The Black Moment

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This is maybe my favorite thing about being a writer… “the black moment.” I came across a nifty article recently about the subject over at Rayne Hall’s blog.

The Black Moment is a descent into darkness – physical, emotional, mental, psychological or spiritual, or even all of those.

Perhaps I have a streak of sadism, but I enjoy running my characters through grueling physical and emotional gauntlets and ratcheting up the tension in a story until my poor creations verge on breaking. ahem. Some of my favorite moments are from Tolkien when total despair is imminent (Frodo dying by Shelob being a huge one.) King and Martin are also masters of this.

My daughter is a big-time reader. She got quite a kick out of this image I posted to my Instagram and totally agreed it fits me:
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I’m proud to have hosted angry phone calls when readers come to points when I’ve put a character through the wringer or even killed him or her. Those moments of tension that nearly break the story are critical to a memorable climax! Don’t skimp on the turmoil and check out Rayne’s blog for some great advice on situations and nuances to increase the intensity of the effect.

Review: Enden

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I had the chance to review an early copy of David Kummer’s Enden which promises to be the first in a larger series. There are a number of things to appreciate about the novel which I got as part of the review section for my Inside the Inkwell blog. One of the first things worth noting is that the author is still a high school student. That’s significant to know because of the level of mythopoeia surrounding the story. I read a pretty large number of books each year and focus my efforts on Sci FI and Fantasy; Enden might be the most Tolkienesque story I’ve read this year.

As a fellow fantasy author I appreciate the replete notes and indexes. It goes a long way to building the world. The writing does have a Tolkien flair as well which has pros and cons. It may turn off some younger or first-time fantasy readers, but a familiarity even with just the Peter Jackson movies will make the text more accessible to readers and help envision the settings, races, etc. I did find (and appreciate) the level of magic, which also hearkens to LotR rather than Forgotten Realms and that makes it more important/more powerful by comparison, IMO.

I mentioned that I had an early draft to review. There were some formatting glitches and consistent grammatical errors. I did mention them to the writer who discovered it had been the early draft; some of them have been fixed through revisions, but I can’t speak to it in the final version. I also don’t care for the cover; readers of my indie writing blog may be familiar with this amongst my other pet peeves, but don’t let it deter you, especially if you’re looking for a new, up-and-coming author to follow and a new realm to explore.

There are great seeds planted for a great series. Time will tell where it all goes and with such a young author things will only continue to build the world of Enden one page at a time.

Get it here:
www.amazon.com/Enden-Dark-Fantasy-Novel-Wars-ebook/dp/B01MYS1XFH

State of Writing

So it’s the day after Christmas. I’m enjoying some vacation time and find I have to sneak away from family to do some of the writing that I want to accomplish. I finished my third draft of Fear in a Land Without Shadows a couple days before Santa’s big show (my first day of vacation when everyone else was still in school/work) and feel it’s ready to for beta readers to start looking at.

I spent a couple days trying to nail down my next project. As I flipped through my little black book where I keep my idea hooks and outlines for stuff I’m working on I came across a hook that I’d forgotten about. It’s a short story I hope to have written before New Year’s. It’s called One Star and kind of a reverse of Misery where an obsessed author kidnaps a vindictive Amazon reviewer and tortures him. I’m kind of channeling my inner psycho for it which makes sleeping a little scary… I’m kind of a method actor when it comes to writing. I’ve done some twisted stuff in my dreams the last two nights… on the flip side, though, it inspired me for something else… I had to stop writing about a third through the story (right after the kidnapping,) because I needed to sketch out what the author’s book. It turns out he was a speculative fiction author and the book he wrote is critical to the plot of the second Wolf of the Tesseract book which takes a more Lovecraftian appeal (though I definitely side more with the August Derleth side of the mythos than with Yog-Sogothery) One Star will likely be a part of a series of short stories that set the stage for Wolves of the Tesseract.

Diversity in Books

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Last week I mentioned twitter pitch contests. One of the link/resources featured some drama regarding some perceived racial discrimination during a pitch contest. I don’t have any info about that but was intrigued by an article posted by a literary agency. White Writers: Don’t Write Diverse Books. Instead, Read Them.

Getting outside your own point of view is a great exercise in writing–and it goes beyond just race. Write outside your own gender or species even! As a matter of pure exercise I wrote Piano of the Damned to do exactly that. As an Evangelical Christian youth pastor I put myself in the shoes of a gay pianist with mafia ties in the 1940s.

