Friday, March 30, 2012

A new category for Romy

You know, I think I've decided what literary category Romy Malloy belongs in.

Drum roll please...

I believe she shall be called: Sci-Fi/Thriller/Romance

Yep... I think that pretty well describes it.

Thanks for tuning in!


PPC (and Jarboe of course)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using life

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saw “write what you know”, right?

What the hell does that even mean?

I know, I know... people mean well when they say it. I’m sure they are trying to give you what they believe is good advice.

But, let’s be honest here... did it really help you to hear that?

Do you really know what it means when someone says that to you?

(there used to be a Snoopy pic here:-)
Ok, now that we’re channeling the Snoopy muse, let’s get to it!

I can only bet that when someone tells you to write what you know, they are trying to say that when you start writing think first on a subject about which you feel you are an expert.

Well... that narrows things down quite a bit.

Come on... show of hands... how many of you feel like you are an expert about something?

Ok... well, how many of you feel you have at least a “jack-of-all-trades” level of knowledge and (ahem) expertise about something?

Wow. Ok then... moving on.

Many of us, most of us more likely, cannot profess to be “experts” about much of anything. Especially not something that we hope a large percentage of people equal to the population of India would be interested in.

If I were to write about “what I know”, I would be writing about Linux servers (computer stuff to all you non-technical folks). I am a Systems Expert. I could write ALL DAY about the benefits of integrating Linux Servers into your data center.


That would not interest very many people. At least, not as many as I would like.

I can hear you all now -- “So... what then? Just what the hell good is this “write what you know” advice, and, more importantly, just what the hell am I supposed to write about today? Huh? Come on, tell me! This blank paper isn’t going to get dirty all by itself!”

Ah my little plotters... that’s PRECISELY what I am going to tell you about today!

Well, er... not the part about telling you what to write. That’s up to you. I meant the part about giving you better advice than the “write what you know” stuff, cause, you know, well... that’s pretty stupid advice when it comes right down to it.

I have a better mantra for you. One that I believe ALL writers can use to find a better muse.


That’s right. Use your LIFE.

Um... just what the hell does that mean?

I’m using HELL a lot today... weird. And lots of ellipses... strange....

Just keep reading grasshopper.

What it means to USE LIFE
If you really want to write what you know, just look to your own life for inspiration.

I’m not talking about what you do... look back to my Linux server reference if you don’t get what I mean about that.

Let me give you an example of what I mean to use your own life for inspiration.

A few weeks ago in another blog post I mentioned an incident that happened one summer when I was a kid involving a little league baseball game, an ice cream cone and a camper full of teenage kids on a hot summer day.

Well... it’s time to tell that story, and I will use this as catalyst for the point I am trying to drive home about using your life to find inspiration.

It was a dark and stormy night...
Ha. JK.
Just after the game my dad offered to buy everyone drinks from the concession stand. My two older brothers, the team pitcher and catcher, had won the game and they were parched. My sister and her friend screamed through the whole game, not for my brothers really, more for the cute pitcher on the other team.

Either way, they were thirsty too.

I wasn’t really thirsty. The cool water from the fountain had been enough for me.

What I wanted was ice cream.

Ahh... that would cool me off for sure.

I’d had a good game too. Being batboy is hard work, almost as hard as pitching. And, I didn’t interrupt the game once by running out to get the bat too early like I did at last week’s game. I’d worked hard at not doing that. I’d felt pretty stupid when I heard all the men in the crowd laughing and all the women saying “Awww how cute!”

Anyway, I felt like I kind of deserved an ice cream cone.

But dad said no way. I said I didn’t want anything then.

I waited outside the concession stand to teach my dad a lesson. If I couldn’t get ice cream then I wouldn’t talk to him. That’d show him.

Mr. Horton, one of my dad’s coaches, saw me as he walked up with his son Skip, another player on my brothers team.

“Hey Paul! You getting a drink?”

“Naw,” I said and kicked the ground with my tennis shoes, wishing I could buy metal cleats like the older boys because they made cool sounds when you walked on the asphalt.

Mr. Horton gave me a slow look.

“No money?” he asked.

Now that was not really the truth, but I saw a spark of hope.

I shook my head slowly and tried to look as sad as I could.

“Well,” Mr. Horton said looking at Skip who was already partially inside the cool darkness of the concession stand door. “I was just getting ready to buy Skip a drink. I bet I could spring for another.”

Now I knew that a cone was only $.10 cents more than a drink, so I pulled out all the stops and played my best Hollywood award winning acting part.

“That’s OK,” I said and kicked the ground again. “I really wanted a cone, but... well... nevermind.”

Believe it or not I actually started to walk away.

“Hey, Paul!” Mr. Horton called out.

I stopped but didn’t turn around yet because I was silently mouthing a quick bargain to God that if I got this cone I would be the best kid all week long for my mom and dad. Please God... PLEASE!

I slowly turned around. Mr. Horton was smiling.

“I think I could spring for a cone, too.”

So I got my cone.

I was waiting back outside the concession stand again before I realized I’d forgotten about my whole family.

See, there was about ten games all ending at the same time so there was people everywhere!

I was watching a few kids a little older than me playing cup ball in the asphalt walkway that led back out to the parking lot.

Cup ball’s cool, but I could never make the cups stick together well enough to actually play it. See, the big kids with stronger arms would take about ten cups and squash them together really hard until they made like a ball or something. Then you just use your hand like a bat and hit it as hard as you can. This was a whole lot better than playing with a real ball, because you wouldn’t get yelled at cause no one could ever hit it hard enough to get out into the real baseball fields.

So that’s what I was watching while my dad and everybody else walked out to the parking lot to load up in the camper.

I only realized this was my first mistake when my older brother cuffed me on the ear as I watched the cup ball game.

“Come on fart-face! Dad says to hurry!”

Holy crap! I’d forgotten we were leaving. I ran after my brother like a dog was chasing me. When dad says hurry, you better hurry.

