Weekly Roundup for January 10, 2014

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For Friday, 1/10/14

Goal: 2,000 word per day, six days per week or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week

This week:  10,700 word.  woo-hoo.

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            I gave one final review this week to The Hole in the World, a young adult fantasy which is ready to make the rounds.  At the same time, I have begun to track the use of names.  I mean, how many Bobs and Bills or Marys and Sarahs can I honestly write about?  More about the name game in a future post.  Meanwhile, here is  the story of The Hole in the World, and a snippet from chapter 1.  Enjoy …  

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            Duke Gregor and Princess Tanis make a hole between two worlds to escape the encroaching Empire, and in this strange new world, in our world, they find themselves adopted by the good people of Hardway Virginia.  You see, Tanis is pregnant, and it is Christmas Eve, and there just has to be room at the inn.

            Eighteen years later, the Empire sends an army to bring them back.  The Duke and the Princess reluctantly surrender when their eight-year-old son is taken captive, but they say nothing, because what the Empire does not know is there are two older siblings. 

            Now Davi and his sister Kyla need to go to that other earth. They need to rescue their parents and little brother, and more. They need to raise the armies in the East because the Empire is preparing to go to war. To succeed, Davi and Kyla are going to need help.  Fortunately, in eighteen years the family has made plenty of friends.  But what can even the United States military do in a world where magic rules and dragons are real?

            The Hole in the World is ready for print.  Somewhere, deep in the archives of this blog, is the beginning of Chapter 1.  The following is the middle of the first chapter, but I feel it is sufficiently independent to be worth the read …

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            “Put her on the couch.”  Virginia Robinson shouted.

          “No, the bed.  The bed!”  Mary Elizabeth McBain shouted as well.  Darcy Lewis pointed to the bed, but said nothing.  Her hand was on her phone.  Sheriff McBain was lucky to get the woman through the door without banging the woman’s knees or dropping her altogether.

          “Bill Cullen!  You’re a slob!”  “Get it clean.”  “Pull back the covers.”  The women all yelled.

          “Where’s the Doc?”  The Sheriff spoke over the din as he set the woman as gently as possible on the sheets.

          “Ungh.”

          “I’m calling!”  Darcy yelled at the phone.  “Taylor!  Pick up your cell!”

          “Boil water!”  Mary Elizabeth shouted.

          “What for?”  Virginia Robinson asked.  She pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed to hold and pat the woman’s hand.

          “I don’t know.  You’re supposed to.”  Mary Elizabeth looked confused. 

          The woman on the bed mumbled something in a strange language and Sheriff McBain ran back to the garage.

          “Where is this place?”  The man in the garage was dressed in chain mail and sported plenty of sharp weapons.  He looked all around the inside of the garage, but lingered on the electric lights.  He touched his horse, a familiar comfort in a strange land.

          “You.”  The Sheriff pointed at the man as he came out from the house, but he explained to everyone.  “His wife is saying something and we don’t understand.  I think she is calling for him.”

          “Come on.”  Tashi took the man’s arm.  Tom Robinson and the Sheriff followed. The others watched except Mister Beasley who still sat, held tight to his cards and sweated.

          “Ablus!  Ablus!  Gregor, te na pecosta deek nas.  Ablus.”

          “Tres gan dees,” Gregor answered as he came into the room, still looking, still wary of his surroundings.  He was glad to see Tanis being properly cared for.  He imagined there might be a price later, but he could not worry about that at the moment.

          “Gut daimen chee,” the woman said.

          “Yes,” Gregor answered in English.  “I still remember my tongue as well.”

          “This is good,” the woman also answered in English, and she smiled, satisfied.  “Ungh.”  She started another contraction while tires squealed outside and a car door slammed.  Doc Lewis bounded in as Tashi pushed on the medieval man’s chest.  She did not imagine her little self could move the mountain, but the Sheriff and Tom Robinson each took a hand and pulled and the man did not resist.  He knew men were not welcome at the birthing.

          “Bill Cullen.”  Bill met the man at the door with his hand out.

          “Duke Gregor of Galistra.”  The man took the offered hand.

          “Feels human enough.”

          “Hush!”  Tom Robinson pushed his glasses firmly up on his nose before he extended his own hand.  “Tom Robinson.”

          “Pleased to meet you,” the Duke said.  “I have known dark skinned men before.  When I was young we traded in Istallia and all along the Boran coast.  That was before the days of Empire and the rise of Emperor Kzurga.”

          “Well, Mister Duke,” Bill Cullen patted the man’s back in a friendly manner.  “Now that Doc Lewis is here, I’m sure Missus Duke will be just fine.”

          “Sheriff Ian McBain.”  The Sheriff put out his hand.

          Gregor paused and rolled his tongue as if tasting something.  “Law enforcement,” he said as he took the offered hand.  Then he thought to see to his horse.  The saddle and equipment were already removed, and a big man was rubbing the horse with a brush found in one of the satchels.

          “Ugly Bird.”  The man held out his hand.  “Fine animal.  Hard ride?”

          “Uh?”  Gregor became confused again.  He knew the words, but he could not imagine a man bearing the name Ugly Bird.  “Yes, and thanks.”  He patted the horse’s flank once again for reassurance.  “Where is this place?  Where am I?”

          “Cullen’s garage.  That’s me, Bill Cullen.  Hardway Virginia, USA.”

          “Definitely an illegal alien,” Tom mumbled and fiddled again with his spectacles.

          “You didn’t call an ambulance and you explained to Darcy?”  Ugly Bird looked at the Sheriff.

          “No ambulance,” Sheriff McBain confirmed.  “But I’ll be daft if I know what to do with them.”

          “Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Bill Cullen finished his introduction.  “Stupid slogan.  The Chamber came up with that thirty years ago.  Didn’t matter.  No one comes here.  Skyline drive is thirty miles that way.”  He pointed out into the dark.

          “I still think it was a good idea.”  There was a voice from the table.