I don’t put much stock in “white privilege” arguments (we’re all messed up human beings and just in different ways) and do my best to live life with race-blindness. (I’ll refrain from talking specifics about my fairly diverse family and friendships as that has somehow become a part of white privilege, too.) Still, the advice in Upstart Crow’s blog is good.

“The best story you can tell is your own story, one that speaks the truth about your experiences. One that translates your triumphs and failures into an unforgettable character.”

Tell your story from your POV in the human condition, but don’t be too scared to write characters from different points of view, too. Don’t skimp on the research–if you have a black character or asian one find a friend with that background and get some feedback. Just remember, our humanity is the primary thing that binds us together. Use that well and everything will take on an air of authenticity.

Review of: The Eye of Nefertiti, A Pharaoh’s Cat Novel

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The Eye of Nefertiti, A Pharaoh’s Cat Novel is not my usual style of book. I received a paperback copy in exchange for an honest review. Every now and then we often say, “what the heck” and give something different a try… like the time my wife and I went to a sushi bar with friends. Turns out I’m veeeeerrryyy particular on my sushi. This book was a better choice than the Spicy Unagi Roll.

We’ll start with the positive. It’s different, at least for me, and is a low-investment book. It wasn’t a riveting book that plays with emotions and kept me awake at night; it felt more like a cozy mystery. Truthfully, though, it was interesting and constantly threw out little nuggets about the larger story (it didn’t seem like a sequel either and really was a stand-alone) with magic time-traveling boats by page two. Page one mentions the Pharaoh’s vizier, even. I mention him to demonstrate a comfortable plot (not exactly “predictable,” but comfy… cozy;) the vizier kills the pharaoh on page two. The book continually reminded me of stories I checked out of my local library as a teenager. I read a lot more variety in fiction as a teenager and something in the pacing and style reminded me of so many of them. Wrappa-Hamen (the cat,) is likable enough and is bit of a wise-cracker which helps keep the mood light (it might otherwise be a pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy at many points.) The writing was tight and it appeared well edited so the little “format things” didn’t make it difficult to stay engage.

So here are only gripes with the book, for what they’re worth: I really don’t like the cover. It seems unrelated, but I’ve blogged a bunch about the importance of covers for a while over at Inside the Inkwell.  It’s from a first person POV… while I didn’t mind it once I started the book, I opened the cover after committing to read it and groaned—I might not have agreed to read/review had I known (also, see blog for more.) I will also admit, though, that it worked for her book and was maybe helpful from a fundamental standpoint since her protagonist is not a human. The “cozy mystery” style is not my thing—and that’s just another personal preference—but I can still recognize good writing and quality when I see it. I know some people who really love it and while reading kept thinking I know so many people who would love this. One of them is my daughter. If I think she would like it, it gets a thumbs up… er, paws up?

You can get the book at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Eye-Nefertiti-Maria-Luisa-Lang/dp/0996335218

State of Writing

I’m feeling pretty good about this last week and the rest of the year. I think I’ll make my goal of having the next draft of my horror novel done before New Years. I’m 150 pages deep on the edits. I’m 80k words deep into a total of 105k and edited like 80 pages last week. Plus I go on vacation mid-week, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic and would like to have it done by this week if possible so I can start on my pitch letter for it. I’m going to have that polished and shine up a presentation for pitching agents this spring.

The next couple weeks have scheduled book reviews in progress and I’ve already got a months worth of blog material written and ready for release so I should be freed up to concentrate on my next couple projects.

Over the last couple weeks I’ve notice one little wrinkle: with the crazy online flurry for holiday shopping my book ads are lost in the mix and can’t compete with the more expensive budgets of dropshippers, etc. I think I’ve spent less than a quarter in the past week and my ads have rarely been shown… crossing my fingers for post-NYE to see it bounce back.

Twitter Pitch Contests?

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I feel like I’m pretty well up to speed on things in the author world. If you’ve been following my blog, you might agree. But here’s the thing, I’m really not.
At least, not as much as I’d like to think. Typically I spend a lot more time making new worlds than engaging in the real world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as you know that and take steps to overcome the situation.

