Wednesday, May 31, 2017

From the War Room

Recycling is big -- has been for a long time -- but there's a lot more to recycle than just plastic and metal and all that ecologically friendly -- or maybe it's unfriendly, so that's why need to recycle? -- stuff.

I'm talking recycling stories. Finding new uses for old tales told long ago. Especially in the days of learning to write, when it was fun to play in someone else's playground, because the characters and tools and vocabulary and a lot of the rules were already established. You didn't have to create anything new except the characters and problems that made it entirely YOUR story, even if you were playing with someone else's toys.

Case in point -- fan fiction. And case in point again -- using fan fiction as a testing ground or a test drive area for characters that will someday get their own universe or series or playground, whatever you want to call it.

I just posted another fan fiction story on Wattpad. This was part of the Phoenix fan fiction that I
wrote, some of the earliest stories I got published. Lots of fun. Some really hokey stuff out there. Some corny dialog and big goofs in grammar and POV and head-hopping like you wouldn't believe. But what's really surprising and a relief and a pleasure is to discover that -- dang! -- some of it's good.

The newest story is FLAME FROM ANOTHER FIRE, where my -- at that time in my writing -- newest creation, my favorite "Barbie doll" -- met up with Bennu and Dr. Frazier and mean old Agent Preminger.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: CREATING CHARACTER ARCS, by K.M. Weiland

Character arcs is one of those writing-related topics that can send even experienced, published authors running for Mommy. Right up there with writing the synopsis and the query letter and creating characters that are believable and avoid being stereotypes.

What is a character arc?

It's basically the change that takes place either in the main character or in the world around the character. And no, it isn't that simple. Because if it was that simple, it wouldn't drive some writers to massive doses of chocolate or other social drugs of choice to self-medicate from the mental strain and agony.

Planning how your character is going to change and grow and learn -- or be so strong in his inner truth that he forces the world to change -- means knowing your character down deep. You have to know the things that have made the character what she is before the story starts. You have to know the weaknesses. The dreams. The fears. The little lies and hopes and secret pains that are going to be revealed during the progress of the story, so the character changes, positively or negatively, depending on how she reacts to those things.

Yeah -- not that simple. But you get the idea? Weiland goes through several different kinds of character arcs, including a FLAT character arc. How can an arc be flat? Easy -- read the book and learn. Weiland walks through each step of the process, figuring out the character's past and present and hopeful or dreaded future, and charts where in the course of the story each revelation or challenge or change needs to appear, for the story to work and for the arc to make sense. Yeah, that does sound simple, but still not that simple. It takes practice.

This is one of those books you'll need to read at regular intervals, to brush up on the advice and tips and patterns during your writing career. Thank goodness someone wrote it!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fan Fiction -- BAIT AND SWITCH -- A Starman fanzine story, sample 3

From the Starman fanzine story, which first appeared in On Wings of Light -- the full story is available on Wattpad

"Are you going to tell me what's going on now?" Scott demanded, his voice low and husky from strain.      

"Listen to your instincts, Scott. They're more reliable than people any day. Instincts say you can trust me. And I'm going to prove it in a few seconds."          

"Yeah, right."  

"We have to figure out what to do before Mr. Fox gets here."

"Fox? Why's he coming here?" He stalked over to stand in front of the couch, exactly where Malone had stood. Rhea wondered if the whole day would be like this.  

"He wants us to help catch you and your father. He was on his way here when he saw you. Bad luck, huh?" Rhea felt choked by the slow fury in Scott's eyes.       

"How long did you wait there?" He looked down at her, hands on his hips. Rhea sensed his struggle not to dash for the door.

"I wasn't waiting; and I only learned about my mission now, when Malone gave me this folder." She handed the photos to him. "Fox won't tell, but I can guess why he's hunting you. Different is dangerous, no matter who you are."           

"Why did you help me?" he shot back.           

"Because that's what I do." She sighed, feeling more tired than ever. Scott only stared back at her, his face a mask of confusion and hurt. "I travel the country looking for people who have learned -- usually by accident -- how to do the impossible. With their minds. I can tell where they are by the vibrations they give off. I felt your panic, so I helped. I know what it's like, watched, in danger of becoming a lab rat. I won't let it happen to anyone else."

