Monday, March 17, 2014

You're going to hate this blog post

Stop the Hate:  A message on word choice

I have said over and over how much I hate the New York Yankees.  But I am starting to have second thoughts.   No, my feelings toward the Yankees are unchanged.  I am second guessing my word choice.  Its more like this:

Let’s do an experiment.  Count all the instances where you have used the word ‘hate’ today.   If you cannot recall how many times you actually said the word then check your texts, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.   How many times did it come up in conversation by others?  Chances are good there are multiple instances from today alone.  Did you remember any of them?  Did you feel any real emotion?

Or on looking back at it, was it more like this?

Now for the experiment, think of the last time you told someone, or a person said to you in, a serious tone.  “I hate you.” 

Hopefully there are few, if any times.  How did you feel?  I am willing to bet the emotion was very strong.

To my recollection I have never said that to anyone.  Nor has anyone said that to me.  If they did, I’d probably cry and run away-- the emotion would be devastating. I cannot imagine saying hate in that context.   But that is what the word truly means, or used to at least.   But I use that word more than I should.

Now back to the Yankees.  I actively root against them.  All the time.  But do I truly hate them?  No.  not even close.  I flew to New York to catch a game at Old Yankee stadium.   My all-time favorite player in any sport, Lou Gehrig, is a Yankee.  Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are two of my favorite players of the modern era.  Is that a description of hate?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I probably care more about the Yankees than teams that I do root for.  I’m more like a fan.  A negative fan perhaps?

So, what does this mean for writing?  

We need to be careful with how we use the word hate.  As always show, don’t tell, what your characters feel.   Saying a character hates something is telling not showing, and might not be the right word for the feeling.

The definition of hate matters conceptually too.  

Do you want the reader to hate the villain?  Real hate?  Then make it happen.  Craft the story so that the reader will feel such emotion that they would gladly scream to the villain’s face “I hate you!”

Or do you want the reader to have an attitude toward the villain like I do toward the Yankees?  Where the reader wants to turn pages to see what will happen to the villain.  Perhaps to the point that the ‘good guy’ is more of an afterthought? (See Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker)  Then make it happen.  Make us care.  Make the reader root for them to lose.  Fill the reader with the other emotions, fear or jealousy, that are so often mistaken for hate these days.  Make them a fan.  A negative fan. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

1500 words about a dozen roses

I couldn’t decide what was more nauseating, the smells inside the flower shop or the hordes of starry eyed lover boys.  No it was a clear choice.  As repulsive as the smell of roses was, it was nothing compared to the repressed grins and smug looks from the guys waiting in line.  

Waiting in line… with me. 

Why was I doing this?  Hadn’t I relived that moment enough over the past 39 hours?  The forty bucks was gone.  The lady on the phone said there was nothing she could do.  The bank had already charged my account. 

Gone.  What was the point?

Still, I waited and watched Romeo after Romeo walk away from the counter triumphantly.  One even had the audacity to give me victorious half-nod as he walked by.

Good luck with that buddy, don’t let her stomp on your heart after she pulls it out of your chest.

“Sir?  Do you have a pick up?”  The lady at the counter asked.  

“Yes.  Well…  Kind of.” 

That didn’t start off well.  Just like my last face to face conversation with a female.  I’m on a roll.

 “Sorry.  It’s just….  I ordered a dozen roses last week and already paid for them, but was wondering if I could cancel the order and get a refund or store credit or something.  Here’s my receipt.”  

Store Credit?  What kind of masochistic subconscious do I have?  I’ve never coming back to this little shop of horrors. 

 “I’m sorry sir.  All our rose sales are final during February.  We have to special order our roses for Valentine’s Day and we can’t do refunds.”

Same spiel as the lady I talked to one the phone.  I knew this wouldn’t work. 

“Valentine didn’t work out sweetie?” 


Please stop there lady, don’t make this any more awkward.

“Oh, I’m sorry hon.” 

That’s right.  Patronize the young customer.  I hate everything about your thorny, smelly, no-refundy empire. 

“Here are your flowers.  Why don’t you give them to your mother?  I am sure your mom would love them.” 

“Good idea, thanks.  My mom would love them.” 

