muttered underneath his breath.
The manservant, Chauncey, carried the silver tray up the grand staircase to the dark rooms where his master lay in bed.
"Breakfast, sir," Chauncey announced cheerfully, as he set the tray on a table by the bed.  He could barely discern the shadowy outline of the man reclined in the bed.  "Church bells are ringing this morning," Chauncey told him, hoping the peeling of the bells were a joyful sound to his master.
"Are they?" responded his master.  It was an effort at civility, not that the master cared for or noticed the church bells.  But even the act of speaking seemed painful and laborious.  Chauncey's heart felt pity for this man, so lost did he seem.
Chauncey laid out the tray and then crossed the room to the window, pulling the heavy curtains open.  Light flooded into the room, and Chauncey rejoiced to see it.  Gloominess did not suit him, and he was sure that every beat of his heart rebelled against the darkness.
"I prefer the curtains closed," moaned the man in the bed.
"But, sir, if you won't have fire, at least have sunlight," urged Chauncey.  He turned from the window to face his new master.
Truth be told, Belle didn't feel very much like eating either.  She had cried all her tears already; now she only wanted to curl up in her bed and wait for the heaviness to go away.  Sleep would make everything better...she hoped.
Little James quaked with indecision.  Did this woman fall under the "don't speak to strangers" rule or the "be respectful of your elders" rule?  He wasn't sure.
"Secrecy," said the master in a low tone.  "Remember you are sworn to secrecy."
Chauncey swallowed hard and felt his heart start beating again.  "Yes, sir...secrecy," he stammered.  "I will not forget."
Belle stared down at her autumn bouquet.  "Perhaps I will commit my life to the service of the church and never marry," she murmured, thoughtfully.
Her papa's eyes twinkled.  "I think not," he said.
Chauncey smiled again.  "Keep a chin up, Miss Annie," he said.  "Nothing is ever as bad as it seems."
A missing prince was bad news. Missing princes have a terrible habit of turning up at the wrong times...