Friday, December 31, 2010

I resolve too late...

Well, it's only half-way through January, and here I am writing my first blog post of the year. Even assuming that I took most of December off for holidays, this is a little late in coming. The really sad thing is that I intended my original post to be a resolution to be more consistent and attentive to this blog, and my writings in general. Guess it is safe to say I blew that one. I'm still planning to try.

I also haven't updated the website in quite some time. I suppose it is time that you are due an explanation for that, at least in part. Back before Thanksgiving, my laptop was stolen. Fortunately, I didn't lose too much, because I keep most of my work "in the cloud" and on a flash drive, which was not stolen. (Let's not talk about how that same flash drive recently did a backwards somersault is now in traction. I don't think he'll recover.) I did lose the marvelous mindmapping program called FreeMind, where I had quite a bit of the characterization and plot details for Hero Games.

In the wake of this disaster, we evaluated our situation: we had lost two laptops and a Wii gaming system, complete with a dozen games and various controllers, etc. These were significant losses, though we were, of course, thankful that this was all we had lost. It was only (mostly) property, afterall, and even most of our documents were safely in Google Docs, or otherwise kept online. However, this was a lot to replace all at once. My wife needs a computer. She's a computer engineer and not having a computer at hand is like holding her breath... under water... with man-eating, hungry sharks swimming around... watching one of her fins floating down, into the murky depths of the ocean, never to be seen again... while the glistening, bobbing surface above her darkens with the arrival of ten-mile wide spaceships, full of aliens bent on galactic domination who have spoken with an ancient cult of star-charters that have chosen her as the key element in the coming war between... -you get the picture: my wife needs to have a computer. We could really only afford to replace one of the three major items. We put off the Wii, and I elected to wait to get a computer, allowing my wife to get a fairly nice model that will keep her happy until the next time we upgrade computers.

My district is wonderful enough to allow me to take my school laptop home and use it for casual personal purposes. So, I have a computer of my own, at home, too. Mostly. The district has also been sending out lots of little messages and subtle hints about "misuse and abuse of district equipment." The bloody-horsehead-in-the-bed screensaver was a bit much, guys. So, while I am content surfing the web and doing my writing in the cloud through my school laptop, downloading programs or storing lots of personal files (like website pages) made me a little nervous. So, I haven't been updating or working on the website, and I haven't touched Hero Games, though I did continue to write the short stories I was working on for NaNoWriMo.

However, I now have a nice flash drive from the school, so I can use that for school things, and my wonderful wife was given a flash drive as part of a conference she went to that she doesn't need, so is giving that to me, and I have decided to make that one be for writing. It will be a backup copy of the writings, and a way to work on the website through the school computer, without actually loading anything onto it. Happy medium discovered. :)

And yeah, I'm trying to trim the waistline, lose weight, and get in shape. All that standard January 1st stuff. The Wii Fit says I'm doing a good job! (Her parents got us a new Wii for Christmas, and part of my parents' gift to me was the Wii Fit Plus game to replace the one that was stolen.)

So, look forward to a new Nanite Chaser story on the site, as soon as I get everything set up and organized! Happy New Year everyone, a little late.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Setting Up for a Giant Leap

So, in preparation for my students to focus on setting, I went looking for great setting descriptions from great novels. I did find a few descriptions that really focused on the setting, but most had the characters and/or plot so worked into it, that I couldn't separate them for my students to look at setting alone. I was getting a little frustrated before finally finding clear setting-focused descriptions in Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and The Call of the Wild, among others.

However, in the midst of this search, I ran into a couple of articles that got me thinking in a certain direction. One I really enjoyed was Nathan Bransford's What Makes a Great Setting . He talks there of how the setting has been left out of the efforts to develop plot and characters. "The best settings," he says, "are not static, unchanging places... Great settings are dynamic." He has quite a bit more to say about setting, which is well worth reading.

However, the one I'd really like to talk more about is called Writing Descriptions: Setting the Scene by Kaye Dacus. She has very good advice about how to describe a setting, which I completely agree with (there are always exceptions). One thing she warns against is stopping the story to describe the setting. Instead, she encourages the writer to "have the characters interact with the setting." This is good advice. Unless you are trying to teach 7th graders, who have barely been taught the parts of speech and didn't want to be in this stupid, boring class to begin with, how to write good setting. They need to grasp what setting is and how completely it can be incorporated, through the 5 senses, and maybe even a 6th if you like; the way it can be described using figurative language and well-chosen descriptors and verbs; how a mere setting description can set the tone of an entire story before nary a character even graces the stage. They have to get what this is before they can begin lacing it into the action of the plot, or the experience of the characters.