She got up and went to the refrigerator. She was thirsty, and she needed to give Scott time to digest what she had told him. Rhea poured the last of her cranberry juice for them both. Scott would not take the glass she handed to him. It was almost amusing -- and reminded her of a time when she trusted no one and nothing, not even the stray dogs she met on the street. Rhea sipped from both glasses. Scott finally accepted the glass.

"You sensed something in me, or you would have waited longer before taking my help," she said. Rhea wished she had more energy to push against this boy's mental and emotional shields and make him see she could be trusted. Force, though, would only negate the message.

"Well...yeah," Scott admitted. He took refuge in his glass, downing most of it in a few swallows.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: SIREN'S FURY, by Mary Weber

The second book in Mary Weber's Storm Siren trilogy is ... painful!

No, not the writing. Not the voice or style. Not the experience.

The torture she inflicts on her characters. The struggles of growth and sacrifice and self-doubt.

At the end of book 1, Nym was ready to celebrate defeating an enemy. She had a bright future ahead of her. Instead of being thoroughly reviled, living as a slave, she was considered a heroine, even though she was still feared. She was learning to control her Elemental powers. There was this guy ...

Then on the last pages, she found out that the enemy she thought was dead and defeated ... wasn't. Even worse than that, this particular nasty had taken over the body of the man she was ready to try to find some "happily ever after" with, which kind of kills the mood, y'know?

This book is about her struggle to face her duty -- kill the invader before he can ruin everything she spent the previous book sacrificing and bleeding for.

So yeah, painful.

But it's  a beautiful, terrible struggle and battle and learning time. Wow ....

The end of this book, despite seeming to be so very dreadful and frustrating, has an upward tilting mood, because there's hope. Maybe. Then again, the second book or second movie of a trilogy always has this "we're never going to get out of this in one piece," sensation, and the awful suspicion that the worst is yet to come. Yet there's hope.

Love it.
Read it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fan Fiction -- BAIT AND SWITCH -- A Starman fanzine story, sample 2

Here's the second taste of the fanzine story that first appeared in On Wings of Light. Remember, you can find the whole story on Wattpad. Just search for my name.

Rhea sighed. She hated this kind of mess. Lately, it seemed like she had faced more than enough. She had sensed the power, the talent in Scott from far enough away, she knew he had enough potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands. She had not thought the encounter would end up like this.

"Just hold on a second, Scott," she said. "Let me and Malone straighten this out, then you and I will talk. Okay, Malone. You know by now, I can't take this job." She looked down at the file folder with the photos of Scott and his father, sitting on her lap. "He's one of mine -- I could feel his energy a mile off. He could be the main target."

Malone grunted agreement and stalked across the room to stand in front of her. He gave Scott one distrustful look, then turned his back on the boy. Rhea wavered between laughter and frustration. Malone was worried about her -- he wouldn't believe if she said Scott was no threat.

"No more data?" she asked, flipping through the folder. All she had read was background on Paul Forrester's last few encounters with people -- his narrow escapes from Agent George Fox -- and copies of the office memos that resulted in her presence in this city, waiting to meet with Fox and help him catch his prey. She tapped Scott's photo with her fingernails. There was a pulse of energy that wrapped around the boy -- it put a wall between her and him.

"He won't say," Malone admitted. He looked uneasy, and Rhea wondered if part of his anger and caution was because of that lack of knowledge. "When he briefed me, I felt he was almost afraid to tell me what he wanted."

"Not the Future of Man, then?" She chuckled when Malone stiffened.

"You reading my mind again, Jones?"

"We both know the futurists haven't pulled all their spies from the agency." She stiffened as a mental leap flashed through her brain. Forrester. Rhea cast one look at Scott, really studying his face this time. The boy only glared at her, his growing impatience clear on his face.

"What is it, Jones?" Malone demanded.

"I managed to get hold of my file -- the one with the truth of how they changed my identity and records. There was a photographer covering the air crash that killed my parents, before the FOM's government people hushed everything." She tapped the photos and Malone nodded that he understood. Rhea picked up Paul's photo and studied it. "I wonder how he got on their wrong side?"

"You think he worked for the FOM and fell from grace?"

"If his son has the potential I felt..." Rhea shuddered. "They want me for breeding -- what if Scott is a result of their work?"

"Too many ifs."

Monday, May 15, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: FLYTE, by Angie Sage

FLYTE is the second book in the Septimus Heap series.

It's magic -- or according to the title of the first book, Magyk.

