Posts Tagged With: Writing

The Golden Pocket – part 7

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On the morning I planned my departure, I pulled Eshrun aside. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a gold ring. Taking my golden knife, I cut it in two and gave him half. “I will return to you and we will be married. Keep this half of the ring as the token of my promise.”

He agreed. We did not embrace; it was understood this marriage was a contract. I walked away from him to the edge of the wood and turned to look back. Eshrun remained by the front door and cut a curt nod with his head to ensure me of his willingness to wait. I waved in return and wandered further into the wood, disappearing from view of the cabin.

I walked onward through the cedar trees for a day and a half. I passed by the bleached bones of that poor brown bear. By instinct I rubbed my palms along the matted fur of his flayed skin that begat my cape and I whispered an apology while moving onward. It used to be soft but had clumped with road dust and other muck along the way of seven years’ passing. Within the hour I reached my destination, the place where everything began; and I was one day early.

That night was long. I made a fire because I feared no man or beast, only the devil and he would not kill me. It would break the deal. I ate my simple supper of hard cheese and bread and laid down, wrapped in my bearskin. My eyes closed with my final prayers of petition on my lips, and I fell into a deep sleep.

Morning arrived with the sunlight streaming through the great green cedar boughs, peppering the forest floor with flecks of heavenly light. I sat up, licking my cracked lips and looking around.

Down upon the road was the golden carriage with the same pale horses and thin driver so silent and so still. I never heard them arrive. I glanced to my right and saw that man. His beauty had not changed but somehow he was not beautiful at all. His blue eyes were crystalline and filled with cold logic.

“Our deal has come to a conclusion, Athena. My congratulations are in order. You have succeeded where many have failed. I give you permission to gloat,” he said.

I closed my mouth. With my silence I pronounced judgment upon him.
His V-shaped smile shifted to a sneer, but then returned to a smile as congenial as any I had ever seen. Were I not wary, it would have disarmed me.

“Come,” he said and waved me over as he walked toward the carriage. He opened the door but I hesitated. “We must get you cleaned up so you can give me back my coat.”

I bit my lip and stepped into the carriage. The large living room inside was still dark and a fire still danced in the hearth. He led me through to a private chamber where an enormous tub drawn with hot water waited. He nodded toward a lovely young woman standing in the corner. “Lilly will see to your bath. Afterward I will see personally to your grooming.”

I looked at Lilly. She was young and lovely, reminding me of who I was seven years ago. I suspected that she was another victim of one of his bargains, living here in this gilded hell. One last time I looked at him as he filled the doorway with his powerful frame.

“Lilly will bathe you. You stink. You need scrubbing. I will afford you the privacy of a lady,” he said.

I knew he didn’t care about the pretense of a lady’s privacy, but I was thankful all the same when he closed the door. My nails were so long that I was unable to unlatch the bearskin cape or even unbutton the green jacket. Lilly stepped forward, offering her assistance to peel away my clothing, which she did with great care and kindness. I felt genuinely sorry for her. The poor girl had no idea to whom she now belonged.

I stepped into the tub and relaxed in the pool of water, watching steam waft from the surface and vaporize into nothing. My eyes caught Lilly hanging the green coat upon a hook; something jangled.

“Miss, I believe you have something left in the pocket of your coat,” Lilly said.

I shook my head. “It’s not my coat. Whatever is in that pocket can stay there,” I replied.

She understood and then approached the tub. With a cloth and soft brush, Lilly scrubbed me from top to bottom. She washed my filthy, gummy hair and combed it out straight once more.

Afterward when I stepped forward from the tub, I marveled at my skin. It had changed from that patina of dirt to a likeness of alabaster. She wrapped me in a soft robe and led me to another chamber where the man stood in his cloven-hoofed, self-imposed magnificence. He ushered me to a chair in front of a mirror. I sat down and he turned me away from my reflection. He applied a yogurt masque to my face and proceeded to trim my nails and cut my hair without a single word.

