Monthly Archives: January 2010

Planning Ahead

There are three advantages to not having published (traditionally) a single book:

1. No expectations.

By others, that is. I don’t have to worry about my words offending or pleasing anyone.

2. No deadlines.

If I don’t feel like writing one day (or year), I don’t have to. Unless, of course, my muse starts pounding on the back of my head to get to it.

3. No need to brainstorm ideas.

Once a writer signs a contract with a publisher, it’s usually for multiple books, and the writer is expected to churn out about one book a year.

Writing my first book was a dream. I spent a mere three months pounding out 103k words. The sequel I wrote a year later, and it took me only six months to write 130k words.”The Red Dagger” took a month to write 2/3 of it since it was my first national novel writing month effort. I then spent another three months finishing it. All three came to me with a flash of insight, so it felt more like dictation than actual writing.

Since then I’ve tried writing three other novels. None are finished. I can’t seem to bring out the passion to write them as I did my first three. Where are those flashes of insight? Or are they there, but buried deep within a pile of too-high expectations?

So thinking ahead, how can I meet the possible requirements of a publisher with one book a year?

Believe it or not, I think I can do it. Sometimes I merely need an outside source to push me to complete a project. Coming up with a good idea, however, proves to be the biggest challenge. Writing it comes in a close second.

For that reason alone, I admire authors who can continuously write one novel a year, and see a good portion of them succeed.

I’d love to be one of those.

Entertaining “What If”

As a writer, entertaining “what if” is what I do. No story can begin with out asking that seemingly simple question.

There are the depressing what if’s when looking at the woulda-shoulda-couldas of our past.

Then there are the future “what ifs”.

I asked a big “What if” last night: What if I actually win the ABNA contest?

Now there’s something that’ll get the heart going.

But my reaction isn’t what you imagine. I didn’t smile at the idea, fantasizing over how I would spend the $15k, and the sheer joy over actually — finally — seeing my words in print that I didn’t have to pay for. With cash that is.

I cried. Out of disappointment. Perhaps it was due to a terrible headache, and a little boy who refused to let me sit on the couch and mope about it.

There’s always a sense of sadness when I finish a book along with that feeling of accomplishment. I guess the act of writing holds more allure than finishing it. Once it’s done, I think, “Now what?” For a few days I actually feel a little lost, as though my purpose in life has escaped me.

And coming up with a new book idea? Yikes.

But the disappointment that came with the thought I might actually win this thing went deeper than not feeling well.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be thrilled if my book won. I would be. As with most my books, I love this one. I adore the characters, and I think both the story itself and the world it resides in is both interesting and sound. I think it’s worthy to be published.

If “The Red Dagger” wins, I would be sad as well as excited, because it isn’t my first novel. It’s not the one I spent over the last eight years writing, editing, crying and sweating over.

Granted few first novels make publication. Even if “Traitors”, my first, never reaches bookstore shelves, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “Traitors” was where I learned to write and to edit.

Without “Traitors,” “The Red Dagger” would never have been written. They both take place in the same universe, and have some of the same characters, including the main character named Titus. The main difference is “Traitors” is Christian Science Fiction whereas “The Red Dagger” contains no overt Christian components.

So even if “The Red Dagger” makes publication prior to “Traitors,” there could still be a chance for “Traitors” sometime down the road.

To keep my mind away from the contest, I will tackle the next installment of Titus’s story. I will be using a story template developed by Amy Deardon, author of “Lever Long Enough,” to help me develop it, because right now, I don’t have a clue where to begin!

Another Contest, Another Heartbreak?

Okay, I’m not as pessimistic as the title sounds. After all, why enter a contest at all if I don’t believe I have a chance?

However slight.

Last night Amazon’s Breakout Novel Award contest opened for submissions. I stayed up until 1:45 am to complete my final edits of “The Red Dagger,” including a 300-word pitch. Although the submission deadline isn’t until February 7, they are also only accepting 10,000 entries, 5,000 for the general fiction category, and 5,000 for the young adult. It’s quite possible they’ll receive the entry limit before the deadline, so I decided to submit mine as soon as I could.

Luckily in the meantime I can still go in and edit my entry until the deadline or when the 5,000 entries are reached.