She lives 700 miles away you hag.  I might be able to get them to her for President’s Day you intrusive dealer in false tokens of love and rejecter of refunds. 

I grabbed the bundle of flowers and left.  I knew that would happen.  Was I seeking rejection as some bizarre way to cope with how I felt inside? 

I walked slowly to my car, taking in the comforting smells of engines and exhaust in the parking lot.  I sat down behind the wheel and tossed the flowers to the back seat where they landed unceremoniously on the floor.  They already began to reek of broken promises.  I turned on the car and cranked the heater up to push away the smell.  

I couldn’t go back to my dorm with the flowers.  The guys would slay me for this.  I sat in the parking lot listening to The Cure for the umpteenth time that day as I weighed my options on what to do with the flowers.  It had to be something epic.  I needed to get my 40 bucks worth.

Should I ceremoniously burn them in spite?  

No, doing that with the stupid teddy bear didn’t make me feel any better even if the guys enjoyed the spectacle.

Do I rip off the petals and scatter them from the top of a cliff in Rock Canyon like ashes in the wind? 

No, that’s going to take too much time. I really need to be at class this week. 

There had to be something.  I left the flower shop and headed back.  I only had a couple hours before my evening class. 

The short drive back to campus was full of obscene sights of couples on dates trying to get an early dinner in before the limited restaurants in the college town filled up.  I had to make a conscious effort not to think about her.  It was only going to get harder on campus. 

I pulled into my the dorm towers parking lot, keeping my eyes on the parking space in front of me rather than her lit 6th floor window in the building beyond.  I grabbed the roses and stuffed them in my backpack, but the stems were too long and they stuck out considerably.  Deciding I’d rather deal with a rose-scented backpack and reduce the risk of getting extra attention, I pulled out the flowers and crammed them in upside down leaving only a few inches of stem sticking out. 

Whatever.  I don’t care anymore.  About anything.

I took care to stay away from the dorm and walked in a big loop around it heading towards the heart of campus wandering closer to my class and farther away from places that looked like her.  The muffled crinkle from the floral wrap in my pack rose through the quiet and hit my ears like a smoke alarm.  An alarm telling me to escape from something already burnt to the ground.

In the distance the haunting peal of the bell tower sounded, the same bell tower that sounded as she was breaking my heart. 

40 hours.

Two days ago I had it all figured out.  I felt happy.  I could laugh.  I could eat.  Everything was easy.  Now, each breath felt labored.  Each step felt heavy.   I knew getting over her would take time, lots of time, but how long would it be before I felt alive again?

Somehow my melancholy wandering had led me to just outside my next class.  I had no idea how long I had been walking nor how I ended up here.  I sat down a bench and tossed my backpack to the floor in front of me.  The blasted rose stems were sticking out even worse and had caused my pack to unzip some more.  I grabbed the stems and showed them back in the pack trying to cover their shame.
The stems felt remarkably smooth.  I looked closely and noticed that each of the thorns had been trimmed off, leaving only a slight deformity and discoloration to the stem. 

How ironic.  They go through the flowers and remove the part that truly symbolizes love.

“Fancy meeting you here.”   A feminine voice said to my side.  I looked over to see Collette Cooper taking a seat next to me. 

A girl… At least she’s my acquaintance, not an associate of the green-eyed, blonde destroyer of dreams.  

“Hey Collette.”

At least I didn’t grunt.

“Are you headed back up to the dorms?”

A question.  I can answer those.

“No, I have an astronomy class here on Wednesday nights.  I’m early… I think.”

I hadn’t heard that cursed bell tower, so I must be early.

“Good Luck, I hear astronomy is tough.  I don’t do evening classes.  My brain can’t handle it.  I have to be done by 5.”

“It’s not so bad for me.  As long as I show up.  It’s an easy class to miss.”

That sounded halfway normal.  Progress.

 “I bet.  Well, I’m off to get some dinner.  Have fun learning about the universe.”  She stood up. “Oh and Happy Valentine’s Day.”  She said with a smile before turning away.

“You too.”  I replied in rote eliciting a wave from Collette before she started walking away.  Acting purely on instinct, I opened up my backpack and tore into the wrap around the flowers.   Grabbing a rose by the thornless stem I called back to her.