By the time he finished and turned my chair to face the mirror, I fell into disbelief. The reversal of my ugliness and the last seven years of hardship were fully removed and replaced with my youthful beauty once more. A simple look into my own eyes however revealed an utter loss of innocence. It would never return to me, nor would I wish it.

At last, I was once again outside the carriage wearing a dark green dress chosen by the man himself. The color of the fabric was an attempted jab at our deal, mimicking the green coat I surrendered. A beautiful white horse awaited me to mount and ride. The golden knife was sheathed in the saddle.

“One more thing I have for you, Athena,” he said and displayed a lovely white fur cape. “It is the same bearskin cape, but I’ve taken the liberty of…cleaning it.” His sharp smile whipped wide on his face as he wrapped it about my shoulders. I refused to speak to him.

“Can we not part as friends?” he asked.

If I could have achieved it, I would have set him ablaze with my gaze and watched him burn to the ground with satisfaction.

He chuckled. “Very well then. So long Athena,” he said and closed the carriage door. The entire entourage lurched forward, snapping into the same crackle of blue light as before. And it was gone.

~

Golden Pocket: Kindle Ebook

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The Golden Pocket – part 4

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At first there was freedom in the endless supply of golden coins, and I gave them freely. I was charitable to the poor in every town I came upon. I tithed in abundance to each church, filling their poor boxes to bursting. I gave hope to the widows in meeting their meager needs and brought smiles to the orphans through toys and treats. And I asked them all to pray for me that I might not die within the years of my sojourn.

The golden knife, as it turned out, was enchanted as well. It would cut through wood, metal or stone just as easily as through butter, bread or cheese.

Occasionally I would be held up by robbers who demanded I turn out my pockets which I did cheerfully, letting them know to return should they need more. If they threatened violence, I would simply display the power of the knife by cutting down a tree, or through one of their own blades. Only once was I forced cause harm; he lost a hand. What I discovered was that everything was done out of desperation, both theirs and my own.

In that first year, there were many men who sought my hand for marriage. I was never fooled, for they were attracted to the green coat…or rather the gold in the green pockets. My heart ached for someone who could love me without the coat, for I knew it was borrowed and would return to its owner someday.

As the sun turned many times over, I found myself growing into an ever alarming state of decay. My nails grew long and curved into a resemblance of talons. My hair clumped together in a pile of braids unwilling to unwind. My unwashed skin acquired a layer of sticky brown patina and unfortunately I smelled like the grave. Most devastatingly, whiskers from my chin and corners of my mouth grew into a thin and wispy tangle.

My beauty passed away and my visage resurrected into a creature doomed to the outskirts of social acceptability. I became unrecognizable to people I once helped, and they were happy to ignore me as I traveled through towns and homesteads. My money was always accepted but my company was rejected everywhere. Once again I returned to sleeping in the wood, well wrapped in my bearskin which I slept in every night.

I learned to live in the wood and made my home there in a cave. The gold became cursed to me, as I no longer had a need for it. Happily, I learned to live off the land, trapping for meat when necessary and eating roots and berries in their respective seasons. On occasion my pockets grew heavy with the weight of coins and I would empty them into crevices in the cave. Each corner had its fill of gold. Oh how I hated it, wishing for it all to end.

And in that seventh year’s winter, the snow fell heavy and the winds bit my bones. I was forced to seek proper shelter away from the cave, which meant I must re-enter civilization.

I knew my time drew short. I was desperate to live and see this terrible task through. Back on to the road I trod, seeking shelter elsewhere.

~

Golden Pocket: Kindle Ebook

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The Golden Pocket – part 3

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I found myself on the same stretch of forest road I had left some time before. We had not moved at all. Turning about, I could see the front door was one and the same as the golden carriage door. The driver remained on duty up top and the pale horses stood as still as statues. He followed through and joined me on the road in the wood.