Last year I went to a writers conference in Boston hosted by @ChuckSambuchino who puts out the annual Writer’s Market guide to publishers and literary agents. When hit asked who was familiar with things like #pitpub, #pitmad, or #pit2pub I suddenly realized how bad I am at utilizing Twitter.

While getting ready to do the 2017 MN Writers Workshop in St Paul–after a 3 year absence in my state I thought I ought to revisit the idea. (Go ahead and check out the conference… I’m actually in the event photo–hairy guy in the lower left corner! Mama always said I was pretty.)

I still don’t know as much about Twitter or about #pitchwars kinds of submissions events but I consider myself a real author and so I thought I’d look into it more. If that describes you as well you might check out some links I compiled to help ease you into the scene.

Here are 3 great resources on the topic:
https://novelpitch.com/tag/pitmad/ info and advice
http://carissa-taylor.blogspot.com/2013/01/contest-madness.html pitch contest schedule
http://carissa-taylor.blogspot.com/2013/01/contest-madness.html pitch wars info/home

I’m still brushing up on my pitches (being that short is hard). Here are a few samples of what I’m working on. (shooting for at least 3 pitches to alternate during a contest)

Earth’s last 300 humans fear the dark, but the lights begin failing. A barren OB & her brother with Down’s syndrome must join a recluse to turn back a 2nd demonic Armageddon.

An infertile obstetrician & man w/downs syndrome team are trapped in a bunker w/an atheist & priest and must stop a demon bent on apocalypse

happy tweeting. If you’re coming to the

The Shack Movie rant + State of Writing

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People are mean. It’s a good reminder I suppose. I think I might be fed up enough with Goodreads to avoid it, however. It feels like its overrun with keyboard warriors with a bone to pick against Christian works. Had another 2-star, discouraging review of Why Your Pastor Left. The reviewer obviously didn’t read it very close, didn’t understand the topic, or is part of the problem that plagues ministers (he disputed that pastors should be well-paid and actually claimed they work only 6-8 hours a week at most! This is literally the exact opposite of what I demonstrate in the book… was a real facepalm moment… I know I’m ranting atm, but it feels good and it’s my blog. I do what I want–it’s how I process my emotions. Reviewer was quite upset that the book was not a linear narrative of why my pastor left and thus called my work editorially disorganized and a mess even though it goes ch1-the problem, ch2-why there’s a problem, ch3+ ten specific, topical areas to address, an alternative point of view chapter, and a final chapter on summation/remediation… but whatever. I’m thinking a Pinneapple Apple Pen mock video is in order. I can imagine it now “I have an opinion… I have an internet… keyboard warrior!”) rant over

just kidding, not really. I went about my business and saw that “Christians” are trying to flex their social muscle against The Shack movie, calling it blasphemy. Give me a break you guys. Quit beating a dead horse and telling everyone what not to do–as a movement contemporary Christianity has delved too dangerously into social and cultural politics and left behind what they ought to be doing: genuinely pursuing God and seeking individual revival. If the world went dark then your light would shine all that much brighter–it is not your job to make the rest of the world bright. We do not make fellow Christians, the only job of a Believer is to present their faith, not try and effect outward conformity to our beliefs! It is the job of the Holy Spirit to move on the hearts of the nonbeliever and bring about repentance and growth. We merely have a part in that through proclaiming the Gospel (the true Gospel, not our version of it,) and guiding eventual growth through discipleship. So you don’t like exactly how the allegory that is The Shack plays out because it is not solid theology. SO WHAT! It is not a theological movie! It is a story that is a stepping-off point towards sharing our faith. Why would we want to destroy those opportunities that present themselves and invite open dialogue of the real Gospel (I admit that The Shack isn’t an evangelistic piece–and that’s OKAY! For crying out loud, we can use almost anything–even secular things–to present the message of the Cross. Because Christians are write now writing refutations [we only read/listen to respond these days, not to understand,] I will give an example an example from scripture. Acts 17, Paul uses even A PAGAN GOD to present Jesus. I know, I know…that was just an analogy. Fine, move to verse 28 where Paul literally quotes a popular secular poet (the anachronistic equivalent of twitter celeb/movie-star) in order to bridge that gap, using a quote from an ungodly pagan’s text to make his point and illustrate a point. It was a launching point to present the Gospel.)