“Collette!” I stood up from my seat and walked the few steps toward her, handing her the rose.  “Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.”

“Wow, thanks.”  She said with a smile much more genuine than I had seen in days.  She brought it up to her nose.  “It smells delightful!  You just made my day, thank you so much!”  She leaned in and gave me a hug.  I managed to awkwardly give her a half-hug in return.  She broke away, still smiling and looking at me. 

What did I just do that for?

“Have a good night, I’ll catch you later. You better go get dinner before the cafeteria runs out of bland food.” 

“You’re right, that would be tragic.  Thanks again for the flower.”  She said while smelling it again.  “I really needed it tonight.”  She finally turned back around and started walking away. 

I walked back to my back pack with the torn floral paper and eleven roses. 

That felt a lot better than setting fire to the teddy bear. 

She said she really needed it.  She seemed really happy.  And I actually felt good too.  Not happy, but not numb.  That’s good enough. 

I looked down at the thorn trimmed stems.  They had trimmed away the pokey parts and left behind a crooked stem. 

Can I do something like that with my pain?  Maybe there is something good that can come out of these flowers after all. 

I pulled the rest of the roses out, zipped up my backpack and discarded the floral wrap. 

One down eleven to go.

I stopped a random girl in the hall and handed her the flower.  Her surprised reaction actually made me smile.  A real smile.

Ten.  This is going to be fun.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why I dont want another anti-hero

Imagine this story:


A gifted young athlete finds out he has cancer.  Painful treatments and discouraging prognoses knock him down and his chance of surviving slims to less than 40%.   The pain and emotional fatigue gets to the point where he has to decide if he is going to continue the fight or just roll over and let the illness win.


Our main character decides that not only will he beat it, he will make it such a fight as to inspire and give hope to others.   He begins a rehabilitation period where he pushes his body with demanding physical routines.   Through pushing himself, he finds a passion for competing in a sport that a man of his medical history has no business even trying.  He succeeds and wins the biggest competition in the sport.  Determined to prove his success more than a fluke he repeats his victory 6 more times in dramatic fashion. 


His experience brought hope and pride to an entire nation.  Through his success, millions of people are inspired to improve their health, fight their own demons, and donate time and money to finding a cure for the disease.  


Well, it really happened.  The protagonist’s name?  Lance Armstrong.


If this book is written prior to 2011, Lance Armstrong is a hero.   But a lot of ugly truths have surfaced in the past three years about Lance:  He is a cheater, he was the ringleader of a drug ring in the sport that used strong arm tactics to keep the truth hidden, he ruined people’s lives who opposed him.  And worst of all, he doesn’t feel bad about any of it and would do it all again. 


So, if this book comes out today what is Lance Armstrong?  A Villain?  Maybe.  He still inspired millions and raised money and awareness for cancer.  Is that what a villain does?  I would classify Lance Armstrong in  the conflict of man against cancer as an anti-hero.   He beat cancer and won the conflict, but that still didn’t make him a good person.


Anti-Heroes have their place and in some genres they work perfectly.  But in Fantasy literature, where the conflict generally revolves around the fate of the world, I want my heroes to be better than that.  I am not saying that I want them to be perfect, that would be boring.   They can be selfish (see Royce Meldrum), they can be mean (see Arlen Bales), they can be prejudiced (see Kelsier), they can have all sorts of flaws and I will still root for them. 


But ultimately, I want the hero to have the desire to be good.  I want he or she to do something good for a good reason.  When they mess up, I want them to feel some remorse and have a desire to improve.  I want to be able to respect them for who they are along with respect what they accomplished. 


The world has enough Lance Armstrongs.


Monday, January 6, 2014

How I found my Holy Grail

I have little to no training in the writing field.   My educational background is in the realm of biosciences, not the creative arts.   My only writing credentials are an imagination, a keyboard, and a desire to write.  While that is truly all that is needed, I knew I could be more effective by adopting some best practices.

Over the past couple years I have spent hours, days, weeks even, scouring internet publications, forums, blogs, and the like with the intent of learning more about writing.  I have learned quite a bit that has helped me develop as a writer but I still felt like I was blindly mucking through things (sometimes I still do).  I mainly looked for an answer on how to effectively discipline myself as a writer.  Many people offered their $.02 but ultimately everyone mentioned doing 'whatever works for you.'  That was the universally accepted system-- "whatever works for you."  The Holy Grail.   

