Blazing Star

It has been a while since I posted on here. There will be more on that at a later date, but I have some BIG NEWS to share with you tonight.

Davis Publishing Company hosts a quarterly short fiction contest and the finalists for Summer 2016 were announced last night. My story, The Blazing Star, was picked as one of the final entries, and will be published by DPC along with the other two finalists. Of course, the final placing must be decided by author and writing mentor KM Weiland, but that’s all gravy at this point. Being a finalist means that I will go from aspiring fiction author to PUBLISHED fiction author.

PUBLISHED.

I want to let that sink in for a minute because it feels kinda good. I have published writing works before as a journalist, but this story being published is a momentous thing for me. It gives me hope that I can really make this writing thing work, and now I want to work harder to keep the ball rolling.

On the heels of this announcement, I would also like to offer a bit of a teaser for future projects. I have been working with Josh Davis of DPC to build on the Blazing Star story, which came about after I wrote the short story. I knew there was more to the tale than what I had in the submitted work, so I have been working on expanding that. More to come in the future on that!

I want to thank Josh and Patricia of DPC for taking me on and giving me all the guidance and support that I could ever ask for. I also have to thank my wife, Emily, who has supported my writing and gave me the strength to finally chase this dream.

Be sure to look for the final results of the contest on September 30th, and keep an eye out for more news after that!

Muhammad Ali by Sherrie Marshall Spitz

Today, I want to share a guest post by Sherrie Marshall Spitz, who recounts her personal connections to the life and legend Muhammad Ali, who passed almost a month ago.


maxresdefault

Muhammad Ali, nee Cassius Clay, fought his last fight on June 3, 2016. He floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee. But until you watched him fight, you could only know that if you listened to his self-promoted hype. This was a man I admired and adored when I was a small child.

The timing for Ali’s word-slinging attributes could not have been more succinct than for my generation. He held deep personal convictions and was strong-willed beyond imagination. No other heavy-weight boxer before him had ever publicly claimed he was the greatest before there was documented proof. But his record upon retirement stood for itself, 56-5. He was the juice my country needed. We lived in the throes of deep turmoil and terrifying conflict.

American’s tuned in nightly to listen to Walter Cronkite on CBS, one of 6 channels offered in the 60’s and 70’s, to get the latest news on the death toll and atrocities of the Vietnam War. Boys from every city were being sent home in body bags and wheelchairs. Many parents only received dog tags and a Will that their beloved son was required to write before landing in a country that did not ask for America’s help. We clung to each other and prayed the war would come to a peaceful and agreeable resolution.

Yet, here was a man who became a conscientious objector to the war and stood for something that our country didn’t know they needed – a winner. Ali was a tank, but he was still no match for the oversized, muscle-bound, machinations of George Foreman in 1974. They were not only arch rivals in the ring and in front of the television crews covering the match of the century, but George considered Ali his mortal enemy. He publicly stated that he wanted to kill Ali. Death lived on the breath of all Americans. These were strong sentiments for the time, and every person in every house tuned in to bear witness to what was sure to be a slaughter.

After his 1971 loss to Joe Frazier in “The Fight of the Century,” Ali rallied back for “Rumble in the Jungle” against Big George. That night in 1974 will forever live in infamy as the date the loud-mouthed “Pretty” boy from Louisville, Kentucky indeed became the greatest. I was only a child, but the most promoted boxing match in the world was somehow tied in my mind to the war effort. As it was for many, American’s began to believe that we, too, could overcome astounding odds and put an end to the horrors of Vietnam, the 2-decade war, in which Americans fought for 16 years. Was it possible that the hope gleaned from a boxing ring in the jungles of Zaire could somehow rally our troops and help piece our nation back together?

These were adult feelings that I could neither understand nor interpret without pure childlike oversimplification. All I knew was that when Ali fought on my family’s 20” stereo console TV, we were together, we were rooting for the underdog, and we believed whole-heartedly that Muhammad Ali would rise victorious. He carried the hopes and dreams of a country that nursed crushed spirits and bruised egos. The devastation that played out on the nightly news was real drama and nightmarish. Vietnam was the Boogey Man, and we were scared.