He had a saying that went something like “When I say jump you better ask how high!” He had another one too, but I can’t repeat the whole thing. It was like if he said the “S” word I’d better squat and grunt. If he wasn’t around we’d sometimes laugh about that one. But only when he was not around.

When we caught up, I realized my second mistake.

“Just where in the hell did you get that?” dad said, snarling like a mad dog. Everybody else kept on walking. They knew better.

“What?” I asked stupidly, my eyes slowly sinking to the cone still sticking up out of my hand. I’d forgotten to ditch the cone! Oh crap was I in trouble! Dad had specifically said I could not get a cone.

“Who got you that?” he spat out at me, barely containing the rage. He grabbed my shoulder hard and got down real close to my face and was acting like he didn’t want to have to yell in front of all the people. I knew first hand that he wouldn’t hold back forever.

“I... uh... I don’t know...”

“You damn well do too know who bought it! Now tell me who!”

“It was... it was... it was Mr. Horton,” I said nearly whispering.

Dad’s whole body was shaking and it wasn’t cause he was cold. Bad enough I’d gotten someone to buy me a cone, but his own coach? Unforgiveable.

Without taking his eyes off me he dug into his pants pocket and drew out three dull quarters. He threw them on the ground in a pile of dirt that had somehow collected right there underneath us on top of the asphalt walkway.

“Pay him back,” was all he said. Then he let go of my shoulder with a push and walked on toward the parking lot and the camper.

I wasn’t crying, not really. I knew how to hold it all back pretty good. I scooped up the quarters and lit out of there.

The ball diamonds at 3&2 were set up in a wheel-spoke like pattern, and the asphalt walkways went in two opposite directions leading to two separate parking lots on either side of the diamonds. Somehow, can’t say how, I knew that Mr. Horton always parked in the lot opposite where my dad always parked.

I had to hurry.

Running at almost full speed, and wishing again I had metal cleats cause they make an even cooler sound when you run on asphalt, I headed out to find Mr. Horton.

When I found him I jammed the three quarters at him and breathlessly mouthed a thank you.

“What’s this?” Mr. Horton said confused.

“Dad says to pay you,” I said grasping at a painful stitch in my side. “Gotta run!”

Mr. Horton’s face got all screwed up and I wondered if he was getting sick. That would be gross. And probably funny. But I couldn’t stick around to see it. I turned and ran, still clutching my cone. See, I figured since dad didn’t swat it out of my hand when he had the chance then it was still free game.

“But it was only $.65 cents!” Mr. Horton yelled at my back.

“Keep it!” I shouted back without turning.

Catching a quick lick of the quickly melting cone I bolted back toward the other parking lot, thinking if I was lucky I could probably finish off half of it before I got back to the camper and my dad. I knew he would not let me keep it in front of all the other kids. Bad example and all, needs a whipping boy, yada, yada.

So, with what I figured was one last lick I jumped the dirt pile where dad had deposited his quarters and laid it in for the last lap out to the parking lot.

But when I looked up, there was the camper headed down the long driveway that led out to the road.

They were leaving. Without me.

That son-of-a-bitch was leaving me behind!

I ran harder than ever.

They were almost to the stop sign.

I was halfway down the driveway.

He was turning left, getting on the road.

I was at the stop sign.

He was gone.

I was huffing and not pretending to hold back the tears anymore.

He’d left me.

The melting ice cream cone drooped out of my hand and fell to the ground mixing up with dirt crumbs and rocks. I didn’t want it anymore anyway.


Whew! That was a bit longer than intended! And, apologies, I still get a little weepy when I write and then re-read that story. It’s (mostly) a true story. Only a little embellishment.

But that’s a great example of what I want you to understand.

Hopefully I poured out all the emotions I feel when I think about that time in my life.

And guess what?

There’s a TON of stuff in there I can draw on for other writing examples. Sure there’s kid stuff and parental relationships, etc.

But there’s also political structures and hierarchical organizational structures! (dad’s and coaches relationship, the division of kids playing cup ball).

And sex! (ewww... I hate using that term when I think of my sister and her friends ogling teenage boys, but you get what I mean).

That’s how I break all this stuff down into a usable mantra I call USING LIFE.
I have TONS of experiences like these from which I can draw on to make a story believable.

Say for instance I have a scene in a sci-fi novel where a character is building a new type of interstellar hyper-drive for a starship.

Am I an expert on interstellar hyper-drives?

Umm... hell no??!!

But... with a little research, I CAN gather a functional understanding of a few specifics about interstellar hyper-drives and then... here’s the magic sauce... I can PERSONALIZE IT.

That’s right... that’s what I said.

The key to making things entertaining and believable is to personalize it.

Of course you need to do your research and become as familiar as possible on the particular subject you’ve chosen to write about.

But all the research in the whole wide world will be dry without personalization.

Take that character and give her some backstory baby! Expose her relationship with her father, or brother, or her lover. Show us readers why we should be interested in her.

If you can do that by drawing on your own personal relationships you will successfully pull the reader into a world you have just made interesting and entertaining.

Trust me... you CAN do it!

Thanks for reading! (and sticking with me this long!)



Copyright © 2012 Paul Philip Carter

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Top 5 PoC Posts for March

Hello Fellow Plotters!

Wow! I can't believe how many new visitors we've had in March to The Plotters of Cantaera blog!

I am truly thankful to everyone who has stopped by to read my posts and check out the excerpts from the upcoming PoC book one entitled "ENEMIES".

Please continue to watch the blog and my tweets for the actual release date of the novel... it IS coming soon I promise!

To celebrate the incredible jump in visitors I thought it would be a great time to run a post this week listing out The Top Five Blog Posts for the month of March on The Plotters of Cantaera blog.

(I based the ranking on the number of individual page views).

#5: Don't fear the Reaper - BE the Reaper
OK, technically this was a February piece. So shoot me. I like it. And it's the top five in views for the last 30 days. So there. Get over it. And I like it. Enough said.