But how to find it?  

Here is my story:

Since I have made the decision to truly try my hand at this writing endeavor, I have been coming up with more ideas than I can ever manage.  Not wanting to waste any moment of inspiration, I would write them in notebooks, on post-it's, napkins, my hands, other people's hands etc.   I have a slew of emails I have sent to myself with ideas, character names, cool lines, etc. that are just waiting to turn into a project.  Wanting to give them ALL attention I tried starting multiple things at once, and that just led to failure.  So I tried a new approach where I gave all my attention to one work in process ignoring any other idea, hoping that a focused approach would help me get at least one thing finished.  This approach worked for about a week until I ran into a difficult part in my novel, so instead of battling through it, I stopped writing altogether.  Not surprisingly, I discovered that not writing at all isn't exactly an effective way to become a writer.

Then around September I started writing again, I tried to not overthink it-- just write.  I started a new project and it took off.  I didn't want to commit exclusively and risk the previous failure, so I kept doing little bits of other projects at the same time.  Never more than two at a time.  Miraculously it has worked.  I have finished some really small projects and managed to complete 50 percent of the novel I started in September.  Most importantly I have been a consistent, and somewhat disciplined writer.  I think I have found that Holy Grail of "whatever works for you" that so many other writers mentioned.  

The gist of the system:
-  Let the ideas come, don't censor them because I have too much on my plate 
-  Keep one project going will full momentum, commit as much as I can
-  When ideas come for other things, I spend chunks of time on them to get them to a sustainable level
-  Keep addressing these little ideas, but don't lose momentum on the main project

As I mentioned before my background is in bioscience, so I call my writing method the... Wait for it... The DNA Replication approach.  Yes I am a nerd, but it makes sense to me.  I untwist all my creative thoughts (helicase), work on one major project (leading strand), take the secondary projects (Okazaki fragments) one at a time and give them time (lagging strand) while not losing momentum on the main project.    

So it works... For me.  If you want to try it, go for it.  Perhaps it will work for you.  But, to find your Holy Grail, all you need to do is just keep writing-- it will happen eventually.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Two Lessons about writing I learned from falling off a cliff

You ever have a story to tell that you just can’t get into words?  I do, and its very frustrating.  Mine is the story of these two pictures:

The most frustrating part is that the story is about something that happened to me.  That should be easy right?  Well it hasn’t been easy at all.  Here is the outline of my (never ending) work in progress:

  1. Thanksgiving morning 2011.  Family gathered in Southern Utah. 
  2. Let’s go rock climbing!  Fall 35-40 feet.  Hit the ground.  Why is everything spinning?
  3. Call an ambulance?  We’re in the middle of nowhere. Hike back to car.  
  4. It’s just a cut on my head right? Do we need to go get checked out?
  5. Went to nearest rural hospital.  Walked in to the Emergency Department.  Told them what happened.  Doctor thought I was lying. Sat in wheelchair while they admit me. 
  6. They do X-Rays.  Doctor no longer thinks I’m lying.  Small hospital staff freaked out, no more quiet holiday.  
  7. Did CT scan.  Is that bleeding in your brain?  Uh oh.  We can’t help you.  Air ambulance called.  You’re flying to Salt Lake City.  Leave your family here.
  8. Air Med comes.  Have some morphine.  Wow, guess what? You’re allergic to morphine!  Inside on fire as body rejects morphine.  Can’t breathe.  Choke on vomit during flight.  Try to signal flight nurse to have her help clear airway.  Am I going to die?  
  9. Trauma patient at the U of U.  I worked here for 9 years, that’s fun!  I can hear you talking you know?  Did you really have to cut my clothes off?  
  10. 3 days in ICU.  6 broken ribs, 2 shattered shoulder blades, 3 broken vertebrae, 2 skull fractures, punctured lung,  12 (or was it 13?) staples in head.  Helmet saved your life.
  11. Not a single invasive procedure? No surgery? No cast or anything?   Go home, hard to lie down.  Sleep in chair.  T Rex arms.
  12. Back to work in a week.  6 weeks later all clear.  7 weeks later and I’m back skiing again. 