Nearby bellowed a desperate roar. The sound of anguish and anger hollering through the trees threw me into a shudder. I looked at the man in green, his arrogant smile ever upon me. Tilting his head, he indicated I should follow. I considered running but getting far enough away would be impossible. I was content to acquiesce…for the moment.

A short span away we came to the tree I had hidden beneath when he found me. He reached down and picked up the lone item left among the cedar’s bulging roots: the knife I’d taken from my father’s house.

I now knew to expect the worst. My mind fluttered with the images of the other desperate women who died in this wood. Their pale, delicate frames splayed upon the bedding of the tiny, sloughed cedar branches littering the forest floor. It seemed my turn had come.

Instead, he walked onward. I followed him into a clearing where before us was an enormous brown bear. Roaring at us in his pain, I could see the fear leaking through the hulking animal’s eyes. His front paw was snared in a massive, iron, toothy trap cutting through flesh to the bone.

The man looked at me now, holding up the knife. “The second option is before you. Should you so choose, you will wander the world for seven years with no home to call your own. You cannot bathe, trim your nails or cut your hair. Yet you will want for nothing,” he said and took off his beautiful green coat, placing it around my shoulders. “In any pocket of this coat you will find gold in continual supply. Every time you reach into the pocket, it will be there for you.”

His gaze never wavered from mine. While watching him warily, my hand slipped into the outer pocket and retrieved a handful of gold coins. I did the same with the other pocket and found the same result.

His mouth now widened into a wolfish grin. Again he held up my knife and ran the blade down his palm, running his own blood along the knife’s edge. Then holding up his palm, as if to display a magic trick, he showed me the cut quickly healing itself. It was as if he declared: I am immortal. Then he took the knife and sank it with ease to the hilt in the nearest cedar, and as easily as cutting soft cheese, he cut around the circumference of the tree. With a single finger he pushed, and it fell crashing through the forest.

The man walked over to the bear and before the sad animal knew what had happened, he dealt a swift incision to the bear’s neck. The beast bled out and collapsed into a final rest. With a quickness of hand and skill I had never yet seen, the man skinned the hulking carcass in a matter of minutes. Then taking the pelt, he shook it out, like when I would clean the rugs of father’s house. The bear’s pelt transformed into a large, brown, furry cape and cowl that he now latched around my shoulders.

“You will sleep every night in this bearskin for the next seven years. Should you die in this time, you will lose this challenge…and belong to me. Are we agreed?”

I stood fixed to the spot. Words refused to escape my lips as my tongue quit cooperating.

“Are we agreed, Athena?”

My eyes met his again and tumbled into their hypnotic azure void. I gave a single nod and affirmed with a single word.

“Good,” he said with a jovial tone and began to walk back toward the road before stopping and turning. “One last thing.” He held up the knife, which had now turned to gold in his hand, and gave it back to me. “For your protection.”

He turned once more and I followed him to the road. Climbing inside the carriage, he faced me once more to say: “You have gold aplenty but your time runs short. Spend both wisely.”

The driver atop cracked his whip. The pale horses reared and lunged forward. They all disappeared in a crackle and peal of blue light.

Although I’m certain he kept his watchful blue eyes upon me, I never saw that man again for seven years.

~

Golden Pocket: Kindle Ebook

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Steadfast – part 7

Steadfast is a serial short fiction piece.

To start from the beginning, go to part 1.

Steadfast Cover 25% shrink copy Steadfast Kindle Ebook.
“Here he is. Now he’s awake!”

Bright light flooded my eyes, and when they were able to focus upon the bearded man standing over me, confusion set in. “Where am I?”

“You’re onboard the Jonah, the finest fishing boat in all the bay. You’ve been caught in our net, my heavy friend.” He helped me sit up and disengage the netting from my legs.

“And you were completely on empty, so I hooked you up to my engine to give you a charge.”

My eyes traveled upon his jacket and cap, recognizing the insignia I said: “Captain?”

“Aye that’s it. Captain Sol, that’s me. Do you have a name, my fine metal lad?”

