Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

Originally posted on 1/3/10 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

I suppose you know what this week’s article is about. Check out the calendar and you’ll know straight away. Yearly resolutions. Yeah, I know. I feel the same way, too. Why bother? I mean, we’ll just break them. I’m not the type to make resolutions because I know I have a difficult time following through. I’ve always though, “Why set myself up with a goal I know I’ll fail?”

The thing is, I seem to have a problem. I say I want to sit down and write. I push away distractions and refuse to play games of take part in online groups because “I need to use my free time to write”, yet what do I truly do? When I sit at the computer I check my email, glance at a few sights and then nothing. I might browse the web. One thing I never do is make the time to write.

I have time on Saturday and Sunday mornings, before the distractions wake up. If I simply used that time, who knows how far in my writing I’d get?

For some reason it’s hard for me to get started. Once I begin to type, I go like a mad man. The ideas flow and I can’t get them on the page fast enough. But getting started? That’s the hard part.

What I need is a regimented set time and place. I need to say “It’s 7 am, Saturday morning and this is my computer. It’s writing time!” Then I jump in and begin. What if I did that? What if I actually created a writing habit?

So now you know my resolution. It’s simple and it’ll help be become a better writer. I profess to want a future career in writing novels, yet I don’t force myself to work on some kind of deadline. You can be sure if Annabelle did land an agent and publisher, I wouldn’t be able to fart around the web. I’d have to write “x” amount of pages a day and accomplish a lot more than my new resolution allows for.

You can’t hand Christmas lights on your roof until you master climbing a ladder. By creating a set time and place to write, and sticking to it, I’ll learn to master the first rungs.

Enough about me. What are your writing resolutions?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Originally posted on 12/20/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Research. For some it sounds like hard work. Sure, it’s time consuming but it can really be worth it. It’s very important that you do this phase of the writing, just not necessarily at first.

We all get a general idea of what to write about. Concepts pop into our heads and we are inspired with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”. Some of these ideas beg a look into other topics and fields we’re unsure of. Sometimes we’re watching a documentary or show and get inspired to create a story from the small aspect we’ve learned.

There’s nothing wrong with looking deeper into whatever that topic is. In fact at some point you’ll need to do this so your facts are accurate. One problem that might occur from too much research at the beginning is procrastination. You might get so wrapped up in studying the facts that you never actually begin the story. Your warm story concepts and passion for your ideas might cool. You might lose interest or get caught up in something completely different. In those situations, stories die in the opening stages and never become something.

Avoid this! It’s better to have something on the page. Some pages or chapters writing out so you can go back (if distracted) and find that passion again. If you can write the whole thing and only pause for research when you absolutely have too, you’ll have a finished manuscript. Don’t bog down ideas. Don’t stifle the writing by interrupting the flow to follow up on research, but go back after, during the edit phase, and fix. That’s what rewrites are for.

I jumped in with both feet and just started writing the story in my mind. I wrote two whole chapters involving a school house circa mid eighteen hundreds. The problem is, there were no such things in the seventeen hundreds. Yes, I had to cut them out and save those chapters for a later story, but by pushing through I had a chance to place my characters in situations where it helped me to get to know them better. I continued onward and finished the book. I know myself well enough to know I would’ve gotten sidetracked and lost my nerve. It would’ve been another unfinished project.

Sometimes we can’t catch it all. After numerous revisions of the finished manuscript I joined a critique group. I advise everyone to do the same. Others might take you down a peg, but you need it. One such author pointed out that the way I had wolves attacking children was wrong. The pack leader always goes for the fleeing prey’s ankle, that way she or he could pull in down. Sure, I had to rewrite the scene, but something better came from it.

Beta readers don’t expect you to be perfect, but your readers do need the story to be as accurate as possible.

Research is very important. Do not skip it. You find information from reading about your topics both through the web and actual books on the subject. Also, you can find others who know about said topics and interview them (with their permission of course). As you study, interesting gems come forth that may help direct your story. What would your characters do in this new, more accurate situation?

Yes, there will be parts you’ll have to rewrite but don’t be afraid to do that. We’ll discuss rewrites later. All I want to empress on you is that research can be fun and is necessary needs to be controlled. The important thing is to get your story on the page.

Good luck with your writing!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Working For a Living

Originally posted on 11/15/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Cindy Speer’s article on Friday really hit the spot. She wrote about Split Focus and I’ve got to confess I suffer from the same situation. Some days it’s so hard to focus on writing. I hear the kids in the other room or the TV. Maybe there are things in my life that I find myself dwelling on and can’t hear the muse.

It’s not like I don’t want to write. I still have my goals and dreams. I want to be a professional author whose tales entertain and inspire. Sure, getting the right agent or a publishing contract is harder than winning in Vegas, but I still must try.

Despite this desire, I find myself procrastinating. Why is it that it’s so hard to start writing and so hard to stop? I suppose it’s a demon I’ll always have to fight.

At any rate, I’ve got to put my nose to grindstone and my shoulder to the wheel. Sometimes writing is hard work. Yuck. Work.

Downstairs, while I continued in my relaxing activities upstairs, sewer water seeped into the carpet and soaked the walls of a few rooms. This meant work. Sure, a contractor removed the black water, and another has begun to put up new sheet rock to replace the old, but the wife and I need to help. We have a goal to get the ruined rooms replaced before Thanksgiving and we’ve got to jump in where possible to help meet that.

This means sheet rock dust in the eyes. Sometimes life blows dust and causes your vision to get blurry. I don’t like it but if I don’t put up the sheet rock, I don’t make my goal. So I jumped in and started at it. After some chalky mess I look around and behold, the room looks nicer.

Sometimes you need to set apart time to sit down and work. You might get dust in your eyes like discovering a scene wont work out how you want it too, but you’ll also find gems.

So how do I “jump in and work”? Friday I found myself with time to write and a desire to browse the web. I stopped what I was doing, opened Windows Media Player, and cranked up “Dies Irae (Requiem)” by Karl Jenkins. Suddenly I saw the big fight scene I needed to write. I opened my file and began to write.