          “Oh, yes,” Bill said.  “The old weasel is Mister Beasley, owner of Beasley’s Hardware here on Main Street.”

          “You play poker?”  Mister Beasley asked.   He had nearly crumpled the cards in his hand.

          “Give it up Mister Beasley,” the Sheriff said and Tom and Bill laughed.  “We know you got a winner.  Just take the pot.”  Mister Beasley nodded and started to do that, but Ugly Bird interrupted.

          “Full house.”  Ugly bird turned his cards face up.  “Trays over sevens.”  Mister Beasley set his cards down.  His full house was jacks over nines.  He grinned when he raked in the chips.

          “Christmas cookie Mister Duke?”  Bill held out the plate.

          “Gregor.”  The man insisted and he took one snowman shaped cookie gingerly in his fingers.  Bill picked up a Christmas tree and took a big bite.  Gregor tried his, and did not complain.

          “Eats human food, too,” Bill Cullen pointed out.

          “Where’s Galistra?”  Sheriff McBain figured it was time for some questions as the men began to settle once more around the table.  Gregor sat in the Doc’s chair for the moment, after he took off his various weapons and set them down.  He set them on a stack of old tires and took the seat where they would be near to hand.

          “Tanis?”

          “Don’t worry about her,” Bill said.  “Doc Lewis is the best and Darcy, his wife, is an RN.  And Virginia and Mary Elizabeth are there, too.  They’ll take good care of her.”

          “Virginia takes good care of me whenever I’m sick,” Tom pointed out with a look at the Sheriff.

          “I don’t get sick.”  Sheriff McBain countered.

          “The brown woman.”  Gregor tried to understand.

          “Black or African-American,” Tom said kindly; but Gregor shook his head in wonder.

          “And the one with the strange eyes?”

          “Tashi.”  Three men spoke at once.

          “She’s from Japan, I guess,” Tom said.

          “I thought she was Chinese,” Mister Beasley interrupted.

          Tom shrugged.  “Anyway, it’s a long way from here.”

          “So, where is Galistra?”  The Sheriff asked again to get back to the point.  Gregor imitated Tom’s shrug.

          “A long way,” he said.

          “Just north of the reservation.”  Ugly Bird retook his seat.  “No, really.  It’s the first train stop on the way to El Dorado.”

          “How did you get here?”  Tom ignored the joker and touched Gregor’s hand.  Gregor paused before he answered, but at least this was a question he could answer.

          “The Priest, his Eminence, Marchant of Baria conscripted the monks of Ghosh from the monastery on the island in the sea of Ghosh.  They made a hole in the world, a space, a door between Baria and this place.”  Gregor waved his hands to animate the vision.  “I don’t know how.  I know Anise, the witch of the forest observed from a distance but did not interfere.  Maybe she knows how.”  Gregor shrugged again and closed his eyes to better focus on what he was saying.  “Before we could get through, we were attacked by the Emperor’s minions, though they have a treaty with Baria as with Galistra and most of the eastern lands.  The Empire generally leaves us alone, but I guess our escape was enough to abrogate the treaty.”

          “You were attacked?”  Tom asked in a soft voice.  Everyone leaned forward, even if they did not understand everything about the story.

          “Vergeshim.”  Gregor nodded.  “Man-wolves.”  He wondered if they would understand.

          “Werewolves?”  Ugly Bird asked and Gregor nodded again.

          “Werewolves.  And the monks were not fit to defend against such.  To my shame, we ran.  Three followed before the door closed.  I believe I lost them, though, when we got to the black road and the high light without fire.”

          “I got werewolves running around the countryside?”  Sheriff McBain widened his eyes and began to sweat like Mister Beasley.  “Tell me you’re joking,” he pleaded, but somehow they all knew better.

          Tashi came out and pulled up a chair.  She appeared all bubbly and grinning.  “Mister, um,” She interrupted.

          “Mister Duke,” Bill spoke up.

          “Gregor,” he said and smiled for his nurse.

          “Is your wife a witch?”  Tashi asked.

          Gregor’s face contorted for a moment.  He raised his hand to strike Tashi on the mouth, but stopped his hand just as suddenly.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t know, but no.  Her art is most favorably given by blood of the royal line.  She is the Princess Tanis, heir to the throne of Aven, an island in the eastern sea and one of the few kingdoms still independent of the Emperor’s thumb.”

          “Oh,” Tashi said.  “Because she is floating about two inches off the bed, and glowing.”

          “Tanis.”  Gregor started to get up, but Tashi stopped him again.

          “She’s only four centimeters.  We have time to wait.”

          “Courage,” Ugly Bird said.  “I remember when Two Faces, my daughter was born.”  He laughed at a private thought.  “I thought I would have a bud while I waited.  Labor was eight hours and I was stinking by the time the baby was born.  God is my witness I will never do that again.”  Ugly Bird lost his smile.  “’Course, my mother says that is why Two Faces married a drunk.”

          There was a howl outside.  They all heard it. 

          Gregor whipped out his sword a moment faster than the Sheriff could pull his revolver.  Ugly Bird jumped to grab the horse.  Bill Cullen ran for a tire iron.  A wolf, bigger than any wolf ought to be, crashed through the glass front of the bay door.  A second followed.

          Tom Robinson’s chair slipped as he tried to push it back.  He was lucky not to crack his head on the concrete.  Tashi screamed, and so did Mister Beasley.  One wolf got beheaded in one stroke of Gregor’s sword.  The other got three bullets from Sheriff McBain’s gun and collapsed. 

          “Only two,” Gregor shouted, still crouched, ready for an imminent attack.

          Bill Cullen came back with his tire iron and thought quickly.  “Inside,” he shouted.  “Lights out and go to the windows.  Look for movement when I turn on the outside lights in the lot.”