“Ajax.”

“It’s a good strong name,” Sol growled out. “Soldier?”

I shook my head. “Not anymore. Toymaker now.”

“By the wind! You’re Eunice’s boy gone missing. She’s been mad about your disappearance…feared the worst!” Sol’s eyes were round and wide.

“How do you know Eunice?”

“She’s one of my regular customers. Let’s get back to shore and get you back to where you belong. I’ve finished my catch for the day anyhow. Why did you fancy going for a dip in the bay?”

“I didn’t. It’s a long story.”

“Well we’ve got time, Ajax,” he said and blasted the boat’s booming horn while turning the helm, steering the Jonah toward the distant docks. “Captain Sol loves a good yarn, so start spinning one.”

The boat chugged along as I conveyed my story to an astonished Captain Sol, who interjected occasionally with savory comments about the reverend and the rats. Once we were in port, I helped him tie off the boat dockside.

I stepped off the Jonah wearing a fresh set of clothes, albeit fisherman gear, as gifted by Captain Sol who clapped me on the back. “Mercies are pouring out on you Ajax. Look who’s here already.”

I glanced over and saw Eunice––frail sweet Eunice. She dropped her basket as tears welled in her eyes. I promptly came to her side and embraced her.

“You were lost,” she said.

“And now I’m found,” I said.

She held up my hands and examined my damaged pseudo-epidermis. “My stars, you’re a mess. Let’s get you home.”

Night fell and I sat in the chair, looking out the window at the vacant storefront across the street. Eunice spent the better part of the day mending me all the while sharing her account of the store’s closure due to pressure and vandalism. The shopkeeper couldn’t keep a profit and continue to mend the store each time a window shattered or graffiti appeared on the door. So he packed up and left town.

I asked Eunice what happened to the ballerina, but she simply shook her head. There was just no way to know. Eventually, I helped her to bed, tucking the covers deftly around her frail frame. She smiled at me and whispered: “Good night.”

I responded in kind and then returned to my chair, staring out the front window and eyeing the sharp, black holes in the broken pane across the street. The urge to power down and recharge came on strong, but something stronger urged otherwise. I stood up and walked out the front door, knowing that Eunice would object. I was the wayward son, leaving once again too soon after returning from exile.

A twinge of guilt itched my core, but the inexplicable draw of curiosity drew me forth from the safety of the toy shop. The need to investigate felt…supernatural. Yet if I have no soul, as the reverend suggests, then how could I feel this way?

The night air foamed with fog, coating me with minute droplets as I wafted through it across the street and stood in front of the vacant storefront. It used to be beautiful and full of lovely clothes, and now it was broken and full of holes. Yet the boarded front door and the shattered window were accompanied by the word SOULLESS spray painted upon it multiple times. The dereliction was real. So much had happened in the time of my brief exit and all I could describe was a feeling of tremendous weight pulling me down. Sadness.

I walked along the curb to the building’s edge and peered down the alley. It was a complete void absorbing all light, making it impossible to see anything. Then I turned to leave but halted as the sound of rustling trash emanated from the void. Standing at the entry, I adjusted my eyesight to maximize my nighttime ocular abilities. Yet I was never meant to be a sniper, just a simple foot soldier. My sight was still limited.

Just walk away. All I needed to do was walk away. After everything I’ve been through only to make it back home again. Just walk, Ajax.

Instead I allowed myself to be sucked into the dark void of the alley, approaching the pile of garbage. Caution held me at a distance, but curiosity drew me nearer. A small, slender hand stuck out from the rest of the rubbish. It was delicate and feminine.

Could it be? Was she to be discarded as trash? Why not? I had been filched and then discarded as trash. I reached out and touched the hand, which in turn grasped mine. I heaved and pulled out the chassis of my ballerina. Although damaged, she was just as lovely as the moment I first saw her.