But it’s still a bit nerve-wracking. I won’t know until February 25 whether or not “The Red Dagger” made it to the next round. 1,000 entries will be chosen for the second round. Assuming they receive 5,000 entries, that gives me a 20% or 1:5 chance. Not horrible odds.

The great thing about making the second round is my entry will be critiqued by a top Amazon reviewer. Since few people have seen any part of my book, I could use the input.

In fact, if you’re interested in giving me your own thoughts (especially since I have some time to edit my entry), you can download a pdf of the pitch and the first 5,000 words HERE.

Question for you. If you keep a blog, how many times do you read through and edit an entry after you submit it? For this one, I’m on edit #6.

Make that seven.

Eight.

Proselytizing Gun Sights?

I recently read an article on the controversy surrounding gun sight manufacturer, Trijicon, engraving Bible verses on their gun sights.

At first I was a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Until I learned a few things.

One, the sights didn’t contain the entire verses, but referenced them on the serial number such as JN8:12 and 2COR4:6.

Some claimed this was proselytizing, a big no-no especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where the population is largely Muslim.

A reverend by the name of Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance claimed the little numbers violate the rules on soldiers not proselytizing. He added, “Images of American soldiers as Christian crusaders come to mind when they are carrying weaponry bearing such verses.”

I laughed. For one, no one would know that was a Bible verse by looking at the little number, and if they did, they would have to look it up.

As for the proselytizing, a soldier would have to run up to a person, Muslim or otherwise, and say, “Look at my gunsight! The serial number is a Bible verse! Here, let me drop my weapon, pick up my Bible and read it to you!”

The verses aren’t meant for the enemy, but for the soldier holding the weapon. Some would complain that it’s inappropriate to place a Bible verse on weapon designed to kill someone.

War by its definition is destructive, hell on earth if you will. But it’s a cold reality. Jesus was not so naive to think mankind would discontinue warring against itself when he came to earth. Nor did he attempt to stop war. He even said his coming would bring war, not peace. His mission was to save every man and woman’s soul, not create an idealistic utopia.

Nor did he say we should not fight; there are times when it’s necessary, if distasteful. In fact when he sent out his disciples he said they must take a sword, and if not, “sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 24:36) He knew the importance of self-protection. God protects us from many things, but they’re mostly spiritual. He doesn’t necessarily protect us from all the evil in the world. Would you tell a father to not protect his child from a kidnapper, his wife from a rapist, or himself from a murderous thief?

Would you tell a soldier not to protect himself, his fellow soldiers or his country? Regardless if you think a specific war is just, it’s there, it’s real, and we must deal with it. Where would we be if we did not fight in WWI or WWII? There were Christians on both sides of those conflicts, fighting and killing each other, and each believing their cause was God’s cause. Did God condemn one over the other, or did he judge each according to his own heart?

I prefer a soldier be reminded that Jesus is the light of the world on a gun sight than not at all. Yet as far as controversies go, this is minimal. Besides it’s moot now since they removed the verses. But if our government was to say no soldier is allowed to wear a cross or carry a Bible in his pack, then I would scream a little louder.

After all, what is a soldier but a living weapon? What is humankind but the greatest weapon of mass destruction, because it’s man who thinks up the weapons in the first place?

A knife cannot cut until someone picks it up. A gun cannot fire until someone pulls the trigger, and a number cannot preach until someone looks it up and repeats it to another.

Apathetic Atrophy

When any muscle is not used after a certain spell of time, it atrophies.

The same could be said of the brain. I must be losing braincells, because I had no idea my blog has sat silent since before Christmas. Where did the time go? Did it slide away, down the proverbial drain along with my gray matter?

My brain hasn’t seen much exercise lately. I’ve written little, read little. Instead I’m watching the Food Network during my free time (all two hours of it after my little guy goes to bed). No wonder I’m hungry all the time.

At this rate I can forget submitting my book to Amazon’s Breakout Novel Award contest. It’s less than two weeks away, and I’ve only edited 45 pages — out of 223. If I motivate myself, I can still make it, though.

The problem is, will my apathetic, atrophied gray matter handle the exercise without burning out or overheating and leaking out my ears?

How’s that for an image?

I know, boring entry, but I felt like writing something.