          “Right!”  Tom got up.  Tashi ran back inside the house.  Gregor and the Sheriff followed her.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse but managed to pull a wicked looking knife from somewhere.  Bill clicked off the garage lights and waited a minute to give his eyes a chance to adjust before he threw the breaker that turned the lights on all around the building.  He heard the women scream, shots fired, and then silence.

          Tashi ran back into the garage as Bill clicked the inside lights back on.  “Mary Elizabeth got it with a kitchen knife, and then her husband shot it,” she reported.  “Gregor is with Tanis.  Virginia stopped screaming.  Doc Lewis and Darcy are examining the creature.”

          Mary Elizabeth came out as Ugly Bird and Bill dragged the two dead beasts back out of the bay and on to the lot.  She sat down beside Mister Beasley who was wringing his hands like a man in prayer and sweating more than usual.

          Tom and the Sheriff dragged the one out of the house and tried to get as little blood on the carpet as possible.  Gregor wiped his sword clean and returned it to its’ place.  Virginia helped as they loaded all three dead bodies in the back of Bill’s pickup.  Bill got the shovels.  McBain followed in the police car and brought Tom, Tashi and Gregor.  Ugly Bird stayed with the horse, and Virginia stayed with Mary Elizabeth who was terribly traumatized by the whole thing. 

          There was a deep ditch in the woods out behind Mister Beasley’s store.  It had a few old tires, a broken toaster and other odds and ends dumped in it over the years.  It took time to empty the space, not the least because of the cold, but then the bodies went in, a mass grave, and the ditch was finally filled in with dirt and gravel.  It was long, hard work, but when it was over, Bill thought to say a word.

          “And may God have mercy on their souls.”

          “Amen.”  Tashi, Tom and the Sheriff spoke in unison.

          Gregor said nothing, but nodded.  They still looked like wolves, even in death, but no one doubted that they had once been men.

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          Back in the garage, Bill got the cardboard out and Tom found the duct tape.  Mister Beasley spoke to turn his mind from the wolves.  “One thing you better learn up front if you’re going to stick around here, Mister Duke, duct tape fixes everything.”

          “Amen.”  Tom and Bill spoke together, and Ugly Bird snickered.

          “I should stay here?”  Gregor wondered what they were suggesting.

          “Where else you gonna go?”  Bill asked.

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            Happy writing …

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Weekly Roundup: December 27, 2013

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            I am so glad I have a couple of practice weeks, and the goals I have set don’t begin until after January 4th(January 5th is Sunday, the first day of the week).  Last week, I surpassed 12,000 words of fiction for the week.  This week, I was lucky to reach 4,000 words, and on three different stories.  Christmas, you know; a reasonable excuse – though admittedly an excuse, not a reason.  I guess I have to be prepared for such weeks.  Sunday the 29th I begin with a clean slate, and in case you have forgotten, I am aiming at 2,000 words per day or roughly 10,000 to 12,000 words per week.  So we will see.

            This week I added about 1000 words to my MIB story, 2000 words to Avalon, episode 3.5, and about 1000 words to The Golden Door, a middle grade book that is long overdue to be done.  Avalon, Season Three is something I want to get finished so I can start posting the series in the new year.  Unfortunately, I got nothing done on Forever: On the Road, a continuation of the wanderings of the Storyteller through the Second Heavens, subtitled, “Anatomy of a Storyteller.”  It imitates an exaggerated, third person memoir with all the names and dates and exact places hidden to protect the innocent, if they exist.

            The Golden Door is a magical story for middle grade reading.  Follow: 

            Mom said the big, inexplicable golden door showed up in the middle of the living room the same time Dad mysteriously vanished from his sick bed.  The golden door may be the family’s only hope of finding their Dad, but after a week the unmovable door remained locked.  Now starting summer vacation, the young people have chosen to ignore it.  Until David finds it open.  There is another world through there.

            The following bit sets the story of The Golden Door in motion.  It is a bit over 1500 words.  I hope you enjoy it

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          David paused at the door to his parent’s room.  The bed was empty and made.  Mama said it was the strangest thing when Dad disappeared.  One minute Dad was there, and the next he vanished, like into thin air.  “Like he went invisible?”  David had asked.  Mama could not answer because her back was turned at the time.  She did not actually see him disappear.  She heard scampering like little feet, but then he was gone and all she could do was cry.  In fact, that was about all she could do for the first few days, that and stare at the golden door in the living room which showed up at the same time.

          David turned the corner to the living room – just a step away in their run-down ranch house.  He looked at the golden door, solid gold in a silver frame.  It reached to the ceiling, and stood in the middle of the room with no visible support of any kind.  Chris said it was only a solid gold slab with a handle and ignored it.  David wondered how it stayed upright.  He imagined a good knock would send it falling flat-side to the floor, and what a terrific crash that would be! 

          A scratching sound came from his parent’s room.  James heard something when they got off the school bus for the last time that year.  David turned to Doritos and chocolate and left the scratching sound to his younger brother James.  Chris said he checked when he got home.  He thought Mama went out and accidentally shut Seabass the cat into the windowless, walk-in closet; but when he looked, the closet was empty and Seabass was asleep on Dad’s pillow.  The closet was empty when James looked as well, and no one could figure out how that stuffy walk-in closet could have a breeze to blow coat buttons and zippers and empty hangers against the wall.

          “Mama would never allow the clothes to be hung in a way where they might scratch the paint,” David pointed out.  The boys left the closet with yet another unsolved mystery, but this time David heard the scratching with his own ears.  Since James was busy, and Chris wouldn’t let him use the game stuff, and Beth knew nothing about the scratching in the closet, that left David to try the door.  He hesitated at the handle.  David was not the bravest twelve-year-old, but he thought that maybe this once he might look.  Besides, Seabass the cat was no longer on the bed, though how the cat might have shut itself into the closet was beyond him.

          He opened the door quickly.  The late afternoon sun shot into the space, and he called the cat, but nothing happened.  He did not look any further.  He was afraid to look too close, so he shut the closet door again and returned to the living room where he sat on the couch and stared at the golden door for a long time.