Ali knocked Foreman out in the 8th round, and went on to win fight after unbelievable fight. The Vietnam war ended the following year, and when Ali retired in 1981, his loving spirit and skillful forging of broken international relations proved that he was just getting started. Even though he had not fought in the war, it had scarred Ali’s sense of humanity. The Boogey Man had changed him, and he knew his fighting days in another arena were in their infancy.

He began to foster deeper harmonious peace between the world’s nations. He met with foreign dignitaries that included audiences with Pope John Paul II, Russian President Gorbachev, and Fidel Castro. Even when he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease at age 48, he continued his “Fight for Peace” campaign with grace, dignity, and the characteristic pride he exuded his entire life. He and George Foreman eventually developed a brotherly love for each other and became lifelong friends.

I learned many lessons about the true qualities of a life well-lived from a man that came to me through a snowy television set in the 60’s and 70’s. His teachings of perseverance, tolerance of others, and how to rise above the fray have stuck with me for over 50 years. At my house and in my eyes, Ali was the greatest, and he will be missed deeply by many generations.


Sherrie’s blog, Sherrie’s Always Write, went live today, and I am glad to feature her work here on The Town’s End Tribune to mark her landmark day.

Her bio reads:

yUHbAZfLNothing is more amusing than a description of a life well-worn by someone you’ve not yet come to love as much as I. I am a writer with too much time on my hands. I dabble in thrillers and novellas starring ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances. Think Dean Koontz, but not.

My dog, Sierra, and I share unreasonable amounts of time together in Denver, Colorado. Yes, it’s really a mile high. I’m an avid reader of everything, including, but not limited to: novels, self-help manuals, product labels, street signs, minimum wage posters, and closed caption if I’ve accidentally pressed the hot key on my remote control.

My wicked sense of self-importance and dogged logic for inappropriate commentary color everything I do and say, but should not detract from the self-deprecating humor I plan to heap on you at every corner.

Be sure to check out her blog daily, because she posts new content Monday-Friday!

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Goals

We all have goals.

Weight goals (of one kind or another), workout goals, life goals, work goals, etc.

The point is that you have to shoot for something. Without a destination in mind, we are aimlessly driving to nowhere.

With this in mind, I have set some goals for myself, or more accurately, for my first book. In case, you haven’t been paying attention, read further on my novel aspirations HERE. Anyhow, my goals are:

  1. I want to complete 5 chapters a week on my first draft.
  2. I want my first draft to be done by October 1st.
  3. I want to have critiques and edits done by November 1st.
  4. By April, I want my final draft off to a editor/proofreader
  5. Roughly one year from now, I want my book to be hitting bookshelves.

Those are my goals. They may come to be, and they may not, but now I have something to shoot for. As for goal #1, I have 3 chapters done in 3 days, so I’m doing alright thus far. I figure it will take me roughly 10-12 weeks to do my first draft at this pace, which I am fine with, since I have a full time job and a family. That will put me well within range of goal #2. Then begins the race for the rest of my goals.

Also, big news, I have reached a verbal agreement with the Davis Publishing Company to be my publisher. The co-owner, Josh Davis, has been a great help and mentor, and I am looking forward to working with his growing company. I hope that we can help each other by bringing both of our respective brands success!

So the moral here is to have goals. I have a few other goals that I’ll keep to myself for now, but when the time comes, I hope they will be instrumental in building towards a life that is fulfilling for both myself and for my family.

That’s all I have for now, folks. Keep checking in for updates on the progress of my novel. I will be sure to post milestones as they are reached. Sometime soon, I will release a story synopsis, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

The Battle Has Begun…

Earlier this year, I began crafting an idea for a book. For years, I banged half formed notions and thoughts around my head, trying to get something to stick. I was unable to give the ideas the attention they needed to grow, and they would always fade away. I was almost to the point where I was going to let writing fade in to the background of my life. Luckily, inspiration came along and turned things around.

My wife chasing her dreams kicked my writing habit back in to gear. I knew if I rested on my laurels any longer, I wouldn’t ever get started. 6 months later, I had a plot summary with 51 pages and 34,000 words. I pushed myself to make progress, and the ideas flowed like water.

I created a plot that I felt a personal sense of pride in. I built a story idea that I believed in, and that I knew could be the basis for a series of books. The only thing I was worried about was the opinion of others.