I'm sure no one denies that this is the basic level of teaching setting and that Nathan and Kaye were both trying to get writers to move past this most basic level. Once they get what setting is, they shouldn't stop there. As Nathan and Kaye pointed out, they need to learn to make the setting an active part of the story, not just the boards their characters stand on. Writers must weave setting into the story the way plot is woven among the characters, taking all to become one, to make it something to experience as a whole.

What concerns me, is that in our public school system, the students are taught the basics, exactly what I am teaching them now, but never told that what they are learning is only the very most elementary aspects of life, so they graduate and proceed, thinking they have learned it all, many never realizing that they stand on the brink of a vast expanse of knowledge and are only staring at the edge of it between their toes. My wife excelled in writing tests in school, aceing it every time, until she followed the pattern they gave her to pass and she scored lower. The average public school student (or graduate) can probably list off the three branches of government if you ask them, but how many can explain the difference even between Republican and Democrat? Or name their local representatives? Gravity is expressed as a "constant" of 9.8 m/s2. You have to get into astrophysics before any professor will admit that it's wrong. Gravity isn't constant, it changes based on mass and distance from the center of the mass, and other things. The old concept that a bowling ball and a feather fall at the same rate in a vacuum is a myth. We just can't see the difference because of relative mass (thank you Einstein) and so 9.8 is deemed "good enough."

Why do we accept the least of standards when greater is within our reach? Granted, I have to get these students to identify setting and be able to write setting instead of ignoring it, and isolating it is the first step, but why do we stop at the first step? First steps are necessary, and they are for babies. The moon is a giant leap above us, but we can reach it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


We've got NaNoWriMo Winners!! (Yeah, I'm not one of them!)

First period (once adjusted for students that left during the month), won with 49,756 words. 8th period hit just over their goal, coming in at 62,514 words. 6th period took the collaborative cake with 69,168 words. The top writer in the creative writing classes was Gilbert with over 6,000 words of short story.

The afterschool program had a lower success rate, but I'm still very proud of not only the winners, but the ones who accepted the challenge and threw themselves at the wall. Two hit their word counts of 12,000 and won. (One had me scared, but slid into home plate literally in the eleventh hour.) I am especially proud of the student we call Poizon Ivy. Her goal was 15,000. She just barely succeeded last year, struggling for those last few words, but never got the complete manuscript typed up to be published. This year, she not only hit her goal of 15k, she DOUBLED it! Her final count? 31,426 words. (She complained that she ran out of time and had to cut the ending short.) This year, I intend to see this girl's name in print!

I hit the collaborative goals for my classroom stories, but fell short of the final for my after school piece, Slave Princess. Thursday afternoon is coke and cookies for all my writers to help celebrate their struggle and accomplishments.

Maybe now, after a short break, I can finish the short story and return to work on my Work-In-Progress, Hero Games. Watch for the Nanite Chaser stories to show up soon on the Frontpage of The other short story was taken from the world of On Common Ground. You can read an excerpt of that by clicking on the title link there.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I have more to write about than is appropriate for this blog. Thus, trying to focus on the writing-oriented topics is tough.

First, let's talk about my students, which have been a focus this month. I'm so very proud of them. (Yeah, I've said this, but they keep giving me more to be proud of!)

6th period, holding steady in second place most of the month, surged forward and not only passed 8th period by percentage and word count, but hit their own goal last Tuesday! (Round of Woot for 6th period!) Then, since that wasn't good enough, they kept writing and passed 8th period's goal, too! They currently have 64,020; their goal was set at 58k.

8th period made a good effort, but weren't able to meet the class goal this week; they are 58.8k out of 62k. Not much left, and I think they'll hit it. Many of them are already done, so most of the strongest writers are no longer adding to the collective word count.

1st period isn't done either, but wow did they put up a fight this last week! They were further behind than anyone, and needing about 14,000 words on Friday to even catch up. They didn't make it, but in that 90 minutes of class time on Friday, they churned out over 10,000 words! They now stand at 49,272 words. A mere 2,728 words from their class goal! I was amazed that they brought that much gain in only one class period!

They don't have class at all this week, being off for Thanksgiving break, but I sure hope they write like I encouraged them to. The game is over next week with only one class each.

Now, as for my own contributions and efforts for NaNoWriMo: I have completed two out of the three class anthology pieces. I'm working on the third class piece now, and then to tackle the afterschool one, which is significantly bigger than the three for class.