          Seabass came to sit beside him.  Catbird, the big golden retriever yawned and got up from where he had slept against the sliding doors to the back yard.  That spot was no longer attractive once the sun dipped behind the trees and cast the whole back side of the house in shadow.

          David petted Catbird’s contented golden head with one hand while his other hand stroked Seabass’ soft fur.  They stayed that way for a time, until David abruptly stood.  Both animals looked up, startled by the sudden movement and sudden loss of attention.  David clenched his teeth.   The fact that the door had been locked all week did not matter, except in the back of David’s mind where he hoped the door was still locked.

          “Ga!”  It was unlocked.  David peeked and closed the door again with another “Ga!” significantly louder than the first.

          James heard.  He was finished with his letter writing and decided he better find out what Davey was all stirred up about.  He went next door and tapped Chris on the shoulder.  Chris took a couple of taps before he looked up and lowered his headphones.  A piece of sandwich dangled from his mouth.  He honestly wasn’t listening.

          “Come on,” James said.  “Come on.”  He had to say it twice before Chris got up.  Perhaps Chris was still not paying attention, but at least his feet were moving.  Half way to the living room, they heard it again.  “Gaaa!”  It was deliberately shouted down the hallway.

          “The call of the excited Davey.”  James spoke under his breath as they arrived and David shouted something at his brothers that they could all understand.  “It’s unlocked!”

          Chris immediately turned to get Beth and almost bumped into her as she came barreling out of her room.

          “I heard,” Beth said .  “What’s in there?” 

          Chris shrugged.

          “I looked,” David grinned and his eyes were as wide open as they could be.

          “What did you see?”  Beth was miffed that she had to ask twice.

          “Gaa!”  James answered for his brother.  He shrugged as if to say, “What else?”

          Beth looked perturbed, but David giggled.  “Gaa!”  He nodded in agreement with James. He was still grinning as he pointed at the door.

          Beth shoved Chris forward.  Chris put on the brakes.  While they stared each other down, James stepped up and looked for himself.  He opened the door a mere crack.  “He’s right.  It’s Gaa,”

          Beth frowned, swung the door wide open and almost said “Gaa!” herself.

          Green grass stretched out before them in a world that was bright with late afternoon sunshine.  They heard the faint roll of the sea somewhere, but they could not see it through the door.  They smelled the fresh air and the aroma of growing grain which they could barely make out off to their right.  They felt a touch of the cool breeze that wafted through the meadow on a lazy afternoon in late May.  The grass looked freshly cut, or grazed.  Beth judged it was grazed from the dress of the two people who stood some hundred yards off down by the grain.  It was hard to tell exactly because those people had their backs to the door, but they looked medieval in dress and the grain looked like early grain, barely up to their knees after an April planting.

          “Creepy,” Chris breathed.

          “Cool!”  David yelled.  To be sure, yelling was David’s normal volume.  “Look at the castle.”  It was up on a hill, well beyond the people.  There were more towers and spires than any of them could count including some that reached right up into the clouds.  The castle walls looked formidable enough to withstand any army foolish enough to assault them.  A clear stream came from somewhere inside the castle grounds and wound lazily down the hillside, around the occasional clump of trees, until it reached the meadow.  By then it was a very small river which found the sea somewhere behind them.  Beth looked behind, but all she could see was the kitchen.

          The scratching came again, and this time it was definite and pronounced.

          “Did you guys leave Seabass trapped in Mom and Dad’s closet all afternoon?”   Some scorn entered into Beth’s voice, but before the boys could answer, she stepped around the corner.  Chris shook his head.  David pointed, but Seabass was gone from the couch. 

          They found the cat under the couch, shivering and afraid.  With James’ help, David got the cat out and then held the beast securely in his arms as overweight, gregarious, love everyone Catbird, the golden retriever began to growl.  Beth screamed and the boys heard a tremendous crash in their parent’s room.  Beth made it to the bedroom door, slammed it shut, and while she held the door knob she poked her head around the corner to the living room. 

          “Run!” 

          The boys just stood there.

          Catbird began to dance and bark his head off at whatever was behind the door.  Seabass tried to wriggle free to follow Beth’s instructions, but David held the cat tight.  Chris stared with his mouth open.  James had the good sense to step through the door and on to that green meadow.  That movement broke the spell; that and the sudden crash against the bedroom door from the inside which almost made Beth lose her grip and which was punctuated by a loud crack.  The wood door was ready to give way.

          Chris grabbed David to keep him from running down the front hall and out the front door.  He shoved David after James.  Then he grabbed Catbird by the collar, and carefully, because the dog was agitated beyond belief.  He nodded to Beth as he dragged the dog toward the golden door, and only paused when he got to the place where the door and rug met.

          “Come on!”  Chris screamed at his sister and went through, even as there was a second crash against the bedroom door. 

          “There’s more than one!” Beth screamed back.

          “Hurry!”  The golden door was closing of its’ own volition.  A third crash, and the bedroom door came to pieces, but it held together in sharp and ragged edges long enough to keep back whatever growling, snarling, roaring beasts were trying to get at Beth.  Beth managed a good scream as she ran and dove through the doorway.  They heard the roar of the beast echo in the house before the golden door slammed shut and they were no longer in the world.

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Storyteller: Weekly Roundup December 21, 2013

            Merry Christmas and all that.  The year is coming to a close and there is much to do – so much to do.  The journey continues. 

            BIG on the list is to get my thoughts in order; plans, goals and priorities so I can make the new year successful as a writer.

            Teachers and students know what I am talking about.  Teachers know all about lesson plans, and the necessary information that must be conveyed in a limited amount of time and in a palatable form.  And students need to grasp that information, at least well enough to pass their exams.  It is pointless for the teacher to decide, instead of American History, she would rather be teaching the History of China, or the student to decide they would rather be studying about China in an American History class, because the course is decided, at least for the semester.  Maybe China can be taught and studied next semester.