Some days music doesn’t help. Some days a quiet walk inspires me. Whatever inspirers you, do it and get in the mood and write.

Good luck and remember my favorite catch phrase...

Just write.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

That's what friends are for

Originally posted on 11/29/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

I thought I’d use this article to explain what I’m thankful for. After all, it is Thanksgiving weekend, the time of year where we pause and think on our blessings and good fortune.

There are a lot of things I could write at length about. My family, friends, work, house, pets and even the material things I enjoy. I could go on about faith and various religious terms, but this blog isn’t really for any of those things.

This is a writer’s blog and on it I’d like to mention my gratitude to other writers and readers. See, while we as writers have imagination and the means to use that imagination to create, we need others to create for.

Sure, you could write for yourself and many do. This site, however, is for people trying to perfect the writing craft. To improve on your writing, you need someone outside your head to read your stuff and call BS on it. Someone who will see the good for good and the bad for bad.

I’m so very grateful for them. Some of these people are reading this right now (Michelle and Kim, I’m looking at you!) while others have no clue I’m put this article up.

From Jeff, the 6th grade teacher who agreed to check out my rough draft (feel sorry for him) all the way to Rick at work who is reading my 2nd book, every one of you have shaped my novels and ideas into something better. I’m grateful to all of you. It was hard to listen sometimes, but it has always been worth it.

I’m also grateful for this site. Writing my articles here has given me the opportunity to force my butt down and write. They say you learn by teaching and that has certainly been true for me.

Thanks guys, and keep on writing!

A little addendum from 11/26/10
As you readers know, I originally wrote this article two years ago for a writing blog.
My gratitude to my past beta readers still hold true. I'd like to add to the list. I'm grateful to Cheri for forming the Tooele division of the League of Utah Writers and to the various members for their support. I'm also grateful to Mr Kelly and Bryant for letting me speak in their classes and to Jennifer, the best editor in the world, for showing me the light.

As always, I'm grateful to my children and my wife. Her support is the light in my soul, without it I could not function.
Beyond all that, I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the talent to write.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Wanna Talk About Me

Originally posted on 10/18/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Ever have a chance to talk to others about your books? It seems us authors can’t get enough of that. We simply won’t shut up. Well, I guess I’m glossing over the legions of people who might feel differently. I’m sorry if you’re one of them. It’s just that I haven’t met any of you.

I have, however, met many writers who, once they get started, can’t stop themselves when describing this great scene or that cool new character. They were wrestling with a dilemma in their story and something clicked. My family, friends , beta readers and critique partners would testify of how they labored over my constant jawing about Annabelle.

I’ve labored to control myself here and only pepper my articles with my novel info. I’ll continue to do so. The reason I’m going on about this is one simple fact. We like to share our worlds, concepts and ideas with everyone. Why else would we try to be published?

Ok, this being said, have any of you thought of taking this desire to the next level? Sure, it’s easy to babble on to one or two people in person about your stories, but have you ever tried a group?

I’m talking about speaking engagements. Yes. Scheduling a time and place to stand up in front of several eyes and speak about writing, your journey as a writer and yes, your book. Not rambling on at your long suffering spouse about how character A can’t get to place B without item C and it’s driving you insane. I mean calling up a book store, library or school and scheduling a time to stand before others and share with them.

Several of you live in a different universe than me. Many of you are published and attend speaking engagements on a regular occasion. Maybe next weekend you’ll be at the Lone Pine Mall, signing copies of your book. If so, all the power to you and I long for those days.

Speaking as a first time author with no agent or publisher, I can still attest to the power of public speaking. I’ve had the privilege to speak in front of two 6th grade classes and two 8th grade classes. Last Friday I spoke to my daughter’s 8th grade history class.

Was I scared? Of course! A small sea of eyes looked up at me, expecting knowledge mixed with mild entertainment. I don’t like being under the spot light. My daughter laughed later and told me how nervous I looked. She would know. She sees me all the time and knew I seemed a little tense. I didn’t let the others onto it, though. I focused on a select few faces and continued on. Sure, I could’ve done it better, but they did like it.

The teacher had a Smart Board. I knew this ahead of time so I brought various images of my characters and the historical settings. I explained the story and main characters and then sat down and read a few pages. I wrapped it up with questions from the audience. It was an afternoon class so the kids were awake and full of questions.

Sure, I got the “when will it be published” question and had to explain how it’s in the editing stages but I hope to get it out there in a couple years. Sure, some were disappointed, but they did enjoy the presentation and I could tell by their eyes they wanted more. If I never get published, at least I inspired future writers today.

You can inspire others to write, or just get them excited about your book. We newbies can use all the well wishes we can get. Have a teacher read your book in class. It’s possible. It happened to me. Sure, you can’t put their positive feedback in a query letter, but it’ll lift you up during the down times and show others that writing can be fun and productive. They learn that if they might just reach those dreams.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turn The Beat Around

Originally posted on 10/4/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

This last week and a half I’ve found myself caught up in my day job. I’m a CAD drafter and our company has been under a dreaded deadline. With last minute changes and tiring efforts, my brain has turned to mush.

Now as a budding writer, I know my time is precious. When I have a few moments to myself I should write. The problem is that I feel too exhausted to think let alone let the muse play.

Up to this point my articles have tried to give encouragement and next time I plan to do the same. This week, however, I’d like to turn the tables a bit.

I know those of you reading this have experienced times like this. What have you done to push away the brain-dead exhaustion and put pen to paper? What methods have you employed to get your butt into the chair and write something instead of troll Twitter?


Monday, November 15, 2010

Workin’ It Out

Originally posted on 9/20/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

The other day I found myself alone on my day off. This is very rare in the Roberts household, I can assure you. We have in our home seven pets. We’ve got three dogs, three cats and one quiet rabbit. I decided that a morning alone was the perfect time to clean the rabbit’s cage.

Now to properly do this task, I needed to tie the bunny to the fence so she didn’t escape into unknown dangers abroad. Then I would take the cage to the curb to hose and scrub it clean. Yes, it was a vile job but the underlings (children) were at school.