#4: Of Origins and Beginnings
Ever wonder how I got the idea for the strange world of Cantaera in the first place? Look here for all your answers!

#3: Professor Pedantic
I LOVE this post. If you have someone who constantly berates your writing rather than offer constructive criticism, then this post is for you. It's hard enough to have the confidence to write something and altogether another thing to publish it. We do NOT need a Negative Ned whispering in our ear how unworthy we are to do try to continue writing.

#2:  Thanktivism
This was another of my personal faves as it focuses on reasons why writers should be thankful. 


Drum roll please...

And the Numero Uno top visited blog post for March is...

#1:  Hey whoa there fella! Ease up with the introspective monologues!
This post focused on a common issue all writers face at one time or other where a character speaks internally for an uncomfortable period of time. 


Oh, and I could not let the last 30 days slip by without mentioning the guest blog I did over on D.P. Prior's site about World Building. Go check it out and let D.P. know what you think!

Here's the link to D.P.'s site...

It was awesome that he allowed me to write on his blog... thanks again D.P.!

Anyway, that does it for March!

Again I really appreciate all the views and I look forward to another month of exhilarating and stimulating blog posting in April!



Friday, March 23, 2012

Deadlines and Commitments

The classic Bob Seger song “Against The Wind” has that great part in it...

Those drifter’s days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out.
As a maturing writer, that passage has taken on new meaning for me.

Yea, the old days are gone (and they’re better left alone... but that’s a Genesis song, not Bob Seger... I digress...)

I’m definitely settled down now so the part about drifter’s days is moot. They’re past me, long gone.

But I do have so much more to think about.

What to leave in or out? That’s the FUN part of writing, so no issue there.

It’s Deadlines and Commitments -- that’s the tricky part.

That’s where things get interesting.

Deadlines for Indie Authors
Deadlines ain’t such a bad thing. As an indie author, I can set my own deadlines.

What date will you release your new novel?

When I decide to.

What date will you have that blog post finished?

When I get to to it.

Now that’s the life!

But... there’s always a but.

Is it really ok to leave the readers waiting for a new novel?

Sure... well... that is if you don’t mind the possibility of losing those precious few who just can’t stand to wait.

So I guess it’s not ok. Short waits are acceptable. Even expected.

But even indie authors can’t string things along forever.

“Striking while the iron is hot” still applies for us indie’s as much as ever.

Maybe even more.

Tread carefully.

Commitments for Indie Authors
There’s balance in everything Daniel-san.

Daniel: When do I learn how to punch? 
Miyagi: Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?
There are some things writers can take liberties with, such as deadlines. Adjust as needed, but you are your own master and can set your own deadlines.

But commitments... now there is something you should never take lightly.

When you get to commitments, even a lax attitude to a deadline must take a backseat.

Say for example you commit to someone that you will have such-and-such task done by so-and-so date.

You better damn well have it done by that date.

Or you better have a really good excuse. It's called being professional!

Even an indie writer needs to keep a professional demeanor.

Again, maybe it’s even MORE important for an indie writer to seem professional.

Let’s face it, this hill we are climbing (all by our little lonesome) is a tough enough nut to tackle as it is. (heehee... mixed metaphors... gotta love ‘em!)

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot right out of the starting gate by presenting yourself as a person completely devoid of professionalism.

Sure, a little bit of first act Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper’s writer character in Limitlesswith Robert DeNiro) is to be expected.
But at some point you gotta pop the metaphorical NZT and start TICKING! (disclaimer -- Paul Philip Carter does not endorse taking illegal or illicit drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist. Unless NZT really DOES exist, then, welllll... who’s your dealer?)

It may even be good for you to get up early, shower, shave, get dressed in something other than sweats and at least pretend to be professional for a little while.

Give it a shot. You may be surprised.

And one other thing on commitments... never Never NEVER get stingy on your commitments to your family. Always always put family first. As long as they are sensitive to your deadlines, you should be generous in your time spent with them.

Good luck!

Thanks for reading!



Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friendly little excerpt...

Hello all you Romy-ites!

I know it's been a while but I wanted to send word that the Romy Malloy books are still alive and well and I am STILL working to get them to you!

As quickly as possible!

But... as a tiny bit of solace to those who just can't wait... I thought I would offer up a little bit of what I've been working on today.

The piece below is from book two titled WICKED GAME.

In this new edition of the Romy Malloy series you will find all your favorite friends: Romy, Det. Marks, Candy, Jasper Malloy (Romy's dad), and possibly even Peter Abbott will make an appearance.

And of course... JARBOE! What Malloy book would be complete without Romy's faithful four-footed companion?

And so, without further delay, here is one of the opening scenes from WICKED GAME:

He looked up then, and Romy could see that he probably hadn’t slept much lately either.
“Looks like you’ve been hitting the books late too?” she said as a question.
“Oh, well... I, ah... I’ve been...”
His answer was cut off.
Suddenly a high pitched droning alarm buzzer sounded from the speaker in the ceiling right above their heads.
“Holy shit!” Candy blurted out.
“What the...” Romy started to say but Tanner lifted his hand to quiet them and made a shushing noise.
There were voices coming from down the hall, from one of the rooms they had been using to study portals and dimensional travel. As Romy stared down the hall, she saw it was the room. The room where they had been trying to build a new portal.
The doors burst open and one of the domestic techs sprinted toward them.
“Mr. Tanner!” she shouted when she saw them. She skidded to a halt still fifteen feet away, waving her hands in motion to get Tanner to come to her.
“We got one!” she yelled. “A new arrival!”
“What?” Tanner asked. “Are you sure?”
“Yes! But hurry... something’s wrong!”

And there you have it! Hope you enjoyed reading that as much or more than I enjoyed writing it!



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So excited...

I am very excited today.

I have two chapters and a WIP outline for book two already titled "WICKED GAME".