            Fiction writers have a bit more flexibility in the ability to make mid-course corrections, but need to exercise enough discipline to say no on a regular basis.  Finish this course before starting the next one.  Like any good teacher or student, I can work on from three to a half-dozen courses (stories) in a given semester, and that can give me options and a variety of things to work on, but they all have to be finished, courses completed, before I move on to the next semester.  Now is the time to decide what to work on in the spring and, generally, for the year – to schedule my classes, you might say.

            Likewise, preachers and journalists know what I am talking about.  There is a thing called a deadline that cannot be ignore.  A preacher needs to have the sermon ready by Sunday morning.  There are no extensions.  The journalist has to have the story ready to go when due or lose the article’s timeliness. 

            Fiction writers, again, have a bit more flexibility in making and reaching deadlines.  A preacher might pull out an old sermon for the day and continue to work on the planned idea for a later time.  A good editor might delay a story so the journalist can fill in information gaps or verify sources.  But the work must be finished at some point.  Delay cannot be forever, lest the writer end up with drawers full of half-finished glop.

            Likewise, business people, both small local business people and great big business people, know all about planning and establishing goals and priorities.  Why is this so hard for fiction writers?  I know.  Some feel they can’t write until they are moved by their muse.  Some people believe they need the inspiration to produce true art: the rose colored clouds, the rainbows, the glorious sunsets.  The stars must be aligned.  I like these people.  It means less competition.

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            Earl Stanley Gardner (the Perry Mason mystery author) had a goal of 5,000 word per day, while he was working full time as a lawyer, no less.  That is prodigious.  My more modest goal is 2,000 words per day, six days per week, or about 10,000 – 12,000 words per week.  That is roughly a book every seven or eight weeks (every two months or so).

            Notice that I  plan on one day per week off.  For me it is Sunday.  No reason why it could not be Wednesday or some other day.  The point is to take a day of rest.  I feel it is vital to recharge my batteries and for my mental health; not to say I will ignore any ideas that come my way.  I am never without paper and pen to jot things down.  Only, I won’t sit and focus and type one day per week, and I won’t fall prey to the impulse to “get it while it is hot.”  Frankly, if the idea is a good one, it will still be good on Monday morning.

            So 2,000 word per day.  I will be reporting here on how I do, starting in the new year, and sharing a bit of work, leaving myself open to whatever internet trolls (or angels) might think to comment. 

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            Speaking of sharing, though the plan does not begin until January 4th, I spent this last week pouring out 12,337 words on my “Men in Black” story which is presently being saved under the heading “Aidan, Jesse and Bankar.”  Here are the first three paragraphs, probably chapter one:

            Aidan Clark saw the light in the night sky when he started his pick-up.    He noticed it was growing, and certainly no airplane.  He sat in the driveway and wondered if it was a meteorite or a piece of a satellite crashing to earth.  Maybe it was a whole satellite  It would have to be a big piece to burn so long.  Curious, he could see the light growing, but he could not hear it.  He felt sure he ought to hear something falling like that, zooming through the atmosphere.  He kept waiting for the meteorite, or whatever it was, to burn up or break up in mid-air.  Probably too big to disintegrate, he thought.  He judged it would hit his cornfield.  He could see the flames.  It was damn big.  Holy shit!

          Aidan gunned the truck and spun out into the road.  There was an explosion behind him, and he found himself down in the embankment.  His face hurt and his nose started to bleed, but he did not exactly remember hitting his face on the steering wheel, or smacking the windshield.  All he could think of was his home and his parents.  He got out, stumbled to the roadway, and dropped his jaw. 

          Scant feet from where he stood, there was a ravine a quarter mile wide.  Whatever it was hit and slid, and cut a deep trench in the ground as it burrowed slowly to where it stopped a mile away, just beyond the main highway.  The thing had to be huge to cut a mile of dirt.  And it took everything with it, including his house and his parents.  Aidan got back into his truck to find a way to get a close-up look.  He felt angry, confused and in shock.  His eyes moistened, but he blamed the cut on his forehead and his bloody nose, though there was not much blood.

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            Feel free to comment.

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Quote of the Week:

“Merry Christmas (Happy Christmas),” said by about a quarter to a third of the human race for roughly the last 2,000 years …

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Storyteller: Weekly Roundup, December 14, 2013

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            Time is getting away from me.  It is that time of year.  I have three weeks to get my thoughts in order for 2014, provided I slide over to Saturday the 4th of January before I begin.  I also have three weeks to post on a variety of subjects which will be touched upon in future weekly roundups.  Wish me luck. 

            For the present, I am making plans, goals to work toward, not carved in stone, but with the notion that every step is a step in the right direction, and (this is important), I am allowed to feel good about every step I take even if it is not as much or as good or as complete as planned and wanted – even if I don’t reach the goal (yet).  I feel it is important to give myself permission to feel good about what I have accomplished.  They are all steps on the journey.

            It is something I am trying to teach my boys.  I have three at home at present, 17, 18, ad 20.  Take a step, any step.  It is better than standing still.  Even if it is the wrong step, you can change your mind.  Changing your mind is allowed.  I would say the beginning of any journey starts with the first step, but I really dislike clichés and platitudes and fortune cookies.

            Do you have plans, goals, outlines, thoughts, things you want to accomplish in 2014, stories you want to write in the coming year? 

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            This post is a big step for me.  I am going to share, at the end of each week, how well I am stepping; what I am doing as far as my writing is concerned, the thing that matters most to me.  I will be talking about what I am working on and maybe provide some samples.  I will talk about agents and queries, publishers and editors, short story submissions, Amazon, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and promotion and marketing efforts, the good, the bad, and the ogre ugly.  It is a big step, because I have never shared this sort of information before, I find it all rather personal, and I don’t know if anyone will find it the least bit interesting, maybe even helpful in your own work, or not.