I sent my work out to a few people, so they could check the plot summary for the content it contained. I wanted to know if they felt it was a good story, and if it was worth moving forward with. The response I got back was favorable, and I was told that I was on the right track. I knew that I had something substantial to work on.

What I have is a fantasy tale. I won’t go in to details, because I’m not ready to share that with the world. I will say that it’s not overly fantastical or wild. I love the fantasy realm for the ability to build my own world, make my own rules, and not be bound by our reality. So here I am, with my plot summary and a path forward.

Now the battle begins. I have started the work on the actual story, and it will be a long and twisting path to the completion of the book. I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of books, blogs, articles, and works on how to go about writing a book. I’ve tried to prepare myself and figure out how to go about attacking this, but I have realized that nobody will be able to tell me how to best write my book. Only I will know how I can accomplish that. I found that out when I began my summary. I followed the steps of others, but my success came when I followed what came natural to me. Obviously, the advice and experience of others did give me some guidance, but when the ink went on the paper, I had to chart my own path. I feel like writing the book will be the same. I will have the mentors and guides to consult, but my hands will write the book, and I have to figure out the best way to do it. The process will be slow at first, but I know I will find my way. I can see the story in my head, but now I just have to figure out how to get it on to the page.

I feel like every day will be a learning experience, and some days will be incredibly frustrating. I will want to give up, and I will want to walk away. I will wonder why I ever decided to make writing a part of my life. After that, I will sit back down, and lay siege to the story and not quit until it is finished. I want it too bad, and I want to write for a living. If I can pass this test, then I can make it my life.

So, today I announce that my story, currently titled Mage’s Fire, is in work. I am proud of the fact that I can say this, and that I can actually share it. I’m hoping to have it done within a year. Josh, hold me to that. In fact, everyone hold me to that, so I can set myself a real deadline.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this venture. Also, thank you to the people who have always supported my writing habit. Without the guidance and kicks in the ass, I would not be this far along. Keep guiding and kicking.

Now I am off to put more words in to my story. I hope that it will be as good in your eyes as it looks in mine.

Writing Tips With Josh Davis

Today, I would like to welcome Josh Davis to The Town’s End Tribune! He is a very experienced writer with loads of knowledge, and I’m hoping to share his thoughts on a regular basis. So, without further ado… Here’s Josh!


000 josh writing picI’ve been writing professionally off and on for over ten years now. It all started with a gig as a sportswriter for a local weekly newspaper in my hometown of Appomattox, Virginia. Then, I served as a contributor (and later as the general editor) of a Mixed Martial Arts news website. While I was editor, web traffic was increased by over 1600%, unique page views per month increased by nearly 600%, and we won numerous awards for our content. During that time, I was also winning awards for my poetry, and working on my own blog, the (now defunct) Laymen’s Theology blog, and working on novels. Since January of 2015, I have been writing full time, achieving the dream of writing for a living as a freelance ghostwriter and editor while I keep working on my own things, earning nearly $30,000 as a writer last year.

In March of this year, my wife (Patricia) and I started a publishing company together, and our first release achieved #1 on no less than six best-seller lists on Amazon.com.

I say all this, not to brag, but to illustrate the simple fact that I know what I’m talking about. If I give out tips or information, it’s because I know that it works and will increase the overall quality of your writing. So, drawing on my over ten years of experience as a pro, I started my #WritingTipsWithJosh series of videos on my YouTube channel. I try to post a writing tip video every Thursday, to help the aspiring writer to improve as a writer. After all, my personal motto is, “never stop learning.”

And it is with that intention in mind that I illustrate the key points of my video from this week, regarding introductions and prologues in fictional stories.

Introductions, while pivotal in non-fiction books and articles because they introduce the reader to the material, are one of the worst things that you can put in a fictional story. They serve only to ruin the story itself, because readers do not want you to tell them what they are going to read, they want to read it. More importantly, the information in an introduction is often simply a repeat of the information they’ve already digested in the book description. After all, any discerning reader will read reviews and book descriptions to determine if the story is one that will interest them. So, never include an introduction in fictional stories.

As to prologues, they are a slightly trickier animal. It would be very easy to say “don’t include prologues either,” but the fact is, prologues can actually serve a purpose if handled with care. The trick is to make the prologue matter.