Book one, BRILLIANT DISGUISE, is still under submission so no news yet.

But no matter what it WILL be published this year!

Plus, for all you Romy-ites out there... can you guess where the book titles are coming from?


I won't leave ya hanging...

These are all popular 80's or 90's songs.

Brilliant Disguise? Bruce Springsteen.

Wicked Game? Chris Isaak.

Cool huh?



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Big Three for writing advice

When I first envisioned writing this blog post I was thinking it was going to be difficult.

Wow was I wrong. And I should have known better. These guys make my job look soooo easy!

I am referring of course to the writers I call The Big Three Behemoths of Writing Advice and Social Media Savviness-ess-ess -- or TBTBoWAaSMS.

Yea, that works.

And who are these big three?

Why none other than Bob Mayer, Chuck Wendig, and Kristen Lamb of course!

I gotta tell ya my fellow plotters, without these folks I would still be wandering at the fringes of this cyber-wilderness picking berries from the blog-bushes along the edges of the Web-river and sipping brackish water from stagnant server-pools.

But with these folks?

I am a fearless orienteering bad-ass summa-beotch with Mad Max style hunter/killer skills carrying a sword of finely made word-wizardry and a shield of thick skinned heavy metal confidence.

Ain’t nobody gonna touch me now!

Well, that’s a little colorful, but mostly true. I do owe a lot to these folks.

And at the very least I can devote a blog post or two to spread the word and the love and encourage all the fledgling plotters out there to go and check these writers out and pass the word on to everyone else.

Not convinced?

Then let me tell you why you better listen.

First, Bob Mayer (here’s his site):

At first glance Bob Mayer might bring to mind a humble fatherly type you might find sitting in a leather armchair by a fire with a carved ivory pipe wearing a smoking jacket.
And you may be right, but you better know this -- Mr. Mayer is a West Point grad, a Special Forces Green Beret, an A-Team Commander (Yes, I said A-Team! Freaking A-Team!), and a Fort Bragg instructor! I don’t know about you but I see images of John Rambo and Col. Trautman more so than a pipe smoking literati!

But Mr. Mayer has tremendous skills in writing and marketing (specifically branding) and is more than willing to share a few of those skills on his web site. 

Go check him out. Now. It may be a matter of life and death (of your writing career).

Second is Chuck Wendig (site here):

Mr. Wendig might cuff my ear for saying so, but somewhere deep within that gruff, foul-mouthed, zombie-gut-wrenching exterior slumbers a teddy bear of a guy (OK, maybe it’s a Crouching Tiger, or sleeping lion... you get the picture). And just how do I know this you might ask?

Weellll... when I was just a noob-puppy blogger and tweeter (oh so long ago... heehee), I wandered aimlessly from the cyber-swamp into a plush grotto pumping 70’s Slade music and sporting Persian censer’s spewing cherry scented incense with lamb’s wool carpets lining the floors and a sign on the wall I could not interpret or comprehend (#terribleminds).

There I stood, dumb look Crayol-ed on my face, muddy Doc Martens slopping goo onto his carpets.

And there was Chuck Wendig, with that look on his face that seemed to say “I’m gonna chew out your freaking guts and spit them back into your ugly face!”

I stared at my boots, shamed to my core.

But what did Chuck do?

With much more respect than I deserved Chuck took me by the arm and led me back to the path of straight and narrow. And he was nice! I mean REALLY nice!

I have been a devoted acolyte ever since.

Read his blog. Take his advice.

And for the sake of all that is good and holy stay OFF the lamb’s wool carpets!

Third and last in the position of MOST HONOR AND RESPECT comes Kristen Lamb (her site here):

You could read Kristen’s site ANY day and come away with enough SOCIAL MEDIA advice to last a lifetime. Kristen’s site is THE PLACE to go for anything and everything you need to know to navigate your way through the labyrinthine maze of social media.

I basically knew nothing about Twitter when I got started. Kristen answered all my questions.

Not only does Kristen’s site answer all your questions but she has also created an environment (#MyWANA and many other hashtags) where a new writer can go for advice and encouragement ALL THE TIME.

And she does all this while wrangling Texas Tornadoes!

Just last week a fellow writer who was struggling found a metric ton of cyber hugs and (I hope) is doing well and is back on this merry-go-round we can call “modern day authorship”.

Go read Kristen. And share your successes and hardships on #MyWANA. Seriously, folk there really do care.

Look folks... The Plotters of Cantaera site is not all about writing tips. I am no Writer Self-help Guru. My goal here is to get the word out for my fantasy novels.

But I also want to share the things I have found along the way in my writing career that may help others out.

I hope this does help -- and I mean you.

These other folks, The Big Three, they know their stuff.

Do yourself a favor. Read the stuff they write.

And then go be a writer yourself.

Thanks to The Big Three!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Of Origins and Beginnings

Last weekend my wife reminded me of a story from my youth that got me thinking about beginnings. The story is about a little league baseball game, an ice cream cone, and a camper full of teenage kids on a hot summer day. The story is intriguing, full of conflict and action and all sorts of things that can grab a reader and hold them until the end.

And I want to retell it here... but not yet.

I really want to do it up right.

Today, since I was prompted to consider beginnings, I will tell you my dear readers and fellow plotters, about the beginnings of The Plotters of Cantaera.

Some may ask how I came up with the idea for The Plotters of Cantaera, or what the beginning was. There are many beginnings we could discuss, so when I encounter this type of question I often throw back a few question of my own:

Do you mean to ask about the very first creative spark that prompted me to write this story?

Or do you mean to ask how I came up with or decided on the beginning of the first chapter?

Or are you really asking how I decided to begin to write fantasy novels?

I believe these are all good questions with intriguing answers.

To begin, I will address question #1:

What was the very first creative spark that prompted me to write the story The Plotters of Cantaera?

First, a little history, a little backstory, is necessary so that a reader new to this blog might understand this world.

