Saturday, March 27, 2010

Up and running

Sorry for the 12 day delay between postings, but I wrote the first postings while I was still designing the website and waited until it went live to start coming here regularly. Thanks to all who have so far responded to the site design. I do hope it's helpful and easy to navigate as you have said. We will soon be adding an interview I did on another blog as well as links to another devotional and published story out next month.

In the meantime, I just finished watching Season 1 of "Legend of The Seeker," a series I discovered mid-second season, unfortunately. Well written, well acted, and well shot. Best fantasy show I can remember seeing, and if "The Game Of Thrones" on HBO is this good, I will have to get back my HBO and set the DVR like I do for "Seeker". As quality a show as "Battlestar Galactica," although as a social commentary, "Seeker" is far less intense. It's really more about entertainment. It also stars Bridget Regan, whom I think is one of the most beautiful actresses on TV today. Yvonne Strahovski from "Chuck" is the other (yes, a blonde and a brunette -- I am equal opportunity).

The show also has a good sense of humor to it. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and although it's from the people who made "Xena" and "Hercules," it has none of the cheese that kept me from enjoying or watching either of those. If you're a fantasy fan, I highly recommend you check it out. It is syndicated, so you'll have to check local listings to find it. In El Paso, it's on channel 15 and new episodes air Sundays at 8 MST.

I also bought my plane ticket to ConQuest 41 in Kansas City at the end of May. I am looking forward to my first scifi convention and the writer's workshop especially. I sent in the first 50 pages of "The Worker Prince," which I am marketing, and hope they can help me improve it even more. I also hope to meet George R.R. Martin, and Terri Weiskopf of Baen who will be there, maybe even some agents and others. My author friends all tell me how important it is to make contacts there, so I hope it pays off for me as well. I will only be able to afford three conferences at most this year.

For the others, I hope to attend the North American science fiction conference in August and World Fantasy at the end of October. It's the money that's the issue, but if things go well with an anthology and magazine interested in two of my stories, I can use the income from that to buy those memberships and use frequent flyer miles for at least one of the tickets.

In any case, that's the latest from me. I'll try and keep blogging three times a week or more as needed. I hope you enjoy reading and will take the time to correspond with me as we grow together.

For what it's worth...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Lamentation by Ken Scholes

One of the things I want to do from time to time is review books by other authors which I have really enjoyed.

The first such entry is Lamentation, Book 1 in the Psalms of Isak, by my friend Ken Scholes.

A mix of fantasy and science fiction, Lamentation tells the story of the Named Lands, home to the survivors of a great destruction. When the great city of Windwir is suddenly destroyed, and the Named Lands' library and repository of knowledge with it, the leaders of the provinces find themselves on the brink of war. Accusations fly about who caused the destruction. While some seek retribution, others seek restoration, and still others just want to make sense of what's happened. Across the miles, they initiate their plots, each seeking to protect him or herself and her people and their lands.

This is epic fantasy at its finest but no sorcery or dwarves or elves. Scholes has created his own world and people, one that we've never seen before, and populated it with characters like us. They draw us in and capture our hearts, making us care deeply about what happens to them.

Scholes uses a variety of points of view throughout, with short, tight scenes that keep the pace compelling. I found his voice unique and his story compelling. His prose is haunting and captures you, pulling you along with it for the ride. His world building and characterization are also top notch. In fact, it was difficult to pick a favorite: Rudolfo, leader of the famed Gypsy Scouts from the Ninefold Forests; Petronus, the former pope who faked his own death and disappeared; Jae Lin Tam, faithful daughter who's sacrificed her body and spirit in the service of her father's political goals; Neb, illegitimate son of a monk, who watched Windwir explode and his father and whole world with it. Or perhaps it would be Isak, the metal man, keeper of the last remnant of knowledge, and possessor of a dark secret about the destruction of Windwir. Each have their own arc and history, compellingly brought together in conflict and friendship by the events which unfold.