The challenge wasn’t the hosing process. No, the true challenge of that morning had nothing to do with Hazel’s abode. We recently added to our six pets. We gained a new, annoying, puppy (hence the count of seven animals).Yes, we’re outnumbered.

While the other animals have enough knowledge to stay out of the street in most situations, Lily the pup didn’t. So while I lean over the curb, washing the cage, she wanted to run pass me into the street.

I couldn’t have that so I had to put her on the dog-run. Now I should mention that the difference between a relaxed adult rabbit and a nervous puppy is that one is content to party in the family garden near the fence (whoops!) while the other makes more ear-splitting noise than a cat in a washing machine.

The cleaning process isn’t very long. She would remain tied for perhaps ten minutes. If you happened to be strolling up my street at that moment, you would have sworn I was beating the puppy within an inch of her life. She whined and tugged at the strap with desperation.

If she could’ve understood that at after a short ten minutes she’d be frolicking in the house, terrorizing the cats or chewing on something important, she wouldn’t whine. It should be noted that when it comes to waiting for things, there is a strange chrono- spatial warp present. If you are the one waiting, ten minutes becomes an hour. This warp elongates with time. If you’re a writer waiting on that expected rejection letter, it could take years (months).

We whine too. I’m a big whiner. Ask my friends and family. They have stood by me during this whole writing dream and they’ve suffered with my frustrations. I’m tied to a fence, waiting (i.e. editing, revising, submitting and then start all over after enough ample servings of rejection). One day I’ll be chasing cats in the air-conditioned living room (published). Sure, it wont be Heaven. Everything I read informs me of all the challenges a published author goes through, but where I sit it would be better than wondering if I’ll ever get there.

Instead of whining about rejections and further revisions, wondering if we’ll ever be published, we could work on other books, send more queries, revise yet again and improve our web platforms.

If we could look at our situation from an outsider’s point of view from the future, we might learn that yes, we did get that agent and publishing contract. Unfortunately we can’t. We have to struggle and learn the hard way. And by doing that, we learn the things we need for that future time. Patience and faith. They’re hard to comprehend sometimes, but it’s worth it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Go The Distance

Originally posted on 9/6/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.


It appears I posted my article a week early. Ah well. This gives me the chance to pen a quick letter of encouragement.

Dear Frustrated Author;

I understand you’ve had it rough. Word has filtered to me that you’re ready to throw in the towel.

I realize you’re tired of finding mistakes in your manuscript that previously were invisible. That you can’t believe the betas and the critique group members found something so obvious while you overlooked it for the last seventeen read throughs.

And then there were those constant rejections. You wonder if there is a single lit agent in the world who hasn’t passed on your masterpiece. It’s so easy for them, huh? You pour your life blood into this work and they don’t have the decency to look at it. Or maybe they did ask for pages and now you know they saw the glaring errors your betas pointed out. Ouch!

I need you to realize something. These problems are normal, they will happen again and even get replaced with other challenges. I don’t need to tell you that this is life.

What I do want you to do is think back. Remember when you got the notion for this book? Remember why you wanted to be a writer? Think on that. Remember the positive things your betas and critique group members said? It wasn’t all bad, was it?

Why would you build a wooden rocking horse for a child? Because you love her and want to see her smile and laugh. There is an end result you’re looking for. So you begin and work every day on it. Tiny slivers cut into your hands and you wince with pain (the smallest cuts seem to hurt the most). Do you quit?

How about when that child comes over on Saturday and asks, “Is my horsey almost done, Uncle Author?” What do you say?

You suck the tiny sliver spots on your hands and get back to work. You persevere. At some point you’re finished and she laughs and smiles and rocks the heck out of that beautiful rocking horse.

My point? When were down, we don’t know the future, keep at it. There is a certain period of time between painful creation and happy finished work. When I say “finished” I don’t mean rough draft stage or 5th revision, I mean the end of the road. For you and I that means published.

The gap between start and true finished is a long one involving many pratfalls. We have to remember our goals, reevaluate our plans and jump back into the work. Everyone has a reason to write. Focus on your end destination (like the happy child in my example) and push to that goal.

You’ve made it this far, why stop now?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More classic Charge of the Write Brigade articles

Hey guys,

Like always, I'm behind in my postings.

I'm going to schedule the rest of my articles from the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Hopefully you'll like them.

Don’t you forget about me

Originally posted on 8/30/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Stephenie Meyer woke up after a strange dream about a love struck vampire and a mortal girl in a meadow. She quickly wrote down the dream as best as she could remember. JK Rowling pictured her main character while riding a commuter train and took no time to jot the ideas and concepts down on any paper she could find.

Like them or not, you can’t deny the impact both authors have had on the industry. If either one blew off their flashes of idea, where would their fans be now? Both introduced people to the world of books during an age of TV, video games and other visual forms of entertainment.

Writers have a gift. We have the talent for seeing interesting characters, places and situations where others see only what’s in front of them. Last time I wrote about the effect of music on inspiration but today I’d like to focus on what you should do once that inspiration strikes.

Ideas come from everywhere. A quiet campsite, a bubbling brook, a crowded city, the view from a plane window, a vivid dream, or even other’s creations can all bring ideas. We watch a show or read a book and a thought strikes us: “That’s all well and good but what if…”

If and when these ideas strike there is one thing and only one thing you should do. As quick as possible, before anything or anyone stops you, write it down and keep it. I don’t care if you prefer to write long hand on paper, napkins, flesh or toilet paper. I don’t care if you choose to keep folders of scribbles that only you or a team of trained code breakers could understand. I don’t care if you prefer to keep electronic files full of notes. All that matters is that you write down, record or even video any idea for later.

I personally like a loose outline. Many don’t. In fact the writers’ website known as Absolute Write has that very question in their members profile info. Outline or no outline? Ultimately it matters not as long as you have a system that works.

Here is my system:

1) Idea pops into my head.

2) I use whatever is available to write it down (if nothing is available, I keep the idea in the back of my head until I get something to write it down).

3) Once home I transfer the idea into my notes, i.e. my “Who’s Who” or “Timeline”. Save file.

4) Refer back to notes when I reach that character or scene.