I gathered her into my arms and turned her head to face me. Her eyes opened. Her mouth could not speak, so she simply mouthed the words: thank you. I nodded and carried her away from the dump site and into the toy shop, where I laid her upon the work station. I arranged the tools I would need and then I caressed her lovely hair and kissed her forehead. “You’re safe now.”

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Working With…Hebrew?

by Photos8.com

by Photos8.com

Interlinear Text Download: Psalm 73

Apologies for the radio silence over the last year.  God has been very much so at work in our lives doing some new things and He asked me to lay down writing fiction (for now).  So far, we’ve moved north to Bellingham and I’m working for the Bellingham/Whatcom County Housing Authority, providing housing for the elderly, disabled, and families with low incomes.  I’m truly blessed to be serving in such a meaningful way.  Our family has settled very well and we are all able to finally BREATHE.

I’ve had questions from several friends lately, wondering if I’m still writing and what it is I’m doing…

Some of you may know that I’ve been studying Hebrew for the last few years.  It is a truly beautiful language and my heart grows continually as I discover new insights and wisdom while immersed in the Tanach (Old Testament).  In the last year I discovered the Psalms of Asaph (Psalms 50 & 73-83 are attributed to him).  I’ve been touched by Asaph’s raw prayers, full of both anguish and praise.

I think of life on this side of eternity…filled with anguish and praise.  There is so much pain in this life and yet there is also so much for which I have hope.  I don’t hope to be rich.  I don’t hope to be powerful.  I don’t hope to have a mansion, or a large following, or even to be happy.

I hope for completion…something which cannot happen in this life, but my relationship with my Creator assures me of it when He returns or chooses to bring me home.

In any case, I have been using the Psalms as a guide to learn how to pray and give praise.  As in all things when it comes to God, it’s always about the relationship.

Attached is my attempt at an interlinear study starting with Psalm 73.  I hope to complete all of the Psalms of Asaph and collect them in to a volume.  But for now I’m happy to share this with you.

Sidebar: if any of you readers out there happen to be acquainted with Hebrew and spot a need for correction, don’t hesitate to reach out to me through the contact page.  

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Writing Tip: Natural Dialogue

Have you ever read a book where the dialogue was stilted, unrealistic, and unconvincing?  I’ve seen this happen all the time, and more often than not I end up delivering the book posthaste to my neighborhood used bookstore…unfinished.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t begrudge these writers of their efforts because truly natural dialogue–whether internal or external–is difficult to achieve in even the best stories.  However it can be glaringly obvious when it’s stiff and can dead-stop story momentum.

So what are the tricks of the trade to writing good conversation?  Start by having one–with yourself!  We all do it whether we are alone in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, or simply lying awake at night in bed.  The conversation we each have with our own internal characters: friends, family members, our own soul or even with God.  Use these conversations as cues for how to write natural dialogue because you are already doing so on your own.  Make mental notes about what you’re talking about, to whom your talking, and even the kinds of words or terms you use on your own inside your noggin.

What do you do when you can’t get anything going on the screen?  When I’m particularly stuck, I go to a lined pad of yellow paper and begin jotting down the conversation as if I were looking at the script of a play; I try to be honest about the conversation as I write it down and it tends to come out naturally.  Often I end up laughing at myself (I’m easily amused).

Be willing to go wherever the conversation leads.  Let it be quirky.  Let it be open.  Let it be honest.  But most of all just let it be you.

Below is a sample from my book OLDE MYSTERIUM, and the types of conversations my characters have with each other…and in my head:

____________________________________________

“May I help you?”

The voice startled Daniel and he turned to see a man with wisps of white hair sticking out over his ears and circling around his bald, brown pate. The man was old and yet his frail frame did nothing to hide the vibrancy behind his black eyes. Daniel could not tell what his accent was, but guessed it was Middle Eastern.

“What?” Dan said.

“Are you looking for something containing the great mysteries?” the man said, motioning to the rack of books in front of them.

“Uh, not really. No.”