The book has drawn impressive praise, too. New York Times bestselling speculative fiction author Orson Scott Card wrote: "This is the golden age of fantasy, with a dozen masters doing their best work. Then along comes Ken Scholes, with his amazing clarity, power, and invention, and shows us all how it's done." Card liked it so much, he participated in a reading of the book voicing characters.

Analog calls Scholes "one of the best writer's you've never heard of," and Editor/Publisher Jonathan Strahan said "it has the chance of standing as an important book in the evolution of the epic fantasy form...a delight...a book that readers are very likely to take to heart. it's one of the best fantasies I've read in some time."

Two of the books are out, and I've read them both, and I can't wait until Antiphon comes out this fall. I wish they'd hurry up and get the others out. My only complaint is that Scholes needs to write faster or maybe just concentrate. I told Ken I am jealous of his first readers. But he's not talking, I have to wait like everyone else lucky enough to have discovered Scholes' saga with baited breath!

If you have tired of high fantasy or other forms you've seen done time and again, no matter how well, give Ken Scholes' series a try. It's fantastic and well worth the effort. I can't recommend it enough.

So You Wanna Be A Writer...

I get asked a lot about how to become a writer. What advice would I give?

Two things: Write every day, Read every day.

If you want to be a writer, you can't just think about it. As much fan as sitting around daydreaming ideas is, if you don't write them down, you aren't a writer, you're a dreamer. Write daily. Set aside specific time for it. Because of my day job, I usually write weeknights around 6 or 7 for an hour or two. On Saturdays, I write in the morning, on Sundays, in the afternoon. Write something, good or bad. I set a page goal of between 4 and 10 pages, but many days I write twice that.

You can only become better by writing, so don't worry too much about quality. You can always throw it away and not share it with anyone and you can always revise it to make it better. If you never have anything to start with though, you can't do either, so write.

I suggest you read daily. Read good books, read bad books. You can learn as much or more from the bad ones as the good ones about craft. And don't just read books about writing or books in the genres you like most and/or want to write. Read everything you can get ahold of. I writ primarily science fiction and fantasy, and I do read a lot of both, but I also read Nicholas Sparks (romance), WEB Griffin (military, thriller), John Grisham (legal thriller), Stephen King (horror), John Jakes (historical), Robert Ludlam (suspense) and a lot more. Every writer has something to teach me, and I use all of it. If I write a romantic storyline as part of my scifi or fantasy, I use what I learn from writers like Nicholas Sparks. If I write suspense, Robert Ludlam, John Grisham or WEB Griffin come to mind. You get the idea. The more tools you have in your arsenal, the better writer you will be.

As far as books on craft, here are my top recommendations:

Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
Narrative Technique by Thomas Uzzell (out of print and old, but worth finding at a library or used online)
Writer's Market Guide by Writer's Digest Books
Novel & Short Story Writers' Market Guide by Writer's Digest Books
Christian Writer's Market Guide by Sally Stuart
A Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Agents by Jeff Herman
Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

and the Elements of Fiction Writing series by Writer's Digest Books. They have books by successful authors on topics such as Plot, Dialogue, Description, Scene and Structure and more, which I have found very helpful in learning my craft and you will, too.

Above all, write and get readers to critique it. Critique groups can be especially helpful in this. Your Mom and your friends will not tell you what you most need, unless they're writers or editors at a professional level. You need good feedback to help you grow. Take the feedback, rewrite, and send it out again. Rejection is part of the game, and, yes, it hurts, but if you don't get feedback you can't get better, and if you don't get better, you'll never make a professional sale.

Lastly, never write for money. Write because you have something to say and you have to get it out. Write what you know, write what you love, and never stop believing in yourself. No one else can write it like you. No one else can write it but you. Your voice and your work are unique. If you work hard enough and stay strong, you'll get read and you may even change lives.


To the new blog for writer Bryan Thomas Schmidt, where I will share about the writing process, musings on life, helpful links and other information I find interesting and hope you will as well!