When we first encounter Cantaera, we enter a world that is intended to be a utopia. It is a world controlled by a race of seemingly benevolent beings called the au-Vonya, beings with almost God-like powers. The au-Vonya control the thoughts and actions and memories of all the inhabitants of Cantaera through a powerful device called “plots”.

All au-Vonya are trained from an early age to help in administering the plots. Through years of schooling and apprenticeship training each au-Vonya rises through the ranks until they are fully mature and begin to one day work as fully trained plotters.

Beginning as day-plotters, the youngest fully trained plotters work with a sub-section of Cantaeran subjects within a specific region. Day-plotters watch the Cantaeran’s and monitor and report on daily activity. If a day-plotter finds a subject who steps out of line of the prescribed plots as written by the senior plotters, a report (called a following) is written which can suggest certain edits to the plots to, shall we say, nudge the Cantaeran subject back into a range of action better suited to the au-Vonya dictates.

The first spark I had for this story begins here: Keeril, a young day-plotter fresh out of apprenticeship, discovers a young Cantaeran named William Deane has done something, has behaved in a way which is counter to the prescribed plots. This action is called a leap. Keeril understands that it his duty to report this leap. He believes, as do all au-Vonya plotters, that his suggestions to ameliorate the effects of the leap will be added to the master sequence, the powerful editing process tool which runs at night and adjusts the memory and behavior of the people of Cantaera to get them back on track with the plots.
Keeril and his friend Siper decide to tell Leader Tanak, the senior leader of their section, about the leap. But the experienced (and jealous) Tanak discovers that what William Deane has done is no mere leap. Tanak finds that William Deane’s actions are so powerful and profound that the plots themselves could be destroyed and au-Vonya could lose control of Cantaera.

And that is the origin of the story.

It came to me as I was sitting in my car late one night in a grocery store parking lot while my young kids slept, waiting on  my wife to buy milk and cereal. I wrote all of that on the back of an envelope.

As intriguing as that story seemed to be, I did not believe that the telling should begin there. After much thinking and inner debate (something writers do a lot of), I decided I had to start the story with William Deane.

And this brings us to question #2:

How did I decide on the beginning for the first chapter?

William Deane was the beginning. His story, and thus the story of ALL Cantaeran’s, was the most intriguing and most worthy of devoting an entire novel to tell. The au-Vonya are amazing and definitely worthy of a major sub-plot, but William is the lead.

I decided to begin the entire novel at (or near) the point where William performs his leap. That’s the point where Keeril finds William, and the point where we discover William as readers. Deciding on this as the beginning allowed me to bring in characters and relationships I could never have envisioned if all the action occurred in au-Vonya. And, as a nice little twist, I was able to bring a little of au-Vonya to Cantaera... and if you want to know more about that you will have to buy the book.

And now, on to question #3:

How did I decide to begin to write fantasy novels?

This seems like an easy question. I read Tolkien as a kid (in fact I have read the LOTR trilogy over one hundred times! True story!) And I have read numerous other fantasy greats like R.A. Salvatore, C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Poul Anderson, Stephen Donaldson, and of course Orwell and many many others.

But, I also read a LOT of scifi. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Niven (ah Ringworld!), Wells, Verne, Huxley, Bradbury, Chalker, Miller (Canticle for Leibowitz) and on and on...

And as an adult I keep on reading: Rowling and Rothfuss, Goodkind and King, Martin and Jordan...

Why write fantasy?

Fantasy is/was my first true love. I can dig a good scifi, or even an OK scifi.

Fantasy just gets me right here (puts fingertips lightly to heart).

But ... I also write scifi. Urban scifi called the Romy Malloy series with book one called Brilliant Disguise coming soon and you can find info about it here.

And if you watch closely, I weave a bit of fictional technology into my fantasy stories.

And you cannot deny that there are some fantastical elements to my scifi.

When The Plotters of Cantaera and Brilliant Disguise are released you will know what I mean.

Keep watching. It will be soon.



Friday, March 16, 2012

Controlling your story

Last year I received news that I was beginning to lose my hearing a bit. Not a lot, but enough so that my unfulfilled dream of owning my own recording studio will remain unfulfilled.

Yesterday I found out my eyes were beginning to abandon me as well. Again, not a lot and not yet to the extent that I need permanent glasses. The store next to the optometrist has glasses for $200. My family says I can get a pair for $15 at the grocery store. (sigh)

Doesn’t seem worth the bother.

So...what’s the point?


That’s the point.

Control, which I am losing.

I’m in my mid-forties and I am losing control of certain bodily functions (stop chuckling, I’m not talking about those bodily functions).

Don’t get me wrong I realize I do not have it all that bad. It’s normal at my age to start to lose the clarity and functionality I enjoyed in my youth.

And I am grateful for what I still have. I am not really complaining here. I’m merely pointing some things out which are relevant to my point.

And what’s the point?


Chuck Wendig wrote an articlethe other day about throughlines.

I got to thinking about what my throughline is for The Plotters of Cantaera novels.


The primary throughline is control.

William Deane wants control of his life. The Maithus want control of their destiny. The au-Vonya plotters already have control of all of Cantaera. The ec-Vonya, the fallen ones, want to get their control back. The general populace of Cantaera has no idea they are being controlled.

That’s the primary throughline.

The secondary throughline is seeking.

From the start William Deane is seeking his father. The Maithus are seeking the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Ves-Jin. Coralis is seeking a place of power within the government. The government’s henchmen are seeking William Deane.

There are other throughlines as well, but that’s enough to get my point across.

And what was that original point?


Chuck is so right when he says we should seriously consider and sharpen our throughline ideas.

Understand what your throughlines are.

Keep a consistent theme through the whole story.

Good advice.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Professor Pedantic

Headline Nokomis, FL: (cuz I really wanna be there right now)

Professor I.M. Pedantic, tenured creative writing instructor at the University of Your Mind, has been charged with acting in collusion with three other persons of interest; Your Skills, Your Instincts, and Your Voice, in an attempt to make you a crappy writer.