            This all may turn into three weeks of silliness followed by stories without comment.  It may turn into stories followed by a weekly roundup, probably posted on Friday morning because I’ve been told people don’t read many blogs over the weekend.  Who knows?  We shall see as time continues to get away from me …   

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Question of the Week

At the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Aragorn married Arwen, do you think he asked Frodo to be his ring bearer? 

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Storyteller About: A New Beginning.

            I tasted death.  A series of mini-strokes on December 30, 2012, four days in the hospital, buckets of cost later and I am not the same.  We only have so much time, and I have so much to do.

            I was born a storyteller.  By the time I was six and beginning to read and write, my imagination overflowed with other worlds and other times.  I discovered the greatest story ever told and it captured my heart.  Story became my way of expressing myself and to both explore and understand the world.  If I had been born in a tribal society I would have had an honored seat at the campfire, but by 1960 my world had already lost the time, patience and interest in tales of the imagination.  Movies were spewing out stories with an overabundance of romance or for the special effects and a chance to blow things up.  Nothing was to be gained by those.

            By the time I reached sixth grade, I was scribbling ideas, notes and drawings, tales of the imagination, and found I was drawn to adventures such as boys used to love.  Verne, Wells, Haggard, Stevenson, yes Dickens and Twain.  Of course I loved Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams and really all of the Inklings.  I searched the deep past and found Homer, Virgil, Beowulf, Bunyan and Swift and discovered that Oz, Never Land, Wonderland and The Back of the North Wind were never far away.  I found the writers of the Golden age of Science Fiction, E. E. Doc Smith and the rest, and writers of my own early age from Addams to Zelazny – too many to count.  These sustained me in the wilderness, and the wilderness is where I went after high school.

            I had boxes, files and an entire desk full of ideas, with some stories, some book beginnings and a play or two.  I was the boy, ready to start my adventure.  If just one person believed in me and my stories, the whole universe might have turned in a different direction.  But no.  The enormous pressure to do college, to find work, to have a family and then die was upon me, and I did not have the backbone to follow my heart.  I spent most of the last 40 years in some position or other where I could tell stories and express my tales of truth and glory, but my time belonged to others, to the grind that ate life and to the silent tears that cried out, “This is not what I am supposed to be doing with my life.”  If I say I wasted the last 40 years in the wilderness I would not be lying.

            Then I tasted death.  I am near 60 and on more medication than I can name, but the stories have not gone away.  They have strengthened to where now I no longer have the will to escape the words.  I have no doubt I will write furiously until I die and still not get all of the stories written.

            Somewhere in my wilderness years publishers invented a new category of fiction: (middle-grade)/Young Adult.  But this fine idea has been taken over presently by sparkly romances and the Princess collection because young women read.  The heroine saves the city, the world, the universe in a thin plot whose main purpose is to bring two people together so they can fall in love.  I am sure there are plenty of young women who enjoy reading what Paganini would call variations on a theme. 

            At the same time, I have heard over and over that young men don’t read.  The back of my mind screams Potter, Unfortunate Events, Olympians, but the front of my mind says it is not worth arguing with agents and publishers that there is still a market for the likes of Robert Heinlein, James Blish or John Brunner.  I don’t have ten years to devote to such arguments and nonsense.  What?  So I can see something in print when I am 70?

            Instead, we have all gone digital.  So will I.  I can start putting stories up for E-readers and POD books and maybe audio books fairly quickly.  My sons are talking about the possibility of reworking the Avalon series into comic book form.  We will build a website, do some book promotions on film for YouTube, and probably participate in giveaways through Amazon Select.  Of course, if you actually buy the works I will be grateful.  My life has not exactly been one to include much money or much success.  Perhaps because my heart was not in it.  But let me be clear: my job is not to get lost in social media and dubious promotions.  My job to get as many of these stories finished as possible before I die. 

            I will do my best to keep you up-to-date as time slides by. 

            Meanwhile, on this blog I am going to start posting Avalon, season 2 as a Monday, Wednesday, Friday post.  God willing I won’t suffer a relapse or be that one-in-three who suffers a massive stroke and becomes completely incapacitated.  If you are so inclined, pray for me.  I am finally doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  Let us hope there are still enough years to do it.

— Michael

Wise Words for Writers: Grin and Berra

            We are all the product of our choices.  We can’t blame mom or dad or bad advice of friends and family.  We can’t blame our teachers.  We can’t blame Bush.  And it is not always by random chance that the main character or characters in a story find themselves in a difficult situation, either.  In fact, in real life I know of very few, if any circumstances outside of winning the lottery that come out of nowhere – and even to win the lottery one must choose to buy a ticket.. 

            It is our choices in life, generally thousands of small choices along the way that define us.  The same should be true about our characters.  When I read background information written by other writers, I look for the choices the characters made along the way.  I find all sorts of events that happen around them and sometimes to them, but I rarely read about them.  In my mind, that may be good history background, but there is very little character background there. 

            But now, having said that we are the product of our many, many choices in life, there is one disclaimer.  Neither us nor the characters in a story live in a vacuum as alluded to above.  None of us is an island – unless we have chosen to live as a hermit in a cave.  Sometimes, those with whom we are connected can turn a bad choice into gold.  Sometimes, those same connections can turn a good choice into dross.  In other words, the choices are ours, but the outcome can be affected by the world around us.

            Writers choose to write no less than Van Gogh chose to paint or Mother Theresa chose to dedicate her life to the needy.  Mother Theresa gained some acclaim in her lifetime.  She did not want it.  That was not what she was there for.  Van Gogh, now considered one of the greatest painters who ever live, sold only one painting his whole life, to a friend who felt sorry for him.  He was (likely) bi-polar.  He mixed bursts of productivity with fits of depression so great he once cut his ear off.

            Why mention this?  Because success or failure are relative.  Recognition or rejection are relative.  They are outsider dependent issues.  They are things that happen to writers, things beyond the writer’s control.  They are things that might happen in one of those so-called character sketches.  But they should never define the writer.