The man nodded. His thin hair waving, as if by a breeze. “Understandable. People today are far more concerned with the next football game or the next movie release…or the next great getaway from the drabness of life. The search for entertainment overcoming the search for knowledge. So what are you looking for?”

“Actually I was just curious. What is this place?” Dan asked.

The man’s thin hand waved over the store. “This is a lifetime of collected knowledge. The secrets of the ages.”

Daniel’s spine tensed, feeling uncomfortable but his curiosity nagged onward. “You’ve read every book in here?”

The man nodded. “Most of them twice.”

“Wow.” Daniel scratched his chin. “So what do they say?”

The old man’s smile was slightly wolfish. “Nothing mostly. Every book in here contains small gems of wisdom buried within pages of rubbish. Every book except one.”

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Writing Tip: Tortoise vs. Hare

When it comes to writing anything of length, it’s good to set a consistent pace as a guide for momentum.  Perhaps you’re an athlete at the keyboard and your fingers can pound out 200wpm; or more likely, if you’re like me, it’s a fraction of that speed (a small fraction).  I have to remind myself that speed doesn’t matter…quality does.

If I don’t have much time to write, but can find any brief moment in my day, I tend to set a one-page goal to accomplish.  It’s not much and can feel like being a tortoise instead of a hare, but it’s momentum nonetheless and can prevent stagnation.  Yet I do find that once I’ve accomplished a single page, the momentum can reinforce motivation and I tend to keep going for a few to several more pages.  But it all starts with a simple goal: just one page today.

Of course the flip-side is simply if I can only get one darn page in, then I’ve accomplished my goal and continued the pace.  It’s good.  I can move on and let the rest of my day take it’s course.  Sound crazy?  It works.

In the past I’ve also tried the speed route: trying to get in as much as humanly possible; to write that book and get it done–posthaste!  Truth be told, I encourage other writers not to race.  It may work for a lucky few who have the skills of courtroom transcribers, but for the most part it will burn out even the heartiest writer and cause a white-hot idea to fizzle.  Whenever I’ve done this, everything crumbles for me and the project ends up being scrapped because I end up tired, unmotivated, and the quality is less than acceptable.

So for all of you writers out there: don’t be afraid to be the tortoise.  Writing’s not a race; the only way any writer wins is not by finishing quickly, but finishing well.

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A Conversation Between Authors

Last night a very challenging question was posed to me by my good friend and fellow author, Tina Bustamante.  What follows below is the chain of conversation we shared beginning with the original challenge and followed by our responses to each other.  Tina’s first book AS WATERS GONE BY is due to come out in November, and trust me, it’s an excellent read.  Please feel free to visit her and read about her adventures living in Chile: tinabustamante.com.  I received her permission to share this conversation and so I hope it will be encouraging to all of you who read it.

_________________________________________________________

 My dear friend Doug,

Okay … here’s a very direct question and one you need to be very honest about with me. What is your hope with your writing career? Are you hoping to write more books? Make a living at it eventually? Or are you loving the idea of writing a novel every few years and keeping it containable? Please tell.

I ask because if you want to build up a readership and grow your platform … you need twitter and all those other media things to give you a platform. But you seem reluctant, so I’m trying to understand.

Talk to you soon.

Tina

***

Tina,

You are a very good friend and I appreciate your direct and pointed questions. To drive the point directly home, it would be best to simply state that I’ve chosen a God-driven path, not a career-driven path. Other books I’ve written were meant to drive toward a writing career, and by all accounts they should have been picked up as I observed the reading market and recognized gaping holes that needed to be filled; I had meticulously plotted, written, and edited the books; I studiously hand selected appropriate agents, categorized them into spread-sheets, queried them and ultimately received well over a hundred rejections in the process. It became obvious that my efforts were being deliberately–and divinely blocked…and trust me, I got angry about this. Angry at God.