I have tried to write this short autobiographical piece with no success.  I have started and restarted my account on many occasions over the past couple years, but it has never panned out.  Is that because I am an inadequate writer?  Maybe.  But this happened to me, why is it so hard?

I sat down and thought about why I couldn’t get my story on paper.  I read through the failed attempts and recognized that each attempt was dramatically different, yet each a poor fit.  In reviewing the failed attempts, I saw two common threads in each of them.

First,  I wasn't writing to my audience.  In fact, I realized I had never addressed who the audience was.  Was I writing a journal account to be read only by posterity?  Was I writing a piece for a climbing magazine?  Was I writing a more comprehensive autobiographical account and tying it into other events in my life?   Was I writing a Public Service Announcement for helmet use?  Was I trying to write an inspirational story about a miraculous event?   I never decided. I still don’t know who my audience will be, I am working on that, but I know now that I need to have the answer before I start writing again.        

Second, I was drowning in detail.  Take a look at this failed attempt:

My first mistake was leaving the bolted routes and trying to find my own line.  I should have known better than to try and lead a route in Navajo sandstone that had not undergone extensive cleaning.   I could see at least three solid placements from the ground, so I assumed there would be sufficient protection throughout the first pitch.  The first few moves went well and were well protected, in less than a minute I had climbed twenty feet and securely placed two C4’s.  At this point the route changed from vertical face to progressive slab and the opportunities for protection were few.   Not wanting to run out the climb too far, I placed a C3 in a shallow horizontal crack.  I knew the placement was shaky at best, but it felt better than nothing.  I didn’t give it a second thought as I continued friction climbing the slab. After another ten feet, I still couldn’t find any placements, but I reached a three inch ledge and began edging a traverse to some natural anchors.  After a few steps and with my back foot weighted, I went to unclip a runner from my harness when the edge broke beneath my foot.  The awkward position I was in when the edge crumbled caused me to fall feet up and back first.  I felt a tug on my harness as my topmost placement, the C3, broke its crack and popped out.

Reading through my failed attempts I saw a lot of paragraphs like this one above.  The detail was too thick, and even if my audience were climbers the jargon was too heavy.  Knowing when to elaborate and when to be brief can be tricky.  Here's my take: If it sounds too much like a technical manual or a recipe and its not intended to be either of those then there is too much detail.  This has helped me in my current endeavor of writing a fantasy novel.  If I am describing a magic system and I find myself going into textbook mode, I need to rein it in.

I am learning a lot about writing, and I have lots of room to improve.  I know I need more lessons.  I just hope I can learn the rest of them without another trip to the ER.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A short story about an evil Santa Claus? Sure, why not?

After reading some fantastic short stories in atypical genres about Santa Claus, I decided to give it a whirl tonight.  The following is a dark horror fantasy-ish short story that may kill your holiday spirit.  These 1500 words are the product of 44 ounces of Mountain Dew and a mellow Saturday night.  I would love some feedback.  Thanks to @ginad129 and @the_j_hewitt for their inspiration.

True Love's Gift

A Holiday Horror Fantasy by Ken Curtis

This cannot be happening, Eli thought.  

Careful not to make any sound, he crept close to the window to look outside.  The freshly fallen snow reflected the light of the waxing moon, allowing him to see clearly the carnage.  He had heard the screams, the piercing cries of friends he had known his whole life, but he didn't want to believe it.  Looking out at the scarlet streaks of blood and the dismembered corpses, he could no longer deny the reality of the nightmare, a nightmare from which he could not hope to wake.

He knows when you're awake...

The line from the haunting nursery rhyme came unbidden to his mind.  Unbidden, he thought darkly. Unbidden like that rampaging demon and his frozen horde outside.

Slowly pulling away from the window, Eli creeped back to the bedroom where a terrified Teresa lay hidden under the bed with her arms wrapped protectingly around their child.  By luck, or divine providence, little Elise had not yet made a sound.

You better not cry...