Simple, no?

Let me explain the “Who’s Who” and “Timeline”.

For me, the term “Who’s Who” comes from DC Comics. Back in the ‘80s they published their “Who’s Who” over a twelve month period. Each issue featured their various characters. There was information on their full names, birth dates, death dates, eye & hair color, height & weight, history, powers & abilities and anything else that mattered. Marvel comics did the same thing but called it The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

In my Annabelle’s Who’s Who, I don’t go into all that detail unless that stuff is worked out. I do include any information that is important to my stories. This might be their history, motivations, relationships or passions. When an idea for a new character or changes to an existing character strikes me I open the file and put it in.

My Timeline is a list of every major event in the lives of Annabelle and Roland from 1687 AD to the current time.

I’m writing a YA historical vampire fantasy fiction series. One of the reasons I placed Ann’s origins three-hundred years in the past was to have fun with history. As far as I can tell, every vampire story begins with a human from now-a-days meeting a vampire. The vamp isn’t the MC because we can’t relate with someone who lived forever. I beg to differ. Sure, I could be wrong but why not go with the dream?

So instead of beginning now and have my vamps say “Remember when the Salem jail was packed with dirty innocent people and we had to rescue that real witch?” I show them doing events in order of when they actually experience them. So the famous witch trails are touched upon in the first book, pirates and post-fire London in the second, and so on.

With this plan, I need a comprehensive list of where they were during the last three-hundred years. When a character or setting pops into my head, I add it to my Timeline. When I come across a particularly juicy piece of history, I put it in my Timeline.

When I actually write the stories, I copy and paste the notes needed into my actual story, then write through as the inspiration takes me, including the notes where they fit into the story.

This system works for me. What systems do you use to catch inspiration and bottle it up until you need it?

Play That Funky Music

Originally posted on 8/16/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

The theme to “Edward Scissorhands” by Danny Elfman begins. My mind instantly travels to a dark Fall night. Eliza Pratchet walks purposefully with two children in red cloaks following behind. She’s taking them through the small colonial settlement for another lesson. Annabelle’s undead pulse quickens with excitement. Will they finally learn how to become bats?

At the point of the song marked 02:08 the soft eerie tempo starts to wave, like small bat wings. Ann and her brother flutter under the moonlight. Then around 02:59 the quirky march slows off to become a gentle ballad and I see her. I can’t help it. Her flowing red curls, the gleam of happiness in her crimson eyes, the gentle billowing of her blue dress and red cloak in the wind as she floats ten feet in the air. Annabelle’s inner peace, joy and love all moves through my soul.

That is what I see every time that song is played. Heck, even if we’re watching the movie, I see it. That theme will forever be linked in my mind as “Annabelle’s Theme”. If I could choose a composer for a Night Children movie it would be Danny Elfman, hands down.

Music inspires me. I can’t help it. Heck, I wouldn’t want to. It doesn’t matter if there are lyrics, or what style the music is. Certain songs send me off to other worlds.

My main antagonist, Dominic, commands attention as I listen to “The Kraken” from the “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

“Love Song For A Vampire” by Annie Lennox puts me straight into Eliza’s mind as she cares for the dying children, ready to change them forever rather than let them die so young.

The list goes on and on. Some songs provide me with actual scenes from my series, like “Carpe Noctem” from the Dance of the Vampires soundtrack, “Journey to Transylvania” from the Van Helsing soundtrack by Alan Silvestri, the “Poltergeist” theme, “Libra Me” and the “Davy Jones” theme from that same Pirates movie.

Other songs create characters. “Original Sin” from the Dance of the Vampires soundtrack, “Moon Over Bourbon Street” by Sting, “Taste of Blood” by Mazzy Star, “Lucretia My Reflection” by Sisters of Mercy and “Transylvanian Concubine” by Rasputina have all created very interesting cast members.

Then there are those songs that simply put me in a vampire mood. “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann, “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse, “Go All The Way (Into The Twilight)” by Perry Farrell, “Bela Lugosi's Dead” by Bauhaus, “Bloodletting” by Concrete Blonde and of course the mack daddy of all vampire songs, “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach .

I’ve used enough quotation marks to allow this post to fly but I think I’ve made my point. Music can be a powerful tool for writers. Ever watch a movie and catch yourself leaning forward in your chair, not because of what’s going on, but because the music is telling you something bad is about to happen? Once again, the power of music.

It can show you the gentle parts of your story or the fast paced action sequence. Characters, settings and entire plots and subplots form in your mind as the songs continue. If you haven’t tried to use music before, give it a chance.

Think of the kinds of music you would expect to hear if your story was a movie. What songs really cover your theme? Then while listening to them, close your eyes and picture the scenes in your novel.

Not everyone is inspired by the same things, but if this works for you I’d suggest creating folder of music for your music player of choice. A soundtrack if you will. Then when you’re feeling writers block, play it and watch the scenes grow.

Sometimes when I need to be inspired, I’ll play the Vampire Folder on my media player.

I feel sorry for my coworkers. I have no clue why they haven’t yelled at me. Maybe because I turn it down? At home I have no fear. My wife and children support my dreams. My children are easily warped. I put on Scissorhands and they shout “It’s the Annabelle theme!

Happy writing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Edits, agents and stuff

Well, lesson learned. I tried to post this at lunch from my new cell phone but lost the post. Ah well. I'll try again someday, to post here from my cell. We'll see if I can save it in chunks or something.

Anyway, tons of news. 1st things 1st.

Wow. Jennifer was the most amazing editor. I suppose I should say IS the most amazing. She's still alive and ready to help you, fellow writers. I guess I said "was" because I'm all finished. She gave me my 3rd edits and I went through them, accepted most of her changes and made a few myself. Had to tweak some stuff that she pointed out.

So it's "finished". Next step...

The two agents I spoke with at the conference? Well they got back in touch with me. I emailed them and told them of the 3rd and final edits. One wanted a few chapters and the other wanted the entire manuscript! I'm excited, scared and curious. I'll keep in touch. This is the first time this book with these changes and this flow has ever been seen.