            Writers write because they choose to write.  Characters face or run away from dilemmas – their choice.  We sometimes feel trapped by this or that, and characters too, as long as it is sometimes.  But the truth is there is always a way out, an option, a new choice that can be made.  If a writer chooses to do something different, they will stop writing and do that other thing.  If they choose to write, they will write.  Succeed or fail, respected or rejected means little to writers who have chosen to write.  Sure, success, a little acclaim, a little respect would be nice, but they are not writing.  I don’t know how else to say it.  Writers write.

            We are the product of our choices, and our characters should be as well.  So for us and for the characters we write about, I recommend the thought that Yogi Berra put so very well:  When you come to a fork in the road you should take it.  Now who can say it clearer than that?

Ah, The Wonder of Being an Author

 

            Confidence can be broken with something as thin as a whisper. 

            Failure is a forty-foot long Black Sea Snake just waiting for a misstep.  The snake grins because we don’t know exactly which step is the misstep. 

            I have told stories all my life.  I know my stories are good, well thought out, well paced, well …  I know I write well, but so do a hundred thousand other people.  What is it?  One in a thousand actually find representation and see print, or less?

            There is self-publishing, E-books and POD, but that is a raging flood, and much of it is brackish, undrinkable water.  There are a million authors clamoring for attention – 999,000 who did not find representation.  How does one break through that sound barrier so some stranger might actually look at a book – buy a book?

            With impossible odds, confidence as thin as a one-sided piece of paper and as fragile as a word of hope, and failure able to swallow a person whole and digest that person for years, it is a wonder anything sees print.  Do you think?

Quotes From My Father: On Serious Writing for Serious Readers.

            My father landed on Normandy beach in about the twenty-third wave.  He was a secretary for the Colonel who took over running the railroads in France as they were captured.  Dad could type about a gazzilion words per minute on a manual typewriter.  That was important, because the Germans only had one that could type half-a-gazzilion wpm.

            After trying so hard to keep his trains and tracks from being blown up, and being shot at a few times, as well as being bombed, he came home and studied journalism at Northwestern on the G I Bill.  He went from there to work in Washington D C, a place known for having no sense of humor.  Then after a brief stint in serious gangster land (Chicago) he ended up in New York editing Railway Age Magazine. 

            The company my Dad worked for all of his career published mostly professional journals and magazines.  My dad ended his career many years later as Executive Editor of Banking Magazine, the journal of the American Bankers Association.  Bankers also have no sense of humor (so I have been told).

            All that serious, professional stuff.  I think that is why it made such a mark when every now and then he would say, “Life is too important to take seriously.”

            His heart was light.  His writing was easy to read, and even, and sometimes especially when the subject was utterly serious and professional.  People not only read his work, they enjoyed his work. 

            We who seek to write, fiction and non-fiction should consider this lesson.  We believe in our work, especially when it is non-fiction – that it is important and oh-so-serious.  But most of all, we want readers.  As my son says, “Lighten up.”  This is a good motto to remember when you are so deeply immersed in the serious importance of your work you can hardly come up for air: “Life is too important to take seriously.”  — J. W. Kizzia

Forever 1.12: Leaving Home

            “So what are you going to do after you graduate?” Joe, the church sexton asked.  He was sitting in his little room off the main auditorium and near the kitchen where every Sunday morning he had coffee and the Sunday paper waiting.  Glen turned his head briefly before he looked again on the evergreens that shielded a view of the empty church parking lot.  It was raining, not hard, but a miserable sort of cold, soaking rain.  Church was long over and Joe and Glen might have been the only two people left in the building.

            “Go to college.  I thought that was required.  At seventeen, I am not ready for college, but it seems I have no choice.  My great uncle sits on the board or something and went to great lengths to get me in.  To be honest, I should probably go to a local school, maybe commute to a community college for a year while I try to figure out what I want to do.”

            “You sound like you don’t have any choice,” Joe said.  But Joe knew Glen’s parents.  Glen simply glanced at the man again before his eyes were drawn back to the window.  It was finally beginning to rain.

            “Not here,” he said, and he thought long about that before he added, “Of course, this isn’t the real world, you know.”  When Joe said nothing, Glen began to explain.

            “In this place everything is twisted and distorted.”  Glen paused to consider his words.  “Exaggerated,” he decided.  “I mean, in the real world my parents were always hard on me.  I might have wanted them to be more easy going, but I never doubted they meant it for the best and only wanted the best for me.  Here, they are impossible.  In the real world, I might have wanted more positive attention.  Here, nothing is positive toward me and mostly they ignore me altogether.  There, I may have felt like I got more than my share of blame for things, but here everything is my fault, even if I have nothing to do with it.  Do you see?”  When Glen heard no response, he continued.

            “To be honest, I have begun to wonder if it is so much that things here are distorted as maybe just my feelings are distorted and then projected on my surroundings.  It is like maybe I am the one who wants things to be easy and wants praise and wants to not have to take responsibility for my screw-ups.  So here things get extra hard and I get only put downs and I get blamed for things even when I am innocent.  It is almost like whatever I want, I get the opposite.”  Glen stopped then to think and he thought Joe was being very patient by staying quiet.

            “You know what I mean?”  The question was rhetorical.  “It’s like whenever I find something good they discontinue it.  It’s like, I don’t know.  Maybe God is trying to work on my insides.  Maybe I am wanting certain things too much and others too little.  Of course, if that’s the case, it is easy enough to determine what I am wanting too much.  And it isn’t just my parents or my family, mind you.  It is teachers, friends, everyone really.  You may be excepted.  I don’t know.  You don’t really depend on me for anything and I am not over you in some way.  And same in reverse, I mean you are not over me and I don’t depend on you, necessarily.”  Glen paused.  “Actually, that is not true.  I depend on you to listen which no one else ever does, and I appreciate that more than you will ever know.”  Glen tried to get back on topic.