Christians are just as nasty as the secularists and atheists who troll Goodreads to tear down Christian books (yes, it’s a thing). I had one of them mid-week; he tried to trash me on the comments section of my book advert because I write faith-based SF/F as if God can not use a whole genre (which was invented by a Christian, FYI–see John Bunyan). He went as far as publicly calling me a false shepherd.

Maybe the whole light and darkness comparison is what we are afraid of! If lukewarm, semi-light Christians were surrounded by actual darkness they would be FORCED to shine bright and truly live out what they claim… by contrast, if the rest of the world were genuinely converted to real light their relative dimness would become painfully evident and so forcing that lukewarmness/mild incandescence onto the surrounding culture shows them in a good light. Come on people. Let’s get real and start being okay with being a light in the darkness.

(That last sentence does not mean we desire darkness and the fact that I feel it necessary to throw in that caveat/correction disturbs me. Christians, stop tearing down other people working on behalf of the Kingdom.) Paul was willing to go to Mars Hill because he knew what it was like to be unsaved (though he had been religious all his life) and so he was willing to do what it took to present a case for Jesus to the gentiles of Athens. When we really understand the consequences of living in darkness we will do whatever it takes to shine that light–even if it means knowing and using secular culture, writing, movies, etc. It might even include science fiction, fantasy, or comic books. Get over it. God can use anything for his glory. Even you.
#rantover

Now onto my typical State of Writing post I do on Mondays.
So I had many late nights. Last week I promised I’d do at least three chapters in Fear in a Land Without Shadows. If I would’ve made that goal, I’d have edited half of Part 1 (of 3). I blew past it and edited more than half of the book over several late evenings. I also wrote a few articles for the local newspaper and wrote an encouragement article for a church planters on a large website/hub at their request. I plan to do about a half dozen for them. I also hope to have Fear in a Land Without Shadows edited into a relatively polished draft by New Years. I’ll be seeking beta readers and an editor around that time and hope to pitch agents in Feb.

 

Great Review Online of Why Your Pastor Left

 

Networking with other authors and bloggers is paramount! A fellow blogger asked for a copy of my nonfiction book and I obliged. The result is a very nice analysis of the book from my someone in my target audience. I invite you to check out the review and subscribe to April Yamasaki’s blog:

https://whenyouworkforthechurch.com/2016/12/08/life-in-the-fishbowl-and-why-your-pastor-left/

20 Signs You’re a Sci-fi Reader

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When you’re done with this blog, go get a shiny new copy of Dekker’s Dozen

quick disclaimer, I totally lifted the idea from Author J.S.Morrin’s blog post 20 Signs You’re a Fantasy Reader (http://www.jsmorin.com/2013/11/20-signs-youre-fantasy-reader)

If you’re like me and have read a ton of science fiction from the golden age and beyond then you’ve probably internalized enough of those tropes to make you feel as appealing as a scruffy looking nerf herder. Here are my top 20 that I literally jotted down in a spare 10 minutes.

1. If you ever got mad at the Halo franchise for not calling it a Niven ring.
2. If the topic Star Wars vs Star Trek has ever been listed as “off limits” during a social gathering.
3. When people skeptically looked at your junky, first car you replied “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”
4. You own a high quality replica tricorder, sonic screwdriver, or any other handheld SF film device.
5. You avoid any shirt more than 80% red
6. You already know what color your lightsaber blade should be (bonus points if you’ve ever sketched out the handle).
7. You only allow references to Nathan Fillion as Captain Mal.
8. Driving through snowy weather is always referred to as Hyperspace.
9. You’ve ever tried to give a secret message in binary code.
10. You and your friends have had serious discussions about the science and practicality of lasers.
12. You make Battlestar Galactica references every time you go to Starbucks.
13. The word Quark conjures up at least two mental images.
14. You’ve engaged in 10+minutes worth of debate over why Jar Jar has ruined everything holy.
15. Not only do you know what the acronym TARDIS stands for, but you have a fierce opinion about which actor was the best Doctor
16. You have a preference for which type of Mech or a class of starcraft you’d like to pilot.
17. You draw political parallels and advice from Babylon 5.
18. You have a cosplay costume hanging in your closet right now and are actively seeking excuses to don it.
19. You know more than a little about xenomorph biology, predator culture, or the weyland yutani corporation.
20. You know any words in klingon.

Have a favorite on this list or something else to add? Let me know in the comments!