For example, let’s look at one of the best-selling fictional stories ever written: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone serves as the prologue to the story. Rowling masterfully sets the stage with information that matters to the story. Hagrid mentions that he borrowed the motorcycle that he delivered Harry with from “young Sirius Black.” Black, of course, is not mentioned again until the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We see Professor Dumbledore leave a letter with the infant Harry’s sleeping form. We never know the contents of that letter until the fifth book in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

More immediately, we read that Harry’s cousin, Dudley, pokes and prods at Harry for the next few weeks, foreshadowing the abuse that the Dursley’s put young Harry through until his eleventh birthday.

While not a true prologue, the first chapter of the series demonstrates all the qualities that we look for in a prologue. It is filled with plot points and conflicts that never fully come to fruition until later (and sometimes, much later) in the series. The motorcycle, for example, is used in the third book to illustrate Sirius’s hand in the death of Harry’s parents. The fact that Professor McGonagall is able to shape shift into a cat sparks Hermione’s search for incriminating forms of bugging in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the fifth book, we learn that Professor Dumbledore told the Dursley’s that Harry’s life would be in extreme danger if they ever turned him out, resulting in his being allowed to stay in the house in Order of the Phoenix.

These are the qualities that we look for in great prologues…setting up plot points that matter. The key is to avoid dumping information onto the readers, immediately turning them off from the characters that we have spent so much time getting to know and falling in love with ourselves. After all, if we don’t love our characters, the reader won’t either.

Writing compelling stories is less like The Notebook and more like Saving Private Ryan. We have to fight to earn the privilege of having readers read even one more word. Speaking from experience, there is no greater feeling that seeing our words have the desired impact on the reader. We want readers to cry with our characters, laugh with them, rejoice with them, and leave the worlds that spring forth from our minds feeling as if there is something missing. We want them to become so immersed in the story that they are compelled to turn the page, simply to find out what happens next.

Do you really want to turn them off just because you couldn’t restrain yourself from dumping all the information you can into a few pages at the front of your brilliantly composed novel? If your answer is “no”, then avoid prologues as much as possible, and never use an introduction to your fictional story. If your answer is anything other than “no”, you need to find a new line of work.

Seriously.


Josh Davis is a writer, editor, and publisher in his hometown of Appomattox, Virginia. He has been married to his high-school sweetheart, Patricia, for almost eight years and the couple has three children, Ivy (7), Nathaniel (6), and Christine (2). He is an avid fisherman and golfer, and loves to watch his favorite football team, the Tennessee Titans in the fall.

He currently has one novel and one biopic in the works, Stockholm Syndrome and Power of One, respectively. You can learn more about his work as a writer at Josh Davis, Writer. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about his company, you can visit the Davis Publishing Company Facebook page and website.

For more writing tips and tricks, subscribe to his YouTube channel. To have your questions answered, use the #WritingTipsWithJosh hashtag on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Q&A Series: KM Weiland

Today, I am pleased to continue my Author Q&A Series with an amazing writer and mentor, KM Weiland.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

KM has been a heavy influence on my return to writing, and her role as mentor has helped my abilities as an aspiring author blossom. Getting the chance to interview her was truly a blessing, and I am excited to share it with you.

******

  1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

  1. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.

  1. What drew you to the genres you write in? 

First answer is: blood and thunder stories. I’m kind of all over the board on genres (although everything I write does stay confined under the giant umbrellas of either historical or fantasy), but all of my stories are what I like to call “blood and thunder.” They’re usually action-packed, a little bit on the adventurous side, but also gritty.

  1. How and where did you learn your vast repertoire or knowledge on writing? 

Writing books, magazines, blogs—and lots and lots of study and practice of real stories!

  1. How did you get involved in helping other writers?

It was all an accident, believe me! I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!

Really, I think the site has been as much of a blessing to me as it has been to anyone. Other than the marvelous writer folk I’ve gotten to meet, I’ve also learned so much by writing about writing.

  1. You have published 6 writing craft books, you have a podcast with more than 300 episodes, and your website has a wealth of resources and information. How has sharing this with others helped you grow as a mentor and a writer?

I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.

  1. When you are mentoring someone, what are some of the most common mistakes you see when they are learning the craft? 

#1: Fail to properly structure the story.

#2: Fail to create an engaging character with an engaging voice.

#3: Fail to show more than is told.