            “But anyway, it is easy enough to figure out what I may be wanting too much.  The trouble is, there are two things about that.  First, most people would just say I am wanting the good things in life too much; but there is nothing wrong with good things.  They say life is a mix of good and bad, but all I seem to get around here is the bad.  Is it really wrong to want some good things mixed in?  Good times and bad times are part of every life, they say.  All I can say is great!  When do the good times start?”  Glen took a deep breath before he continued.  His eyes were damp.

            “The other problem with that is I don’t have any idea what I am wanting too little.  I know some Eastern philosophers say you shouldn’t want anything at all.  I most strongly disagree.  God made us with the capacity to love and want the one we love.  I know we were made to love God and love our neighbor, to glorify God and do good for our neighbor.  These things I am doing, they are in my heart, in my soul if you will, but still I get crushed, it gets taken from me, things never work out for the good, nothing ever goes right, and I still get kicked, psychologically crushed, crucified in a small way, I suppose.  That seems to be the nature of this non-place I have found myself in.  Pain and torment appear victorious and I can’t seem to break out or escape.” 

            “The truth is, there is no good here for me, not in my life, not that I have ever experienced.  I don’t even know what a blessing might be.  I can’t say as I have ever had one.  About all I can say is what I keep saying over and over.  I’m not dead yet, and I ask, why did God let me live?”

            Glen heard a sound and turned around.  Joe was rushing back in from the kitchen with an apology.  “Sorry, I had to be sure the coffee was unplugged, and then the phone rang.  You were saying?  Your uncle got you into the college so you feel you have to go?”

            “Yes,” Glen nodded.  “That is exactly what I was saying.”  He turned his eyes back to the falling rain and said no more.

Forever 1.11: Going Home

            Glen ripped down the weeds and vines that guarded the cave entrance.  He stuck his head into the dark and called out, “Hello?”  He was only mildly surprised when he got an answer and an invitation.

            “Yes?  Hello.  Do come in.”

            “It is rather dark,” Glen said as he stepped in and stepped aside to let in as much of the fading sunlight as possible.

            “Oh, I beg your pardon.”  There was a roar of flame like flame from a flamethrower.  Glen had to shade and close his eyes to not be suddenly blinded, and he had to keep back to not be burnt.  When it was over, a big campfire was lit in the middle of a round room cavern and there was a dragon curled up comfortably against the back wall.  There was also a man sitting cross legged before the fire.

            “Hello?”  Glen spoke to the man and again he was only mildly surprised when the dragon answered.

            “Yes, hello.  Do come in.  The old man said to expect you.”  Glen stepped forward toward the old man who had his back turned and made no indication other than that he was perhaps sleeping sitting there.  He made sure the fire remained between him and the dragon.  “Sometimes the shaman prefers the dark, and to me, of course, it makes no difference.”

            “Who are you?” Glen asked, not that he expected an answer he could understand.  He imagined this was the dragon of the long march from the Windy Castle on the Fogwart River or some such thing.  What he heard did actually surprise him.

            “I am the Spirit of Home,” the dragon said. 

            “I beg your pardon?”  Glen repeated the dragon’s phrase.

            “I make a house into a home and a community into a hometown.  I am the greater spirit that reaches out when people go away.  I remind them of all the good things.  I sing to them in the night.  I draw them back to the place they were raised and hold them close to family and loved ones.”

            “So you are the one I have to thank for Debbie.”  Glen showed his anger.

            “Regrettable.  I am not allowed to discriminate, but how a person responds is entirely up to them.  Which call was stronger?  Regretable.”

            Glen let go of his anger in a breath of hot air.  It was puppy love, as he knew.  There really was no future there.  “Yeah, well I would like to get home,” he changed the subject.

            “So would we,” the old man spoke and Glen took a step back.  “But our home has been taken by people from the old world.  We have no right of return.  Our home is lost to us forever.  We have had to make a new home.  I am here to see that time of homelessness and despair is short, not long.”

            “I am sorry,” Glen said.  “But all of that was ages before my time.  I would like to go back to my time, if it is not too much trouble.”

            The dragon lifted his head and stared long at Glen.  It cocked its head to one side and then the other before it spoke.  “I see no home in you.  Yet you are not of the nomads or gypsies or travelers who carry their home with them.  I see many homes in you down through the ages, and I see you in many forms living a native among many people.”

            The old man spoke over top.  “You have an ancient touch of the Tuscarora people.  That alone is why I let you live.  That is why I called you here, but I see now there is no help in you.”

            Glen took another step back and swallowed.  He was not aware his life was in danger.  “The reason it is an ancient touch of native is because I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong in this time.”

            “I see many days,” the dragon continued.  “I see many times.  I am confused.  I cannot sing to you.”

            “I don’t know.”  Glen shook his head.  “I am only me, right now.  And I belong a hundred years in the future.  I should not have come in the first place.”

            “You do,” the old man confirmed.

            “You should not be here.” The dragon agreed.

            “Well?”  Glen waited.

            “Why are you here?”  The dragon asked.

            “The old man?”  Glen suggested.

            The old man shook his head.  “I saw you in the entrance and called to you, but you came of your own volition.”

            “Why did you come?”  The dragon rephrased its question.

            “To have my heart broken?”  Glen said.  “To find one more wonderful thing that I am not allowed to have.  You have no idea.”  The tears came up into his eyes.  “Why?  Every time I find something good, it gets discontinued and taken from me.  Everywhere I go I am not welcome and not wanted.  I disappoint everyone.  I get passed over and neglected always.  There is no good in me, and though I beg for forgiveness, all I hear is silence.  The silence in my life is deafening.  Please, I just want to go home.”  He began to cry and fell to his knees because all his strength to stand left him at once.

            “You have no home,” the dragon said.

            “Though you fear homelessness and despair, you must pass through to make your own home,” the old man added.

            “You have had and will have many homes, but you don’t belong here,” the dragon concluded.

            “That is because I am not dead yet,” Glen mouthed.  “Why did God let me live?”  He faded from sight.