It was in the Fall of 2010 that He confronted me directly with His response in the Genesis story about Jacob wrestling the Angel; it was no different with me. I was pleading with God to bless me, fervently, but in the end He “broke my hip” and I was convicted about the way I was trying to drive toward success. It was time I tried something different and OLDE MYSTERIUM is the product of obedience, not of market research, not of meticulous plotting. It was a process of freely letting God breakdown my strongholds and ideals regarding career paths and success, and in the end He began changing me into a greater likeness of Jesus.

The process of giving things up to Him hasn’t ended, in fact it’s continued. I searched for agents for OM, but He asked me to make Jesus my agent; so I did. I searched for publishers for OM, but He convicted me and asked me to give that path up and do it a different way; so I did. I started a FB page for OM and began attracting some followers, but He asked me to step away from it; so I have. He’s asked me to refrain from marketing and promotion so I can learn how to rest in Him, to take time to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) . And it even goes deeper into my personal life as God has used this summer to reclaim and restore my marriage and my family life…something I could not have expected in my wildest dreams (although I remember pleading in prayer to be closer to Caity and have more time with the kids); yet it was a full trust fall into His arms to do these things, both frightening and full of promise.

It looks backward, but remember: this is the God-driven path, not the career-driven path. He has a tendency to reveal the world’s wisdom as foolish…and God’s foolishness is wiser than the world’s greatest wisdom.

And now here I am, a better husband, a better father, a better person…and it’s all because of giving over these obstinate areas of my life to Jesus the Messiah. Instead of being filled with anger and resentment over rejection, I’ve been able to grow closer to the ultimate source of joy, be filled with an unending abundance of peace and learn how to pour out my love in every direction upon the broken people all around me. That’s really all the platform I could ever want or need…and I’m more than happy to let Jesus do all the promoting. Yet I do see a growing audience, but any and all success belongs solely to Him and is fully dependent on His timing; I can’t force it, and I’ve stopped trying to speed it up.

It’s a far cry from where I was, but when I look at all of the things I was asked to give up, they’re miniscule compared to what I’ve received in return. This is all why I often sign off my emails with SOLI DEO GLORIA (Latin: Glory to God Alone) and I’ve also been signing copies of OM the same way. It all belongs to Him anyway…and all I want to do is be in His presence and perhaps even have a chance to “touch his garment” (Luke 8:43-48).

I apologize for the lengthy explanation and I hope this helps to resolve any confusion. You are truly a wonderful and supportive friend and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this with you. I look forward to seeing you in November on your book tour!

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Douglas

***

Doug what a great email.

I appreciate your life and love for God so much. I’ll respond or in length later, but just want to say thanks.

Thanks for sharing, being honest, and for being a great example.

More soon,

Tina

***

You bet Tina. I also forgot to add that “yes” I’m very serious about writing. I know it’s taken root in my heart, as well as it has yours. I will be a writer for the rest of my days, and I hope that means many, many books to come.

Douglas

***

And to add – I think God himself will establish you and as you trust him, listen to his voice … He’ll lead you to green pastures.

Tina

***

Thank you Tina. It’s refreshing to receive encouragement from a good friend.

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Categories: On Faith, On Life, On Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Writing Tip: Collecting Characters

When I first started writing in college, I began doing something interesting that would change the way I viewed characters forever: I kept a notebook whenever I rode the city bus. It’s an interesting mix of people who ride the bus for regular transit, and most of them are doing typical things that would otherwise appear uninteresting…unless you’re collecting characters.  Take note of the details.  Are they alone or with a buddy?  To whom are they talking, or are they just staring out the window? Perhaps they’re having a scintillating conversation…with themselves (yes, I’ve seen this happen many times).

Bring your notebook with you and write everything down. Then try to give motive for why they are doing what they do, or why they wear what they wear. Extrapolate where they are going. Home? Work? School? Nowhere? Give them names if you can.  Then try and create a brief dossier on things like their background, lifestyle, employment, education, hobbies, relationships…and you get the idea.