Saying a silent prayer for their safety, he kept his attention on the sounds outside.  The screams seemed more distant, but Eli knew enough from the stories to know that did not mean they were safe.  Nicolas left no one alive.
Eli stood like a statue standing guard at the bedroom door.  A futile gesture, he knew, but he had  to do something.  What could one do against The Lord of the Frost Elves and his dark magic?  Dark Lord Nicolas, or Saint Nick as the villagers euphemized his name, reached the height of his power for the twelve days around the winter solstice.  For most of the year, Nicolas and his elves dwelt in isolation in their mysterious frozen northern kingdom.   But for those twelve days, Saint Nick and his elves had unnatural power.  Legends told of flying beasts that could land on a rooftop, allowing Saint Nick to creep into a house and slaughter innocents in their sleep.

He sees you when you're sleeping...

Eli repressed the urge to wretch.  He never believed those legends.  Like a fool he thought them no more than ghost stories.  Stories that mothers told to scare their children into obedience.

He knows if you've been bad or good...

What a sick way to rear a child, he thought.  Eli listened for more clues to the danger outside.  No screams, no beastly sounds.  Did that mean they had moved farther away or that they were on their way back? If only there was something he could do.  It had been just five days since the winter solstice, he could not hope to survive long enough for their power to wane on the twelfth day.

The Twelfth Day!  The thought hit him like an avalanche.  There was another nursery rhyme associated with the Dark Lord Nicolas, one that spoke of the twelve days of the solstice.  If the other rhyme was true, then perhaps...

Eli bowed his head and tugged at his hair as he desperately tried to recall the words of the rhyme.  The song spoke of twelve gifts, one for each day of the solstice.  He remembered something about swans, hens and a partridge.   What was the gift for the fifth day?

Five Golden Rings!

Eli looked down at his left hand where he wore his golden wedding band, and for the first time that dreadful night felt hope.  He creeped closer to the bed where Teresa lay.

"Love!"  He whispered urgently.  "Give me your wedding ring!"

Teresa looked blankly at him from her hiding spot.  "Hurry!"  he hissed.  Grateful that she didn't delay by questioning him, Eli watched nervously while she slowly unfolded her arms from little Elise and took off her golden ring and passed it to him.

Eli rose and moved to their dresser as quickly and quietly as he could.  He found Teresa's jewelry box, but couldn't see well enough to find anything.  He fumbled through the trinkets blindly trying to find something that could help him.

If only there was more light!

He took the box and tiptoed back toward the living room window.  Kneeling on the floor in the light of the moon he dumped the contents of their precious things on the dirty rug.  Broaches, pendants, necklaces, there had to be something!  The sparkle of a diamond reflecting the moonlight caught his eye.

Our promise ring!  It is made of gold!  He snatched up the ring and added it to the two already on his little finger.  Two more, there had to be two more.  He went through the contents again, but all he could find were more broaches and necklaces.

Necklace!  He reached to the chain on his neck where he hung his mother's ring.  He had carried it with him since the day she died, hoping one day to give it to his precious Elise.  He pulled the chain over his head and began to unfasten the latch when a sudden thud from the rooftop made him freeze in terror.

He's here! No! I need more time!

The heavy call of footsteps sounded above, mingled with the braying noise of some beast.  Eli finished the latch and slipped the fourth ring on his finger.  He could hear the scraping sound of metal on brick.

Was the demon trying to come down the chimney rather than breaking through the front door?  Did the sick fiend hope to find them sleeping?  Rings or no, he couldn't let that creature into the house.

Acting on instinct alone, Eli jumped from the floor and threw open the door.  If he lead St. Nick outside perhaps there would still be a chance for Teresa and Elise.  Eli ran out to the snow and looked at the twisted figure on the roof.  The Dark Lord of the Frost Elves dressed in white and red and carried a brown burlap sack.  The glistening sheen of blood on the sack made Eli gag, but finding his courage he called up to the devil.

"Nicolas!"  He shouted.  "Here I am!"

The Elf Lord looked at him with dark eyes that contrasted sharply with red puffy cheeks.  He smiled in wicked glee and laughed a booming laugh that made Eli step back, tripping over something in the snow.  Eli watched in panic as the massive form of St. Nick moved with surprising grace as he scrambled from the rooftop.  He felt something warm underneath him as he inched back on his backside.