So there you are. My update. I'll post again as things develop.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Editor Jennifer

Attn Writing Friends:

Seriously guys, my manuscript was far from perfect. I am grateful to all my critique group partners and beta readers. Without you the story would never be finished or ready for the next level.

But that next level for me was a professional editor and guys, Jennifer Feddersen is the one. Affordable and down to earth, she gets your vision while at the same time, teaches you and guides you to crafting for agents, publishers and the general market.

Look her up if you need a personal editor. She’s worth it!

Editor Jennifer

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tomorrow there be agents!

The Writer's Round Up is tomorrow. Writers and editors from all around will migrate to my neck of the woods to meet and share. I can't really afford to go to any of the classes or events, but I will be attending two One on One meetings with real New York literary agents.

I'm scared I'll screw it up. I'll get tounge tied or not interest them in Annabelle due to my lackluster presentation. I even had a dream that I slept late and missed the 1:15 meeting. I can't sleep pass 8 normally!

On the other hand, I know inside the same truth others know when they tell me of thier confidence in me. I know the calm peace that things will be ok.

I'm told I need to relax and simply tell them what I love. Tell them why I believe Ann can succeed. Tell them what makes Ann and Roland stand out.

I need to just talk to them like I'm talking to others. They just want interesting, compelling stories and I know this one is just that.

Granted, I expect rejection. My rose colored glasses are locked away in a dresser. And when I get that rejected I'll smile, get my edited revision from Jennifer on the 28th, read it over and revise what I will, then resubmit to others.

But it's an amazing chance and I can't help but be excited/scared.

So wish me luck!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

4 (5) Key Elements to a Plot (and other notes from J Scott Savage's talk)

1. Protagonist:
Main character. The POV character. He/she that uses the only POV in 1st person perspective or the main character that we follow in 3rd person perspective. Chapter and scene are driven off this character.
Must be mostly likable. Reader needs to route for this character. Relatable.
Must have some unlikeable traits so he/she has room to grow. Some part of the protagonist must be unlikeable. Some views, decisions or traits the reader will want them to change.

Should have a maximum of two. Each one gets their own chapter for their POV. You can have more, but a protagonist has to grow with a path through the story, have chapters dedicated to their POV (1st or 3rd POV). This makes it hard. Ron and Hermione didn’t get that. Only Harry and a couple people when Harry wasn’t around (The Prime Minister, groundskeeper, Snape).

How does the protagonist grow? Life Altering Change. A change to the character’s life/ viewpoint/ home/ anything big from the start of the story to the end.

Character Bible = Mapping the decisions the protagonists make.
Implied History = Brief mentions of their life before this story.

Protagonists must be proactive. Do not make them “Nancy Drew/ Scooby Doo” (Standing around, letting strange/bad events happen and decide to investigate). Have a motivation. Give them a personal reason to actively try to change their world.

Supporting characters come in many shapes and forms. Each serves a purpose. Here are a few:
A. Source of knowledge; (Hermione, Annabeth, Sarafina Pikala,Spock, C3PO& R2D2). Someone to tell the protagonist the rules/ history/ consequences/ knowledge they need to know.
B. Side Kick (including humor giver); (Ron, Grover, C3PO & R2D2,Dr. McKoy, Jimmy Olsen). Someone to lighten the mood and cause laughter.
C Father figure; (Dumbledore, Obi Won Kenobi & Yoda, Chiron). Someone to mentor the protagonist, train them and lead them. This one must be removed from most of the story so the main can learn by doing.

2. Goals:
What is the protagonist trying to accomplish? We need to route for that goal.
There should be a total of three story lines in the overall book, minimum. There will have to be down time, to give info and allow the characters to rest or travel. It can’t be constantly on the go with action. With the other stories, or subplots, the story can have ebb and flow.
1 goal and 2 subplots, minimum.

3. Obstacles:
Be mean to characters. 3 ways to do this are;
A. Isolation; Cut them from parental figures.
B. Disorientation; Place them in an unfamiliar location.
C. Misdirection; After the resolution of a strong, hard, difficult threat or task, characters discover there are even bigger threats or tasks coming.
Don’t need all three but must have at least one of these.

4. Consequences:
What happens if they fail? Add stress to their goal.
Give it a time limit (if X isn’t accomplished before tomorrow morning, I will die).
Set up bad consequences that if the goal isn’t met, the characters will face a very bad situation they do not want.

5. Setting:
Where and when does the book occur? Establish the world. Setting can help build the above four items. Setting is like another character. Give it life. Draw people into it.

Other advice given during the talk;

Create a chapter by chapter outline to keep track of the story.

Take time to get the pieces in place.

Write it! Don’t worry about these things or grammar or if it seems dumb. Just get it on the page, finished, then go back and change.

The more you chat to others about your story, the more you loose excitement. (Dang).

When talking to teachers at a speaking arrangement, let the material be interesting. When speaking with kids, be funny.

Sorry about the break & catch up

Ah the life of a husband/father/writer/drafter/toy collector. Obviously busy, I tend to let this blog fall by the way side.

1. Edits on book one is finished. It's in Editor Jennifer's hands. She's doing the final edits and then she'll send it to me on September 28th. I trust her, but it's my baby! Ah well. It's the next step.

2. The Utah Writer's Roundup will be here next month. I'd love to go to the workshops but life and money gets in the way this year. I WILL be meeting those two New York agents, however.

3. Author J Scott Savage spoke to our group Thursday and gave all sorts of advice. I'll post it by itself next.

Lots of other stuff happened but that's good for now.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Air Supply Concert 2010

Air Supply came to my home town of Tooele to give a 4th of July concert. I've always liked their soft ballads, but to be honest I'm more of a fast type band than the slower love song type.

Boy was I wrong. Sure, I'd stumbled upon the last minutes of a Stray Cats concert in Oshkosh, Wisconsin '87, and I'd been to a stadium where Shena Easton sang for another 4th of July concert, but this felt like my first.

Janeen (my wife) is a huge fan so we arrived two hours early. When we first arrived, Sara and Dave ran down to where they were getting things ready but security asked them and my wife (who went to fetch them)to leave and wait on the sidewalk.