  1. As a writer, what has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome? What about as a mentor?

Every book is its own adventure. Something that’s easy in one book can end up being surprisingly difficult in another. Major rewrites, when they’re necessary, are probably my least favorite part—but they offer their own rewards too. Honestly, I enjoy aspects of every part of the process.

  1. We know that imagination cannot be taught, but what do you think is the single most important thing to writing a successful novel?

Proper structure is vital in creating powerful and memorable fiction. Story structure is instinctual to most people. It’s embedded deep in the human psyche. It’s certainly not an arbitrary set of guidelines, and it’s also not something exclusive to our era. We find the classic three-act structure across centuries and continents.

That being so, we have to ask ourselves, Why? The answer, of course, is that structure creates stories that not only balance the rise and fall of action, but also time the important turning points, so that they have the best chance of impacting and resonating with readers.

What writer doesn’t want to do that? A conscious understanding of structure allows us to understanding the theory behind story, which then allows us to discover why certain stories work and others don’t—and how to make sure our stories land in the former group.

  1. What can your fans and apprentices expect to see from you in the near future?

Within just a few weeks, I have an online writing course coming out called How to Write Amazing Character Arcs That Sell Novels. Before the year is out, I also hope to put out a book and workbook on character arcs. I’m also in the process of editing my latest novel—a historical superhero adventure called Wayfarer.

******

A big thank you goes to KM for taking the time to be a part of the Author Q&A Series. I hope that any aspiring authors or writers found some good advice in her answers. Don’t forget that you can find so much more of her incredible insight on her website Helping Writers Become Authors and in her books.

A special thanks also goes out to the Wordplayers. Thank you for the feedback and input for the series.

Thanks for reading!

Author Q&A Series: Deborah Chester

As an aspiring author, I have sought out insight and guidance from as many sources and people as I could find. What I have discovered is a wealth of knowledge in books, blogs, and websites designed to give burgeoning writers the direction that they seek. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could, but I felt like my questions weren’t being answered.

My solution was to begin a series of Q&A interviews with authors, which I would then share here on Town’s End Tribune. My goal is to get answers to the questions that are eating at me, while also sharing them with other striving authors who seek advice from established writing veterans.

My first interview is with Deborah Chester, professor of Professional Writing at the University of Oklahoma, and author of over 40 books. Deborah recently published The Fantasy Fiction Formula, a writing craft book that helps guide a writer through the process of creating a book in the fantasy genre. Deborah’s teaching influenced the writing of Jim Butcher, author of the best-selling urban fantasy series the Dresden Files.

 “Listen carefully to what Debbie has to say about telling stories, aspiring writer. She knows exactly what she’s talking about.”
— Jim Butcher

 Deborah’s role as an educator and mentor made her a top priority on my list of people to interview, and I am so glad she agreed to be a part of this series. She has so much knowledge to share, and I am elated to share the Q&A interview of Deborah Chester with you.

 ******

 1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I began writing professionally in 1978, when I acquired a literary agent and sold my first book manuscript. The book was subsequently published in 1980.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine. There was no other career choice as appealing to me.

 2. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein were inspirational, but C.S. Forester and Georgette Heyer were hugely influential.

 3. What made you interested in becoming an educator?

I was seeking a day job less intrusive into my writing time than the usual 8-to-5 job. While I was working on two master’s degrees, a vacancy in professional writing here at the University of Oklahoma unexpectedly appeared and I was hired as a replacement. I had to drop my studies in Latin, but I completed my M.A. in Professional Writing and held onto the job. Later it became a full-time position, and then I achieved tenure and moved up the ladder.

 4. You recently published your first book on writing, The Fantasy Fiction Formula. What inspired you to create this work?

Many of my students over the years have urged me to write a book on writing, so I’ve long had it in the back of my mind that someday I would get around to it. Then I was contacted by Manchester University Press in England about doing one. The editor is a huge Jim Butcher fan, and she had located my blog on writing, “Chronicles of the Scribe,” and she offered me a contract.

 5. How did you get drawn to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre? 

I’ve been a science fiction fan since my childhood. Star Trek’s original series was my favorite television show, and I always loved the notion that someday we would reach the stars. I love world-building, adventure, and history so eventually I migrated over into the fantasy camp.