These types of exercises can be crucial for overcoming difficulties later on when trying to write fully rounded characters.  And at the end of the day you’ll have a menagerie to choose from should you need to reach into the cage and select one.  However, I’ve found because of the practice of collecting characters, I am fully prepared for the process when the need arises to create one from scratch.

One final, very important caveat for this exercise–do not, I repeat, do not take notes on people who are close to you. There is a twofold reason for this: (1) if you create a character based on someone you know well, they may not be as impressed as you with your creation; and (2) it can be like cheating to skip the hard work of learning how to extrapolate details by observing a complete stranger as opposed to simply writing down the intimate details of family or friends.  It may be tempting, but don’t do it. Ever.

The only exception to this rule might be basing a created character on someone you know who has died, perhaps as a way to memorialize them.  I have done this and it turned out beautifully.  The character of Billy Pints in my book OLDE MYSTERIUM was loosely based on the cook at my fraternity in college.  He was a salty individual with rough language that would curl your hair and had a heart of gold; a recovering alcoholic who, through chance and circumstance ended up cooking at a fraternity.  A beautiful juxtaposition. And it was an honor to include him the story. He died my senior year from a heart attack…and I think about him all the time.

So go where you can to observe an interesting cross-section of people–the mall, the post office, the grocery store, a coffee shop or a dive bar.  Or you could ride the bus like I did.  And keep your wits about you as you never know when you’ll chance upon the perfect character.

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Writing Tip: Read Well, Write Well

open-book-on-top-of-pile-of-books

Looking for ways to enhance your writing?  Ways to grow your storytelling abilities?  Or maybe even seeking a remedy to boost your stale prose?  Look no further than your local library.  I’ve discovered over the years that my writing improves drastically when I’m reading something that captures my imagination and challenges my personal status quo.  Many books throughout my life have done this for me and I’ll mention a few here as examples.

1. Enhancing Writing:  Truth be told for me personally, the books that enhance my writing are those that expand the boundaries of my imagination in any way unexpected.  Many literary luminaries like CRIME AND PUNISHMENT or THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (you know, the stuff you dreaded reading in school?) will certainly do the trick, but be sure to grab something to your own interest that you know will challenge you.  If you want something more current to challenge your boundaries, then give JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke a try (a monster tome in some regards, but a gem nonetheless).  I just had a friend recommend Neil Gaiman, who I plan on giving a read very soon.

2. Growing Storytelling Abilities:  There are a few ways to do this effectively by reading some really great works.  THE HERO’S JOURNEY by Joseph Campbell is a well lauded example because he dives into the history and connective threads of storytelling across many cultures to find the similarities that make great stories last.  However I found Campbell difficult to read at times and so I would also recommend THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogel, containing much of the same material but reworked to be more palatable for the lay reader.  I’ve also read Stephen King’s ON WRITING several times, each time yielding different fruit that is helpful and tasty.

3. Boosting Prose:  Read good poetry or anything where the prose is lyrical.  Shakespeare is an obvious example as are Emily Dickens or Robert Frost, but don’t be afraid to seek out new or emerging, or even unknown poets online to be inspired by their work.  So many people are sharing online these days, and a lot of it is pretty good stuff too.  I find poetry (both reading it and writing it) helps to boost my natural prose.  Also, reading fiction that is lyrical in the writing does wonders beyond belief; my favorites are Charles Dickens and Angela Carter.

Immersing yourself in any and all of these things will indeed help you naturally boost and grow your abilities to communicate effectively through writing.  Think of it this way–the company you keep will define you as a person, either for the good or the bad.  The same can be said of what you read affecting how you write.  If you are aspiring to be a romance writer but everything on your bookshelf is a dime-store boddice-ripper, then it’s going to be very difficult to inspire your story to rise above the crowd.  Try reading another kind of love story to get your juices flowing–THE LIFE OF PI or THE SHACK might be good as they are indeed love stories in their own right but romance is not prominently featured…however, intimacy does indeed thrive in both of these books.

As a final note, be encouraged to know that all successful writers are also successful readers.  So read well and write on!

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