Janeen and Sara got Air Supply a "Hoops and Yoyo" talking card that said "Thank you" a zillion times. We love their humor cards. The night before Sara made two homemade wrist bands for them, too. Well Janeen gave those things to a security guy to give to Air Supply and they were promptly ushered out.

We waiting in the heat while the local dignitaries and Tooele royalty were allowed in. It was frustrating and we had no idea how these things truly work so we weren't sure if they got thier card.

Still, at 7 pm they let us in. We got settled and grabbed some food and the concert began. Their are two lead singers. A tall one and a short one. The tall one invited people to come sit near the stage and before he could finish his sentence Janeen and Sara were off and running. I assigned the valuables to Katie and joined them.

I discovered something! Just because a band sounds slow on the radio doesn't mean they can't rock. Very good band! They rocked out and we all got caught up in their spell. Before long the crowd were motioned to stand up and clap and Janeen and Sara did.

I wanted to join them, tried to get up (it was crowded) and accidentally snapped off Janeen's fake toenail along with cubicle and real nail. Ouch! She crumpled to the ground, her toe gushing. One of the lead singers motioned for the security guard to help. Neen was not to be removed! I don't blame her. So I went with them to the ambulance and got gauze to help her.

She got all fixed up but still hurts like crazy and I feel bad. She's a sweetheart though. She even forgives me!

This event did not spoil it for her or anyone. The band continued to rock out. The tall singer wore Sara's wristbands! The two leads walked through the crowd and Sara and my in-laws had a chance to shake their hands.

They returned to the stage and continued rocking.Soon the tall singer motioned for an audience member to sing to. He picked SARA! He motioned for her and Janeen to come up close. Boy was Sara's face red! And keep in mind, he had no clue she was the same person who made the wristbands. No idea Janeen and Sara did the card.

They rocked, finished, everyone called for an encore and they rocked again. Lots of fun. So does the story end? NOPE!

We regrouped the whole family to the grass for the fireworks. Laura and I left to get another blanket and Ibuprofen (for Janeen) from the car as well as dropping off the camera and such.

We return with water and find Janeen and Sara gone. I ask my mother-in-law where they are. Carolyn responds along with my daughter Katie that Janeen and Sara when to talk to Air Supply.

You need to understand some facts here.
1. It has been my wife's hidden passion to meet certain celebrities, Air Supply lead singers among them.
2. Tooele city said that there would be no visits after the concert.
3. Sometimes when you want something with a pure heart, and you have the inner fire that my wife and daughter have, miracles happen.

I mean, you should have seen Sara's face when everyone was told there would be no visits. She looked crushed. Tooele royalty could meet them, but the average Joe can't. Yeah, I know there wouldn't be time for everyone, but Sara was so crushed.

So, back to the story. It's dark, we're sitting a little ways off from their trailers and the two leads stepped out to relax a bit. Janeen and Sara exchange looks. "Shall we?" And they sneak past the security guards and walk right up to them!

I return with Laura and ask where they are. I'm told. I repeat it three times out loud with an unbelieving voice, "They went to meet Air Supply?" Carolyn and Katie had to say "Yes" several times as I just stood there.

Then I look at Air Supply's trailers and silhouetted with the lights behind them was my wife talking to the lead singer! My question turned to a shocked statement. "They went to meet Air Supply!"

Finally my long suffering wife who never gets any breaks cause she isn't with the "in" crowd, finally she could have her dreams come true!

I found out later how they did it. They snuck up and walked right up to them. They simply said "Did you like your card?"

That tall lead singer took a double take! The same child he sang to was the one who made the bracelets and Janeen gave them the card! It all fit! Apparently they laughed before the concert for five minutes at all those "Thank yous" in the card.

It was perfect. Except Neen's toe, it was a dream come true.
Very happy tonight. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Originally posted on 8/2/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Anyone who takes writing seriously knows it has a learning curve. Some of our friends, family and coworkers think that all you need to do is finish a novel and it’s practically published. They have the wrong assumption that the major task is the completion of the manuscript.

Back in ’04, when Annabelle hit me on the head and demanded I write her story, I chased after various resources to learn how to begin such a task. Several people told me the hard part comes after you finish the book. I smiled and said “Of course, of course”. From my perspective, a finished manuscript loomed in the far distance. I didn’t want to consider anything else but conquering that monolith.

For all of you newbies out there who are still trying to reach the top of your first literary mountain, stay the course, stop reading this article, open your document and finish the dang thing!

OK, are they gone? I don’t want to scare them into stopping their future creative accomplishment too soon.

Now, the rest of you who have reached the end of your first book might understand what I meant by “hard part”. Let me continue with my own story. Fast forward two years. It was now ’06 and a finished manuscript sat in my particular folder. I had a raw beginning, rough middle and uncertain end. I was ready for the next phase in my plan.

I selected ten people to beta read it. Some were online and local friends and two were teachers of the grade level that my YA book fit into. I sent out my baby and moved onto repairing the mess I made of book two. I whistled happily, knowing the flowers bloomed and the sun shone over my amazing work.

After a short period, my head snapped upward to see dark storm clouds. Thunder deafened me while lighting bolts atomized the flowers. Yes, my chosen ten did exactly what they should. They told the truth. They got out red pens and drew my blood all over the pages of my bruised baby.

I couldn’t be more grateful. Sure, at first it mortified me, but this novel means a lot. Either I think on what they said, or give up all hope. I couldn’t do the later so I pondered their words and what they truly meant. Changes were made. I drew the line in the sand on some topics while others I gladly sacrificed.

As time progressed I found myself trying more beta readers. Some were published authors while others had experience and knowledge in the subjects covered in my book. I found out later that a few still follow me on the web, checking up to see if I’m still striving.

I remember Adam’s comments and the fear they caused. Then Chris in England made some humorous points that stuck me hard. Aprilynne rocked me to my core. The list goes on and on. In ’07 I joined a critique group. Two of my fellow Brigade members were part of that group. With the combined abilities of two critique groups I learned a great deal.