Septimus is the 7th son of the 7th son, which means he has great magic potential and is destined for incredible things. Which is the whole reason he was kidnapped at birth -- in the first book -- to turn him into the apprentice of an evil magician trying to take over the kingdom. Fortunately, there was a lot "switched at birth" confusion going on, and he ended up some place not quite as nasty and dangerous -- but close.

In FLYTE, Septimus has been reunited with his family and is now in his destined place as the apprentice for Marcia, the leader of all the wizards in the kingdom. She has some problems to deal with, starting with a nasty shadow that's trailing her, and including more treachery, more deception, and a dead enemy who just won't give up. Then there's Septimus' oldest brother, who believes that he's been robbed of what was never promised to him in the first place -- apprenticeship to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. He's out to get revenge and put someone else in power, and that makes things rough for Septimus and the family he's just starting to get to know, including his adopted sister, Jenna -- who just happens to be the heir to the throne, born on the same day as Septimus, and who took his place when the midwife kidnapped him.

Yeah, complicated but a lot of fun. I love the details of this magical world, the humor, the sense that this is all so very believable.  Oh, yeah, and FLYTE refers to, well ... the ability to fly.

You don't really have to start with book 1, MAGYK, to understand what's going on, but you really should. Great fun. And I'm so glad that the next book is sitting in my bookshelf (Thanks to a humongous sale at Half-Price Books) and waiting to be read. Not right away, though. But soon!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fan Fiction -- BAIT AND SWITCH -- a Starman fanzine story

Many years ago -- a lot more than I want to remember -- I got my fiction writing fan fiction for various fanzines that followed some of my favorite TV shows and movies.

You can find my posted fan fiction on Wattpad -- just type my name in. Every other month or so, I will post snippets from a fanzine story here on the blog, and then post the whole story in Wattpad for your enjoyment. At least, I hope you enjoy it!!

So .... here's the first installment, from the fanzine On Wings of Light, which was for fans of The Phoenix, Starman, and Beauty and the Beast.


Scott gasped for breath. Between the booming of his heart in his ears and the slap of his sneakers on the pavement, he heard the rumble of Fox's car. Less than a hundred yards behind him now, he guessed.
Paul had decided they should split up. Fox should have followed him, leaving Scott free to hide. Either Paul had managed to get away, or Fox had decided the alien's son was the easier target.
Scott glanced to either side. The mid-afternoon, downtown traffic gave him a little advantage. He had no idea why Fox didn't use tranquilizer darts and get it over with. How had Fox found them so soon? The false trail Paul left at their last stop should have led the agent 300 miles away.
He reached the intersection as the light turned yellow. Scott put on a burst of speed and crossed the street. An impatient old man in a red truck tried to jump the light, saw Scott, squealed to a stop and pounded his horn at the boy. Scott grinned -- Fox was stopped at the light. Even if he got out of his car now, Scott had a chance to get away.
The sphere leaped in his pocket. Scott nearly stopped as it went hot, then cooled a scant second later.
No response. Behind him, he heard the cross traffic slow as the light changed. His respite was gone. He looked in all directions for some place to hide -- a narrow alley -- shadows -- some place he could duck into before Fox saw him -- some place Fox could not follow.
"Hey, kid!" a woman called as a motorcycle roared up to him. The driver kept pace with Scott's staggering steps. "Get on. I know trouble when I see it."
He had no time to consider the safety of the offer. Scott swung his leg over the back of the cycle's seat before he came to a complete stop. He grabbed hold of the driver's coat and they were gone.
"Thanks," he gasped in the driver's ear, nearly smashing his lips against the scarred blue helmet.
"No problem. Helping is my specialty." She gave him a grin over her shoulder. Scott had a glimpse of green-brown eyes, a narrow face and bronze hair.
Scott buried his face in the back of her worn navy pea coat and felt the sweat dry. He couldn't catch his breath. He felt the bike twist and sway around the corners, heard the rise and fall of its engine's song. Far behind, he heard a car horn blare, an angry sound. He grinned, imagining Fox pounding his steering wheel in helpless rage.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The War Room

Gonna be trying something new, coming up this Saturday.

Instead of posting "tastes" of new books, I'm going to look back and some really old stuff I've done.


That's where I got my start writing, after all -- writing stories in established universes, playing in other people's playgrounds, before branching out and creating my own.

I got a lot of short stories and some continuing stories published in fandom. And I'm going to post pieces here on the blog, and then upload the entire story to Wattpad.