Professor Pedantic and the others are allegedly involved in a bribery scandal with the goal of scaring fledgling authors into believing they have to do just as the Professor tells them to do all of the time.

“One must always adhere to the rules of grammar!” shouted the Professor as he was shoved into a police cruiser upon leaving the Nokomis Courthouse.

Protestors outside the courthouse carried signs and shouted in unison as the Professor was carted off to jail.

We ain't skeered a’you! We ain't skeered a’you!”

O Professor Pedantic! How the mighty have fallen!

I’m sure we all know someone like Professor Pedantic who comes along and always criticizes our writing.

I know at least one pedantic twit who I believe wants to crush my very soul to keep me from achieving any form of success just so he can say “I told you so!”

They’re out there, and they’re coming to get you. Hell, it may well BE you who is your own worst Professor Pedantic. If so, my condolences and here, I’ll pass the J├Ągermeister.

Yep, Professor Pedantic is one big SOB!

If you want to know the truth about it, the God’s honest, no strings attached, unvarnished, skin-your-knees-and-run-to-mama-crying truth, then here it is:

Professor Pedantic’s real goal is to make you question your skills and your instincts in order to squelch your voice!

That professor is a big jerk!

But we can overcome this, can’t we? We can get past this giant-pile-of-mustard-colored-baby-crap-on-a-sky-blue-painted-wall BS that this Professor Pedantic guy throws at us, right? (BTW, true story...when my son was newborn he actually had projectile mustard colored baby poop that shot out and hit my baby blue painted walls.)

The simple answer is YES WE CAN!

We can overcome this attack. And believe me, that’s exactly what this is folks, an attack on our confidence.

Look, there is good criticism, and then there is bad. I am taking about the bad kind. The kind that makes you constantly pick apart what you write and revise it and edit it and pick it apart and revise it and edit it and pick it apart... over and over until you get absolutely NOTHING done!

Now don’t get me wrong... you MUST edit and revise your work. That goes without saying (or it should).

What you DO NOT need is someone (yourself or someone like you) becoming so critical that you never accomplish your goals (whatever they may be).

Abject negativity will stall or completely shatter your writing goals.

If these naysayers can get you to question your skillsthen you will stop trusting your instincts, and then (gasp), guess what happens?

You will LOSE the ability to write in your own VOICE!

Perish the thought!

So, dear readers, since I have you on the edge of your nest begging like baby birds for another piece of regurgitated worm fodder, here’s the dealio...

There are THREE easy steps you can take to sharpen your skills and hone your instincts so that you can create a written piece of work that speaks in your own voice.
  1. Observe - As writers, it is imperative that we go out into the world and just LOOK AROUND. Look at nature, look at people, look at buildings. Watch what they do, see how they act, feel the texture of things. Think of ways to convey that information to someone else and NOT JUST in written form. Speak it out loud. Find ways to become a GOOD or GREAT STORYTELLER. And the best way to do this is to get out there and see the world. Now I know for some this may be impossible. SO GET ON THE INTERNET! The world is out there even on the internet, and while this might be an additional hurdle for you that others do not have, use that to your advantage! Take your so called “disadvantage” and force it to make you into a better writer!
  2. Learn - It’s one thing to be able to see the world, and maybe even be able to speak about it or write about it, but (cringe) Professor Pedantic is right about at least one thing: you HAVE to learn the profession of writing before you can be a writer. I know I know... this goes against everything I was saying before, right? No, not really. There are rules out there. And if you want to be able to convey your message properly you have to LEARN how to do that, learn the rules. There is structure, there is plot, there is pacing. But... just like Pee-Wee Herman said in his Big Adventure, everyone has a big BUT... DO NOT let these things get in your way. If you have to modify a rule to fit the perfect scene you are trying to create then bend it a little. But if you want to BREAK a rule...? Ummm... be careful. Rules are there for a reason and that’s why you have to LEARN your craft. But after that you can ignore Professor Pedantic.
  3. Do - You will hear all of what I have written elsewhere so let me sum it up for you in one easy word: DO! Just go do it. If you want to write then write. Do not let anyone stop you. And that includes YOU! Get out of your own way! Go observe. Go learn.  And then go do. (See what I did there??! Ha! Screw you Professor Pedantic!!)

Hope this helps! I really love helping others and if the Green Slime (remember that stuff from the 80’s? Awesome stuff!) that drips out of my mind helps out anyone else in any odd sort of way, then I have a NEW reason to be a thanktivisttoday!



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Friendly little excerpt...

Hello fellow Dimensional Travelers!
Since I had taken a short hiatus from blogging here, I thought it would be a great time to get back in the swing and offer up a little excerpt from the forthcoming first novel in the Romy Malloy urban sci-fi series.
Book one is titled Brilliant Disguise and is currently under submission to Baen publishing.

In the excerpt below we first meet Dr. Romy Malloy in her downtown St. Louis clinic at the exact time she first comes in contact with Peter Abbott, our intrepid inter-dimensional warrior. Abbott is under the influence of a "gibbet", a tiny device attached under his skin designed to keep him incapacitated
Here in "our" world, with our current medical knowledge we believe Abbott is suffering from some kind of neurological or psychosomatic disorder.
But Dr. Malloy soon finds out things are very different than she first believes.