Each review scared and later, after some serious pondering, excited me. The manuscript changed quite a bit and will continue to improve. I’ve taken something special from each review and learned a great deal. I appreciate everyone who has ever looked it over.

As writers we have the ability to loose ourselves in our work. We get so excited in our story and how it fits together that we want to rush out and tell the world. Some of us fear rejection; others get steamed when faced with opposing concepts that dare go against our vision.

The truth is, we’re far from perfect and need other’s frank honesty to improve.

1. Choose peers whom like what you like.

2. Choose those who don’t.

3. There is nothing wrong with family and friends but remember they might not want to hurt your feelings.

4. Seek after English majors and teachers.

5. Try people who have been published and/or learned the pratfalls of writing.

6. Join or start critique groups. An assortment of voices can agree or disagree on where you need to change.

You are the final voice. What you say will always matter the most. Are you qualified to stand alone in your vision? Wouldn’t it be better to check first with others to be sure you know what you’re talking about?

I believe it was Steven King who said “You’ve got to kill your babies”. You have to give sometimes, but if you let others help, you’ll find greater possibilities than you ever imagined.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where I've been

I've had this on the blog page forever. I thought it works better as a single post instead.

visited 9 states (18%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or try another Douwe Osinga project

Thursday, June 24, 2010

They Felt Doubt Too

Originally posted on 7/19/09 for the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Hey there gentle beings. The name is Jack Roberts and I’ve decided to join the merry band of literary champions, the Write Brigade. It’s true that I come to you with limited experience but in my struggle to catch the dream, I’ve learned a thing or two. In fact I’m still learning.

This lesson becomes abundantly clear to me every time I read through my writing. Just last Thursday, in fact, I discovered something on the World Wide Web that made me want to duct tape my hands in oven mitts and chain them behind my back so I'll never make a fool of myself again.

I discovered a post where I reviewed the seventh Harry Potter book. Apparently overcome with excitement, I typed a long winded essay. I told of my personal history with the series, examined various characters and practically filled every sentence with overjoyed hyperbole.

After reading the post with fresh eyes I felt embarrassed. Why didn’t I wait a couple years before I posted it? Sure, I’m over reacting, but the very thought of something that over-the-top can be connected to me just sent shivers up my spine.

With my past sins still fresh on my thoughts I continued with my daily activities. Among those tasks was the purchase of movie tickets. As I drove around the theatre, aware of a line that would make a DMV employee feel at home, sudden realization smacked me upside the head.

Many want to see this movie because of their love of the book. A close bond that author created by simply choosing to weave the best story she could. She had to have doubts in her writing abilities. I know she had rejections. What if she quit when faced her mistakes?

I count the minutes until I see the latest Harry Potter movie and reflect to where I was when I read it. I remember finishing that book in a bathroom stall located on the same floor of the hospital my son slept in. He slept deeply, the latest in a chain of plastic surgeries a success. With my wife in the chair beside his bed, I was safe in the knowledge that he’d be OK. So I crept to the bathroom (because I didn’t want to disturb anyone) and delve into the remaining chapters of HP 6. What feelings I experienced! I couldn’t get enough. A writer with fears and insecurities worked hard despite them and created something that gave me that lasting memory.

If we as writers gave up every time we discovered a mistake, life would be void of entertainment. What do you do? You take a deep breath, realize others have been there before, and jump right back in. Simplistic? Sure, but it works.

Thanks for reading.

Classic articles

I've posted a few articles on
the Charge of the Write Brigade.

Due to busy schedules among us writers, no one has posted a new article in over a month. Heck, I can't even update this site, let alone that one.

I do plan to do more articles, but with the 2nd edits going on with Editor Jennifer, my time is best suited elsewhere.

Still, those articles were fun and any secret lurkers here might enjoy them. So I'm going to repost them here, maybe twice a week (thank goodness there are timed posts).

Expect the first one soon.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Speaking to the 6th grade

I’m getting pretty busy with my next set of edits and the speaking event is getting further and further away. I’d better give you the highlights.

My wife was absolutely wonderful. The day before she spent the entire day getting custom bookmarkers and posters made up. Now I have a humongous picture of Annabelle. I also have a giant stock male vampire pic I got from the web that really looks like Dominic.

Mr. Kelly arranged for me to speak to the entire 6th grade. It was fun! I really enjoy talking about my book and the journey I’ve taken to become a writer.

The kids had an assembly just before and seemed pretty tired so there weren’t as many questions as times past. Also, my nerves got the better of me and I stumbled through it, speaking too fast and reading too long. I really need to practice this more.

All in all it was a great experience and I’m grateful to the teachers and faculty of West Elementary for this great opportunity. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lazy/Busy month, All play no write. Time to work.

OK, I had May off from Annabelle. My writer juices flowed and I really wanted to start Myths. I actually wrote the 1st paragraph! But I got distracted a lot and cruised through Bandon Mull's Fableheaven 3.

In short, I took a break. Looking back, knowing what I need to change in Annabelle, I'm glad I took the break.

So the cast of Myths will remain as notes and an outline. So will Justin Tyme and his students. They are only concepts. Kyle Phillips and the story of Multi Mart remain as notes, too. But after these three months, I'll play in those other sand boxes.

I got my notes and mark ups from Editor Jennifer. Whew! She liked my changes! I did good. I did catch onto her thoughts and did move in the right direction.

But now it's time for fine-tuning. There are a lot of things I need to focus on.
Structure, characters, pacing, transitions and dialog. More problems that others have mentioned, some others have missed.

This is good. I'll pull up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I hope I'll finally get these lessons.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Ok, I’m not the superstitious type, but something weird happened to me today.

There are three songs that inspire me to carry on with writing; “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, “Go the Distance” by Michael Bolton and “Someone’s Watching Over Me” by Hilary Duff.