Ever been to Wattpad? It's kind of a fun place, where people can post fan fiction, or current works-in-progress, or just test out ideas for stories, and hopefully get some feedback from people. Not that I'm asking for any feedback, because these stories were published many years ago. Maybe longer than I want to consider.

It's my way of paying tribute and saying thanks to the TV shows and movies that gave me my start, my inspiration, and caught my imagination. I already have some old fan fiction posted on Wattpad if you want to go over there and read what's already loaded. You might have fun with it. You might laugh and groan just because some of my really old writing was ...*phew* awful! You might be encouraged, because heck, if I could improve and get to the place where genuine publishers would take on my books, then so can you!

See you here on Saturday, and see you over at Wattpad.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: CULTURE MAKING, by Andy Crouch

This was another book recommended by one of the speakers at last year's Realm Makers conference. Can't remember which speaker right now, but whoever you are, you know who you are and I thank you.

This book is one that writers and artists and people working with people should probably read at least once a year. Just to get our heads back on track and lead us to evaluate what we're doing and why.

Culture is a tricky thing to identify. It goes beyond the family and ethnic traditions we grew up in, and beyond the "culture pressure" that we're constantly feeling, which includes political correctness (IMO, there is nothing "correct" about politics and people thinking they can define right and wrong for the entire world. The only one with any right to do that is God ((because, y'know, He MADE us, and you just don't rewrite the Owner's Manual and tell the inventor He did it wrong!)), and when you try to rewrite what He said ... not smart! To misquote Jay Leno when speaking about the travesty of the TV movie about Noah ((seriously? Pirates attacking Noah's ark?))... "Who rewrites God?")

Anyway .... sorry about the rant ... Culture is around us, and we affect culture and it affects us. Or do we really affect it? That's one of the considerations -- do we really impact culture at all? Do we make any difference in the world? Can we steer this juggernaut of opinions and materialism and economics and fashion and tyranny and charity and popularity and all the other bits and pieces that go into forming this indefinable, all-devouring blob called culture? We can't really change the world, but we can improve the corner we're in, and do what we know God has called us to do and then ... well, don't tie yourself into knots and blow a gasket over what you can't change. The first step is to do what you can where you can, and get your eyes off yourself and back on the One whose opinion and approval really matter. The rest will take care of itself.

Yeah, I need to read this book a few more times to really figure out what's going on. But anything that makes us think and try to see through the fog is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The War Room

Ever been on Wattpad?

I have an account there, actually.

For a while, I was doing a work-in-progress and inviting people to read the rough drafts every time I uploaded a thousand words or so.

Then I started scanning in my fan fiction and uploading stories. Right now I have a Star Trek fan fiction and a Matrix/Men in Black crossover story and a Beauty and the Beast TV script.

Go on over and read. You might like it. Here's the link where you can find those stories:

Here's the thing:
It's been more than a year since I posted anything, and I hope to start posting fan fiction soon. LOTS of fan fiction. That's how I got started writing. Star Trek, Stingray, Beauty and the Beast, Matrix, Stargate, Highlander, the Phoenix.

Some of it is silly. Some of it is dumb. Some of it is kind of wretched. Not going to edit unless it's really glaring, stupid mistakes like spelling and grammar. Just have some mercy, because some of this stuff is 30 years old. Yeah, that long ago!

But maybe you can take some encouragement from reading and seeing where I got my start. If I can rise up above the totally wretched drek and melodramatic junk and the Mary Sue stories ... anyone can!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Off the Bookshelf: ECHOES IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

Love the characters, the character interaction, the character development in the In Death series by J.D. Robb.

ECHOES IN DEATH brings some old problems and memories and pain a little closer for futuristic homicide detective Eve Dallas. A serial killer is out there, with a specific target -- wealthy, childless couples with gorgeous wives. He breaks in, abuses them, rapes the wives, and takes souvenirs or trophies -- including the women's clothes. What makes him hard to track is that he knows what he's doing, he hides his trail, and he uses movie monster disguises -- or in the case where torturing the husband turns into murder, he appears to be the devil.

The case gets complicated when testimony indicates the high-power surgeon husband was universally disliked, and the suspicion grows that he abused his wife -- now a traumatized widow. Dallas and her team track down the killer despite their growing dislike for the victim, and the memories of her own abusive childhood that awaken.