“Can you shut that off?” Dr. Romy Malloy asked, pointing with angry jabs toward the front of the ambulance where the siren horns were mounted. The driver growled then raced to the cab and flipped the switch silencing the wailing siren, flashing a bit of anger of his own when he slammed the door shut behind him.
With the siren quiet, Romy finally heard the screams.
She jerked her hand away from the handle on the back of the ambulance, and then gave herself a sharp reprimand at the involuntary reaction. A doctor on the bleeding edge of experimental research into extreme psychosomatic disorders was not allowed to flinch from a patient’s erratic and extreme behavior. Even if, she thought with a snarl, the patient was thrust on her at the last minute by an unsympathetic jerk of a hospital director, and even if it was getting late on a Friday afternoon. And, even if the only work she had been able to bring in to her clinic so far since opening was sleep studies and erectile dysfunction testing.
The driver shoved a clipboard in her face. The header at the top of the form attached read: “St. Aloysius Hospital -- Best Care in St. Louis.” Romy folded her arms and didn’t take the clipboard, but she wondered maliciously if she could sue St. Aloysius for falsely advertising their abilities. The driver pushed the clipboard into the crook of her arm and let go. It was either take it or let it fall to the ground. She took it, but she gave back her best frown speckled with a squint of her eyes.
“Initial in the middle and sign at the bottom,” he said quickly as he opened the back door of the ambulance. His partner bobbed his head around from the passenger side of the van and flashed a scared look.
With the door opened, the screams became suddenly louder.
“We are very happy to be rid of this one,” the driver said. His partner nodded, but said nothing.
Romy waved the clipboard at the back of the driver as he climbed into the bed of the ambulance.
“I am not signing this,” she said trying to make her voice louder than the screams.
“Not my problem, ma’am,” the driver said. Romy cocked her elbow out and put her left hand on her hip. The damned driver kept working, unlatching the gurney and motioning for his partner to take up the back end.
“You only called five minutes ago!” she shouted.
The gurney slid out cleanly and efficiently, and the driver jumped to the ground. He looked quickly at Romy then shrugged his shoulders.
“Boss says drop the guy at Malloy Research on Market and South 11th, and that’s what I do. You got a problem with that, call him.”
As they dropped the gurney to the ground Romy got her first glimpse of the patient in the dappled gray hospital gown. Curled into a near fetal position, his deep screams cut through air already thick with the sounds of the approaching storm. His body thrashed and convulsed like he was in a seizure. Romy looked back at the driver with her best O-My-God look.
“You gotta be kidding me,” she said.
The driver pressed his lips together, raised his left eyebrow, and said nothing.
Romy closed her eyes and counted to ten, though it really didn’t help. She could barely hear her own thoughts above the man’s screams.
But the screams weren’t the real problem.
She was going to do it to herself again. She knew she had to take him.

Hope you enjoyed that!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stats sinister stature

Hello Fellow Plotters!

First a big thanks to all the folks who are following and reading my blog. There have been a lot of you lately and I am very grateful. I try to return the favor and follow and comment on as many as I can but Twitter and the internet are both very BUSY BEASTS.

I imagine Twitter sometimes like that scene in Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey when he first gets God’s powers. He finds he has an email client on his computer where he can read ALL the prayers that come to him. And, to put it lightly, he gets quickly OVERWHELMED!

Twitter is a bit like that.

But for a writer building a platform it’s great to see your numbers of followers rise. Seeing my stats go up is a BIG ego boost!

But is it important? Should you be concerned with stats and should you check them/follow them?

Well... the answer is both  YES and NO.

My day job as a Systems Engineer requires me to be savvy on KPI’s. KPI’s are Key Performance Indicators. Simply put, for the systems you are responsible for you watch stats, gather stats, analyze stats, report on stats, discuss stats, and figure out ways to IMPROVE stats.

Yea, it’s a lot of fun.

But for a writer, is it really important to focus on stats in that way? Maybe, because if they go up I feel good J

Could it be detrimental to a writers psyche? Possibly, because if they go down I will feel bad L

See what I mean -- both YES and NO.

For me, a highly trained KPI Jedi Master (chuckle), I have a tough and callous outer shell that allows me to look at stats a bit more dispassionately than most other folks. That’s not to say I have NO passion about stats. I still get the pleasant tingle when I get a new follower or when someone comments on my blog.

And conversely, I get the sinking feeling when I see negative results.

But I can and do forget all of that in about two minutes and get back to work.

Is it possible for other writers to do this? Well, both YES and... you get the picture.

Just don’t forget one major thing about all of this. Remember WHY you are doing this in the first place. As a writer, your goal is to WRITE! So go out there and be the best writer you can be and don’t worry about things like stats and such. If you write well (and work to get your work out there) readers will take notice.

So, as advice to my fellow Plotters and blog and Twitter followers, I offer up this:

Six steps so stats seem scant sinister (I almost set this as the title... shiver)

1.       Think first before checking stats - Make a decision up front if you really want to check your stats and what reason there is for you to look at them. Decide up front what weight you want to assign to them, meaning what value, or how important they are to you. Know that watching stats can be a tough row to hoe, a path filled with pitfalls and terrors, a road with...

2.       Formulate positive internal responses to stats - Remember that it is UP TO YOU how you react to the stats you read. You can make the choice to allow the negative stats make you feel like crap. You can make the choice to allow the positive stats to swell your head. My advice is to temper your reaction both ways. They’re only numbers.

3.       Don’t sweat stats - In the end, LET IT GO. Good or bad just forget about ‘em. Now if we’re talking SALES stats and you get 100K sales in the first month of publishing then I hate you... I mean, Congratulations! Truthfully, sales stats are pretty much the same as blog stats or Twitter retweets. Don’t let their absence or abundance get at you one way or the other.

4.       Remember content (writing) is key- Always, always, ALWAYS remember to focus on becoming a better writer. It will do you absolutely no good to worry about your stats if what you offer to your readers is garbage. There is so much online for you to read to improve your craft. Take advantage of it. Make yourself a better writer.

5.       Think of ways to improve your image/marketing - There is no way I will try to make you believe I know everything about marketing. What I DO know is that it is important. The image you present (online and elsewhere) is vitally important to your ability to draw in new readers. This has to do with the pics you use to the fonts you use, etc, but especially the way you write and the topics you write about. Make sure they all match your passion. Because it comes through to the reader. Check out Kristen Lamb’s site this week for a great blog about how poor online discussion choices can poison your platform.