So I’m plugging away on my drawing redlines when “The Climb” plays. I’m thinking to myself “Yes, I really need to use this month off from Annabelle to start writing something else.”
But I know me. I’ll say that, but actually sitting down and writing is another thing entirely.
A few songs later “Go the Distance” plays and I chuckle. I figured if “Someone’s Watching Over Me” plays, then I’ll take notice.
It was the very next song. My mouth dropped open and I stared at my Windows Media Player in mute shock.
Ok, I get the message. Get back to writing!
Then, as if to direct me on purpose, “The Mummer’s Dance” by Lorena McKennit plays. That’s my official song for my Myths novel.
Fine! Don’t have to his me over the head with a dwarven made axe. I’ll begin Myths.
Sheesh. The lengths some have to go through to get me writing!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Novel Boot Camp is full steam ahead!

Sorry I haven't posted but there's a very good reason.

On February 28th I began a Novel Boot Camp. All of March and most of April I hacked and slashed and revised my novel.

All of this is thanks to my editor Jennifer Feddersen. She's helped me a great deal and I recommend her services to everyone.

The first thing I did was pick my target audience. I already had this in my head but it was good to make it official. 11-14 year olds. Young Adult.

The next thing was to create a Series Elevator Pitch and a Novel Elevator Pitch. These are short statements that explain the basics of my novel or series in an upwardly moving direction. I'll show you in a different post. I created a synopsis based on the Elevator pitch.

Editor Jennifer gave me a review on the basic problems my novel had and suggestions on how to direct my work in order to fix them. For two months I was tasked with revising the novel, chapter by chapter and scene by scene, tieing things together, throwing away things that didn't contribute to the plot as seen in the Elevator pitch and synopsis. I needed to ramp up the danger and make things more pressing.

Lot's of ideas came to me. I was inspired once again to do things that for some reason never before occurred to me in five years of writing/editing. Instead of taking seven years to tell this, I centralized the Salem Witch trials and set this book within five months.

I still taught the Advancement (how children vamps age) but there was no reason to age my vamps. Bad guys were tied together. Good guys were added. In fact a few new characters were added. Chapters were cut and new chapters added. Another new beginning and a deeper look into the Salem trials.

I tweeted my progress every day. My followers on Twitter and Facebook (as well as family, friends and fellow writers) all cheered me on. Boy did that help! Careful watchers of this blog saw no updates, but the Twitter posts on the right of the screen showed what I was working on.

So now this new version is done. It's turned in and I wont get another review and critique for a month. Time to breathe.

I plan to work on the Annabelle site, read, and relax before the next big charge.

Friday, February 05, 2010

My thoughts on the JSA on Smallville


How cow!

It was amazing! With shouts out to so many classic members from the Golden Age (even Ma Hunkle!) plus some accurate costumes! We had the meeting table and so many members mentioned.

Daniel Jackson did a good job as a tough Hawkman. I hear he’s like that in the comics these days. I was glad to see they even mentioned his past lives. We also got the traditional Hawkman/ Green Arrow war.

I wondered why use Stargirl but seeing the story it makes sense.

Doctor Fate did a great job. Sure, when he walked beside Clark I got a “Dark Helmet” vibe and most the time I got a Vader vibe, but he also was Fate. I hoped the special effects would be good for him and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was slack jawed at the Star Spangled Kid’s appearance. They even had the Rocket Racer! Sandman was a nice touch too.

And Alan had his power ring and they showed Jay’s hat. Even Ted boxing. Great stuff.
Plus we had Martian Manhunter come back, wear something similar and get his powers back. They even through in a cookie reference!

Cloie gets the idea to make the JLA more of a family and we had the fact that they have no name brought up too. More visions of the red cape, more references to the future and finally a mention that Lex will someday be back.

After all of this we also got Amanda Waller, Checkmate and a mention of Suicide Squad.

Finally, what does Waller say? We’ll need all our heroes for the coming Apocalypse? Does this mean that stupid one-note Red sun Zon takes over thing or do I dare hope for Darkseid?

Excellent stuff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Tooele Writer’s Group

At least I think that’s what we’re calling ourselves.

I’m excited. I met with a group of writers from my home town. Some are just starting out, some are published and some are in that age long period of revisions and hopes.

We all write for ourselves. Ultimately we all feel a desire or obsession to get these ideas out of our skulls and onto paper. From that point we break into various divsions. Some of us feel satisfied with keeping our stories to ourselves. Others feel like they couldn’t dream of getting published so they don’t try. Others try for the brass ring and strive to polish their manuscripts for publication.

I’m in that last group. Regardless, an organization of writers is a very good thing. We make contacts with others, learn from one another and become better writers from the experience.

In the world of Annabelle’s push to get out into the world, it’s another rung on the ladder.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I won a contest!

I won the "First Line" contest. I'm excited because the prize is a copy of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents. I'm also jonesed because I won a contest!

It'll help me in my search for agents after the next set of edits.

I'm embarrassed, humbled and honored.

I feel silly, too. As writers know, all thoughts are to be underlined. That first line was a thought and the underline vanished once it was posted. Not to mention I did add the other lines when I should've only added the first.

Regardless, I'm very grateful. It means a lot. Currently I'm taking this book back to basics and trying the professional editor route. After it's polished further, I'll be agent hunting again. Jeff Herman's book will help a great deal.

Go to The New Literary Agents blog to see their announcement!

I need screencaps! I love Batman Brave and the Bold! ...txt Spoilers

Just finished Side Kicks Assemble

The little nods to other things is always great. I loved "Sit, Ubu, sit", which is the closing mark on several TV shows like Night Court.

I loved the nod to Dick's 1st Nightwing costume just like I enjoy his Earth 2 Robin costume.

It's great seeing Aquaman again, and seeing Speedy and Aqualad, too.

Having both the JLA Satellite and the Hall of Justice was perfect, too.

My fav part, however, was the JLA at the beginning. We even got cameos of Superman, Wonder Woman, Martain Manhunter and Barry Allen as Flash!

I want screencaps!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey! There are other writers in my town!

I read this article
Writers on the Rise
and discovered there are other writers here.

One is even published. Her name is Karen Hoover and this is her blog.

Ah, to be published.

*Continues to dream...*

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Quote from the Blood Red Pencil

Quote from Kathryn Craft on the the Blood Red Pencil

"A good writer is simply someone who continues to address the problems in the writing until no barriers remain between her story and the reader eager to enter it."

Words to live by, found here...