Is that blood on my leg?  He tried to get up and run, but his feet were tangled in whatever it was that had tripped him.  He looked down to see his legs entwined with a severed arm.  Is that to be my fate as well, to be scattered like a broken doll?  The demons had ripped off the limb from his neighbor and gnawed it from the elbow to the hand.

To the hand!  Eli could see a band of gold around the lifeless finger.  He quickly reached down to remove it.  His fingers slipped from the blood, and he couldn't find his grip.

A booming laugh came from mere feet away and Eli looked up in to the face of his worst nightmare.   Other figures, small and slender began to circle around him.  Eli saw his death in those beady eyes.  He gave a final tug on the ring and managed to knock it off into the snow.  Heavy footsteps approached as Eli fumbled for the ring.  

I've got it!  

Holding his breath and shutting his eyes he slipped the ring next to the other four on the little finger of his left hand just as a gloved hand gripped his throat.  An explosion of light burst from his hand causing the demon to release his grip and drop Eli to the snow.  The Lord of the Frost Elves looked in confusion at his prey as his horde began evaporating around him.  His chubby face and reddened cheeks grimaced and strained as St. Nick tried to resist the pull of this magic.  Shrieking in agony, the red and white form blurred, until it finally vanished.

Eli finally dared to breathe again.

Is it over?  He stood and looked around at the desolation.  The gore and carnage remained, but no other sign of their attackers could be seen as he stumbled back to his house.

"Teresa?"  he called.  "Its over!  You can come out!"   Breathless, he fell to a chair in his living room.   Timid footsteps approached as his wife and baby girl came out.

"Eli?"  Teresa asked as she looked skeptically out the window.  "What happened?"

"The rhyme."  He panted.  "Today is the fifth day of the solstice, I used the rings to send him back.  Five golden rings."  He held open his palm to display their salvation.  "True love's gift."

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's not ADD. I'm writing!

I have always wanted to write a book.  About 5 years ago, while observing my then two-year old daughter do puzzles, I was struck with an idea for a cool Mid-Grade or Young Adult book series.  It was one of those lightning bolt moments where you felt something change in the universe.   What started as a simple idea morphed into an outline.  The outline sparked an intense bit of research.  The research merged with the original idea and created a new idea.  The new idea got a new outline and the book began.   I got 5K words into the novel and realized something critical, I was totally missing my audience.  I had no idea what a Mid-Grade or Young Adult novel flowed like and how the voice sounded.  I kept the outline and the research, scrapped the novel and began devouring books in the genre I was writing.   Several dozen books later, I got sick of reading and wanted to get back writing.  I started the book over with a different voice and a better idea of where I was heading.  I got about 12K words in and then I realized that this was going to take a lot of work!  Not only that, but I needed to improve my writing skills so the words came better.  I still loved the idea but I couldn't bear to screw it up from inexperience.

My desire to coddle this novel in its infancy led me to hesitation.  I shelved the book and started reading blogs and online resources for writers trying to get my ducks in a row.  Then I realized that I had never considered that this beloved idea could see its way through to completion only to lay in limbo with no agent or publisher willing to take it.  The horror!  This thought led me to consider self publishing my book, which in turn led me to spend time and money on amazon buying then reading self-published books to see what that was all about.  After getting my fill of ebooks, I decided it was time to get back writing.  After a few days of staring blankly at my book, I started an exercise to get the creative juices flowing again and began to outline a new, completely unrelated, epic fantasy novel.  I liked the new idea so much that I went back to my first book and had this talk:

Me:  Even though we haven't been spending much time together, I just want you to know I still love you.

Book:  Are you leaving me?  Am I being dumped?

Me:  No! No, I love you, I really do.  I just need to figure some stuff out.

Book:  Is there another book?  Is that what happened?

Me:  Well, I did have this other idea, but you know you will always be closest to my heart.  I just need to see if this other idea pans out.

Book:  How!?  What?!  What did I do wrong?  Why don't you love me?

Me:  I still love you, I swear I do.  Its just... Its the timing.  Its not you, Its me.  I'll keep in touch.  I promise.

One thing lead to another, and now I am about 40K words into the fantasy novel.  Things are moving really fast, I have even told my parents about the book.  My commitment is solid.  But then I started this blog....