6.       Walk away from stats - If watching the stats starts bugging you, just walk away. Make a vow to never look at them again. For some this is the ONLY answer and I can respect that. Watching stats can be a very sharp double-edged sword. Be careful with them.

And that my fellow Plotters is that!

I really do love to hear from you, so leave comments if you can.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sneak Peek Thursday! Plotters of Cantaera Book Two: Allies

Hi y'all!

Since it's Thursday I decided it was a great day to pull out a little excerpt from a forthcoming book.

And not just any book.

My dear Plotters, though Book One has not yet hit your cyber bookshelves, today you will be regaled with a portion of the FIRST CHAPTER of Book Two!

The book title is:

The Plotters of Cantaera Book Two: Allies

And here it is. Enjoy! Oh, and please leave comments if you like it!

Lord General Draesen requested a second veal cutlet from the servant.
The large table before him was already covered with plates full of meats; small roasted hens, a large ham and beef ribs. Other plates nearby held steamed vegetables, sauces, and fruits and there was a large pewter pitcher of water and a carafe of wine, both sweating. His fat stubby fingers dripped with grease which he had twice rubbed on his balding head leaving trails that glistened in the light.
Lord Charles Coralis had not yet had his lunch and his stomach groaned in agony. He was seated in a chair pulled six feet away from the table giving the obvious impression that he was a visitor who had been allowed to attend Draesen’s feast.
Draesen winked at Coralis as the servant left the room, but that did nothing to ease the tension Coralis felt. Coralis knew that Draesen only requested the presence of his assistants in his home for one purpose: discipline.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hey whoa there fella! Ease up with the introspective monologues!

Recently I have been editing Book Two in The Plotters of Cantaera trilogy (book one is due out soooon... I promise! Are you listening my pretty little book cover illustrator?)

Yesterday while happily chopping away I came across a block of prose so atrocious I nearly vomited on my keyboard. Well the vomit may have had something to do with the undercooked chicken sandwich I had for lunch, but I digress.

Seems that in one of my previous block edits I completely missed a very large chunk of a William Deane ‘introspective monologue’. Cringe...

Introspective monologue, or interior monologue, is where you include all the inside-the-head thoughts that your character has. It usually happens for me early on in the writing process when I am still fleshing things out and when complete brain dumps are what is needed to get the ideas out of my head. And typically I will catch these monsters and clip their wings, groom their unruly hair, slap some makeup and lipstick on that big fat pig and make it a real piece of easily digestible Pulitzer Pate’! (Am I thinking about food too much? Am I hungry? Hmmm...).

If you do not catch these monsters they can and will completely STOP the flow of your story.

Don’t believe me? Think about the definitions of these two terms:
Introspective = to examine one’s own thoughts and feelings
Monologue = (in this case) a long speech

Can you see the problem? Can you say screech? Do you know what a Jake Brake sounds like on a diesel truck? (see here). Cause that’s what your readers will hear in their heads every time they come across excessive introspective monologues.

Let me be very clear about what I am trying to tell you here -- STOP DOING THIS NOW!

In today’s fast paced world of fiction fantasy and sci-fi, these introspective or interior monologues just don’t work.

Readers want ACTION!

They want a fact paced novel that they can fit in during commercials between American Idol segments. Believe me you do NOT want to keep your readers from seeing the next performance/vote for their favorite performer. I have done that and barely made it out alive.

Ok, truth be known and hand to heart, if you shove me up against a wall I will say that SOMETIMES it’s ok to do an introspective monologue.

What? Really? WTH?

Yes... but only sparingly! If you do an introspective monologue correctly it can (as in maybe)add back story and flavor to your character. But there are other ways... (we will explore that on another day).

So if you find yourself writing or editing and think to yourself that it would be just WONDERFUL to dump in an extensive introspective monologue and you just can’t stop yourself, at least consider these FIVE tips before you do. (BTW when I read that last part out loud I give it my best Nathan Lane treatment a’ la The Birdcage)

5 best practices for introspective monologues:
  1. Consider doing something else - Yes I said that. Stop and think... do you really want to do this? Can’t you just do some actual dialogue or pry in another tricked out fight/action scene? No? Really?? Well if you must...
  2. In general, keep them short - The best and I do mean the best introspective monologues are the ones that are SHORT. Wrap it up in a few lines and it’s possible your reader will still be awake.
  3. Be specific about the goal of the monologue - Don’t meander. Get to the point. Wait, that’s keep it short again. I’m really stuck on that. Ok when writing an introspective monologue, keep your eye on the prize. Ask yourself why are you doing this? Are you dead set on making sure the reader knows that the character has a bad case of hemorrhoids from the Chili he ate last night but doesn’t want to blurt out why he’s squirming in his seat at the all hands staff meeting? Then SAY that! (Wait, there’s another food reference... sigh).
  4. Action!- Make your introspective monologue POP by keeping the action REAL and RELEVANT. Yes it is possible to put action into your introspective monologue. Think about it. You will come up with something. OK fine alright! I’ll do it for you! Remember in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when the Improbability Drive creates a sperm whale out of a missile and we go into the whale’s head? That’s a great example of introspective monologue written in a way that provides action to the reader. Look it up.
  5. Make sure it fits - There is nothing worse than when a writer decides to add the entire back story into terribly long and mundane introspective monologues. I have seen some introspective monologues go on for pages, yes literally PAGES in which all we are reading about is the foundation of the kingdoms and the lineage of the kings and the mind numbing number of dukes and princes and fiefdoms and on and on... YUCK! This just plain sucks, and I have found that quite often the writer just dumps it in seemingly at random and for no good reason. Please, if you must do an introspective monologue filled with back story, make sure it fits into the actual story wherever you decide to put it.  Then look back at #2. Better yet, look again at #1.

And there you have it! If you follow these best practices then even when you feel you must include an introspective monologue you will find a way to make it work!

What do you think? I really appreciate your comments.