 6. What are some of the pitfalls you have found working in that particular genre? What about advantages?

I’ve seen science fiction change from a genre largely aimed at adolescent boys to one that now embraces a female audience and where women authors no longer have to hide their identity behind pseudonyms.  I’ve seen fantasy rise into an enormously popular genre, pulling away from science fiction and leaving in the dust. I find it interesting that fantasy is considered cool to read by a vast spectrum of people, but science fiction still struggles against literary prejudice.

The biggest pitfall in writing fantasy comes from how threadbare its tropes are. How do you create a fresh, original story that will still appeal to readers who have read so much? And if you do create something fresh and original, will readers embrace it if it lacks those threadbare tropes they love?

The advantages are that you can create the story world any way you want. Your setting is yours to command, and science fiction is wide open to experimentation.

 7. What are some of the biggest mistakes aspiring authors make?

Two of the biggest mistakes I see are weak plotting and information dumps. Newbies are often drawn to writing because they’ve envisioned a magical world and want to live in it. They’re so entranced by this world that they pour all their creative energy into its creation, and they forget that they must also write a good story. Many beginners tend to plot the same way a video game goes, which is not how a book is constructed. If they aren’t voracious readers, they can’t develop their story sense well enough to have reliable plotting instincts.

As for information dumps, they are the bane of the genre. Writers have to find a way to explain, describe, and show the story world and its props so that readers can understand them, but without halting the story to lecture for several pages at a time.

 8. What is the best advice you would give to an aspiring author?

My advice for aspiring writers is to read, read, read, read, read. Among your favorite authors, examine why you like their stories so much. Is it their settings? Their character design? Their snarky dialogue? Their pacing and plot twists? All of the above? Do they reach your emotions?

Figure out how and why these authors touch you. Figure out why other stories bore you. Then emulate what works and avoid what doesn’t.

It’s been said that a good way to self-train is to take your favorite novel and type it. Just prop it next to your computer and type the entire thing. It will take you weeks to do, but by the end of this task you should have a pretty good idea of how dialogue flows, how scenes and chapters are constructed, where to set hooks, and how to introduce characters. Of course you won’t steal that author’s story. It’s just a training exercise. And if this exercise sounds too brutal, get over it. Writing is wonderful, but it’s tremendously hard work.

 9. Now that you have published a book on writing, do you have any plans for pursuing other educational avenues outside of teaching in a classroom?

In the past, I’ve done workshops and worked as a paid writing consultant for manuscripts, but I don’t have plans to pursue such things at the moment. When I’m not in the classroom here at OU, I keep my spare time cleared for writing fiction.

However, who knows? I’ve got a six-part series of podcasts going on the Manchester University Press Web site, where I’ve been interviewed regarding The Fantasy Fiction Formula. Perhaps I’ll consider doing more podcasts in the future. It all depends because my writing has to come first.

******

For more information on Deborah or her works, visit her Website or Blog.

******

I hope you enjoyed this first entry in to the Author Q&A Series. My next interview will be with KM Weiland early next month. Thanks for reading!

Inspiration

Every writer gets writer’s block from time to time. Some have longer spells than others. When it came to me, my writer’s block for fictional stories lasted for years. Now, anyone who knows me can tell I’m no schmuck when it comes to stringing words together. This is my third blog, and I’m always great at being overly verbose on things that are based in the real world. The problem comes when I try to reach for that place where things come from my imagination.

When I was younger, I was always immersed in books. I surrounded myself with fictional worlds that stimulated my brain’s natural need to create fantastical ideas. I didn’t really know how to harness that until college, when I learned about journalism and the basics of creative writing. Writing became my life. I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do. For a time, I was able to let my ideas grow and I could expand upon them using what I had learned. The problem was that I didn’t really have any direction or training in how to structure my ideas. What I ended up with was a jumbled mess of ideas that led to nowhere.

Joining the Navy did not grant me a lot of time to work on my ideas, or room to grow as a writer. Writing professionally as a journalist in addition to other jobs was not paying the bills, so I followed family tradition in to the military. I was working too many hours and spending most of my time learning how to do the job I was being paid to do. Writing fell to the wayside and became a hobby instead of a passion and a goal. My fictional ideas would stagnate and never come to fruition. I would try to expound on ideas, but I would get frustrated because I didn’t have time to really focus on them. I tried to keep the writing wheels greased by blogging, but even that ended up mothballed for a time because I felt like it was pointless pursuit. I was on the verge of just closing up shop on writing for good. That is when something miraculous happened.

My wife, Emily, is a passionate woman. She has a dream of being a violist in a professional orchestra, as well as being a teacher. She works her ass off following her dream and has not let times of doubt or difficult situations stop her. When doubt would creep in, we would always find those reasons for her to keep pursuing her dreams. She is now a month away from her Bachelor’s degree and is a phenomenal violist. I am inspired by her drive and her ardor for her chosen path. She puts her heart and soul into her music, and I feel that passion when I think about writing.

One night, we were talking about her going to graduate school and plans after that, and I knew then that my heart was no longer in the Navy. I wanted to start writing again. I began trying to get ideas out of my head, but it was slow going. I knew there were things in there, but I couldn’t get the gears going. I had to do some maintenance on my brain to be productive again. I began searching the Internet for ideas on how to kick-start my brain, and that is when I stumbled upon KM Weiland and her blog Helping Writers Become Authors. Her websites have a wealth of knowledge on writing and I was hooked. Her advice, along with many other books and websites helped me start to move my ideas from concept to reality. I was able to start putting my ideas on paper, and I could organize them in a way that made sense. I started blogging again, which helped me keep my brain moving even when I wasn’t able to come up with ideas for my stories. During a more recent case of writer’s block, I was introduced to a group of writers via a Facebook group created by KM Weiland. The massive amount of communication, knowledge, and diversity within the group has led to a burst of inspiration in me. I’ve written more on my story ideas since I began communicating with this group of peers than ever before. I currently have 3 plot lines in the works, but there is a lot of work to be done before I can ever call them done.

Through all of this, I realized that when my time in the Navy is over, I would be ready to pursue my dream of writing for a living. I have watched several people in my life realize dreams in their lives and chase them, and soon enough it will be my turn. I will continue to work and pursue my dream while being in the military, but when it becomes a full time pursuit, I can put everything I have in to it.

So here’s to my inspirations. Thank you all so very much. I could not do this without you.

To my talented wife, whose untiring pursuit has driven me to chase my dreams. To my sister, Christel, and brother-in-law, Austin, who found a passion that they love and are sharing it with the world. To those in my life who told me I could never reach my dreams, to those who told me to never give up. To KM Weiland and the awesome Wordplayers! To my family who has been behind me always. To the people who have been influential in my stories and characters. Lastly, but certainly not least, to my father, who has always been my biggest hero, my best inspiration, and my #1 fan. Dad, everything I am is because of you. I hope that one day, you will see my name on a book and be proud.

If you have a dream, chase it. Follow your heart, and never deny yourself the things you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the comfort zone and take a leap of faith. It could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

 

Guest Writers Wanted

I haven’t been using my blog as much as I’ve wanted to lately. As a writer, I’ve gone through cycles of productivity, and this has been a lengthy down period. During this time I’ve considered the idea of having guest writers on my blog, and I think it’s time to broach the subject on here.

Seeing as I call this a tribune, I would love for my blog to become a place with several contributors. I think that it would add an interesting dynamic to the site and perhaps spark more creativity and bring more readers around.

Anyways, here are my requirements if anyone is interested in being a guest writer:

  1. I will not accept anything that goes against my moral code. I have no problem with things that I may generally disagree with, but anything that is hateful or abusive will not be published.
  2. No agendas. I don’t need anyone pushing any propaganda or hocking products on here. If you want to do reviews or things like that, that’s fine, but this site isn’t here to sell stuff. If there are any special causes or things that you want to bring attention to, speak to me about it first and we will discuss it, but that is a very limited basis.
  3. You must present something that has substance and will not require heavy editing. I want pieces that are more than a Facebook post.
  4. I do not require specific topics or ideas, but I do want the subject to be something you are passionate about. This blog has never held to a theme. I love sharing my passions and I want you to do the same.
  5. No plagiarizing. If you quote or reference something, please include where you got it from.

I’m sure I will come up with more requirements as time goes along, but that is it for now. I want this to be a platform for people to share with the world. Some people don’t want to start a blog, but they do want to write from time to time. I would love to be able to give them a space to do so. I hope to have people come in and add some great new facets to Town’s End Tribune.

If you are interested, contact me via Facebook or email me at townsend3284@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some interested writers!

The Search For The Perfect Pen

When I first began writing, I used to do most of it by hand. There was always something special about the tactile feel of putting the words on to paper. Typing is always more efficient, but longhand is personal and unique. Everyone’s handwriting is different. While my handwriting is pretty messy, some people’s words can be downright artistic.

When my neck problems started, I began having issues with hand cramps and fatigue when I wrote for more than a few minutes. At first, I tried to deal with it, but the pain became unbearable. I stopped writing longhand unless I had to, and I felt my connection with writing start to wane. Writing my thoughts out free form helped me transfer ideas better than typing does, especially when taking notes. I accepted the fact that typing was going to be my main form of writing, but I still had a spot in my heart that dearly wanted to be able to be able to put ink to paper again.

When I began getting treatments for my back in the past few months, I started doing research in to how it could affect the nerves in my hand. The weakness and cramps were something that still bothered me, and I was hopeful that I could start writing by hand again. I was also looking for something to use to takes notes or write in, because I was beginning to have a lot of ideas and inspirations for stories, and I didn’t like taking notes on my phone. I decided to get a journal, and after much searching, I picked a journal from Earthworks Journals. Now, this wasn’t just a cheap journal, so I couldn’t use a regular pen. I began to look in to pens that were of a better quality, and it turns out that cheap pens can also contribute to hand cramps and fatigue. I started looking at pens that are best for people who have the same problems that I do, and the consensus answer was fountain pens.

Fountain pens have always interested me, but they have always seemed daunting. I always viewed them as potentially messy and a hassle to deal with. I really did not know much about them besides the fact that they were expensive. Boy, was I wrong about all of that. I started looking in to them seriously when I read that the major factor behind hand cramps and fatigue was the pressure you have push down with to use a ballpoint pen, and the grip you have to use to apply that pressure. A fountain pen can relieve that because the ink flows better, and does not require a hard grip if the pen is well balanced. I was sold on that part alone, but there were a lot of other things that make fountain pens appealing to everyday writers.

Fountain pens come in all shapes and sizes, and can range in price from a few bucks to ARE YOU F’N CRAZY?! If you aren’t sure if fountain pens are for you, there are disposable ones. Don’t like dealing with bottled ink? Most brands are capable of accepting ink cartridges. Most fountain pens are built to be low maintenance, and anyone can learn how to clean and repair their pen. You can also choose the nib or tip size to suit your needs, from extra fine, fine, medium, or broad. These pens aren’t just for the elite society or old world. They can be used in all parts of your daily life.

When I began searching for the right fountain pen, I ran through about 15 sites and at least 30 YouTube videos before I narrowed my choices to what I thought would suit me best. The site I chose was Goulet Pens, because they have the best selection and prices across the board. They also have in-depth knowledge that they share via their blog and YouTube videos. If you still have questions, their customer support teams will answer anything you need.

I waffled for two weeks between 3 pens, but I ultimately settled on the Lamy Al-Star Orange with a fine point nib. I could have debated for longer, but I knew this pen was the one I really wanted. I wasn’t sure about the nib size, but looking back, I am glad I chose fine over medium.

IMG_3441

This pen is awesome. I can write without my hand cramping or feeling tired. Normally I would have to shake out my hand or stop writing, but I don’t feel the need with this pen. I can write until my ideas or the pen dries up, which ever happens first. I went with cartridges at first, but I quickly switched to bottled ink and a converter. Bottled ink looks so much better, and the pen feels less scratchy. For anyone looking for good bottled ink, Noodler’s is the way to go. I am still waiting on my journal to arrive from England, but this pen makes writing a joy again.

Finding the perfect pen is a journey, and I feel like I will end up collecting more fountain pens. I am glad that I figured out that they are not as intimidating as they seemed. I have found that I enjoy tinkering with it, and I will become more and more comfortable with how a fountain pen works. If you suffer some of the same problems I do with your hand while writing, I urge you to explore fountain pens. They may help you out, and it may assist you in rediscovering an enjoyment in writing. Don’t take my word for it, though. Go explore for yourself, and you will see that fountain pens can be beautiful, useful, and can last a lifetime if you take care of them. Thanks for reading.