Susan's Book Club, which is for the Nanite Chaser series, is complete at 4,297 words. There's a little of the tech fun for those that really enjoy that aspect, but mostly, this one is for the romance and plot fanatics! It's too short to spill any beans, but let's just say Susan plays a much bigger role in this one than usual. Watch for this, and other, Nanite Chaser stories on

The other Nanite story, Shocking Rescue, currently has 1,308 words, but at least I can tell you a little more about that one! Derek gets an assignment to rescue workers from a major fire: in a power plant! So, let's see, in one big building, we have technicians to rescue, lots of fire, lots of water, and lots of electricity. Derek and the nanites are in for quite the challenge this time!

The last class story is from the world of On Common Ground. This one I hesitate to tell too much about, because it takes place after On Common Ground so has some spoilers built in. However, I will tell you that there's a big fight in a demon trial and the pretty little angel in the picture there was in it! (Notice the wing.) [Image by Boris Vallejo]

The last project for NaNoWriMo is Slave Princess. This one is a new piece, and most likely a stand alone story. The general idea? Kingdom is attacked by goblins. Royal Family is murdered, except for the young children, who are rescued by a knight and caretaker. Unfortunately, little Princess Gemma is captured by the goblins, her knight brought down before her eyes. She becomes a slave in the goblin camp, and grows up in that camp. Her brother may or may not have made it out alive.

After many years, a prisoner is brought in to the goblin camp that recognizes the slave girl. So begins the adventure.

Monday, November 15, 2010

From Whiners to Writers

Is it bad when your "slothful" students are kicking your literary butt?

Friday night was the first Write-In for our school. We advertised it as "YWP Hosts DFW NaNoWriMos." As far as I know, it is the first time in the history of the Young Writers Program that the two groups have mingled. I count it as a success, though I was a little disappointed by the grown-up attendance. (I think the weather threats kept many away.) Our wonderful DFW Municipal Liason was in attendance, however, and was kind enough to bring goody bags for all of my kids (nearly 20 sacrificed their Friday Night for writing, fun, food, and extra credit). The biggest hit of the goody bags were the little googly-eyed "fuzzies". One of my students bartered and begged and acquired a small army of fuzzies with which she will no doubt take over the world.

We had a couple of word wars, and lots of fun and laughter. Overheard throughout the night, however, were conversations like this:

"How many words do you have so far?"
"Two thousand, but I'm still only in the Rising Action!"

I am so proud of these kids. So many of them, only six weeks ago, tried everything they could do to escape the writing class they had been shoved into and hated to write. Now they groan in defeat when their class count is only 39-thousand words and they missed beating the other class by 1.5 percent! Hearing 7th and 8th graders use words like Rising Action, Protagonist, Conflict, and Subplot in casual conversation just warms my heart.

Not every NaNoNovel is a success story, unfortunately. I do have some that are not only behind, but not gaining much ground. Curiously, it isn't that they don't care, they just don't care enough to put in the extra effort, I guess. One girl lied when charting word counts. She claimed to have 200 words, but only had 190. I called her on it, and she pounded the desk. "I want that little green bar!"

Now if only I can catch up to some of my little super-stars! For those following my work, I'm writing 4 total stories: two Nanite Chasers, a supplemental scene based in the world of On Common Ground, and a new short story called Slave Princess. In the Nanite stories, Derek has once again met up with Taryn, but only briefly before off to "serve and protect." Let's hope he hasn't bitten off more than he (and the nanites) can chew! In the other story, we're getting to see a whole new side of Susan. Those watching and guessing on that story arc are going to LOVE it! The Common Ground bonus story centers on Rayne. I don't want to spill many beans on that, but let's just say he hasn't gotten any less arrogant, but has become a much bigger danger! Slave Princess has only penned the exposition thus far, but little Gemma knows how to make quite the entrance! If I don't miss my bet, she'll grab your heart and squeeze out a tear before you've even hit the real story!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Full Pages!

Wow, I am so impressed with my students. They have really rocked the house and brought it to the game this first week of NaNoWriMo. To recap in case you didn't read the last couple of weeks' blog posts: I have three Creative Writing classes of 25-30 inner city 7th-graders. The class happened at the last minute, so none of them got to choose to be in there, they were just put in there because they needed electives. I am doing NaNoWriMo with all three classes, each class creating a themed anthology of stories equal to 2,000 words for every student. (I am also writing a 2k story for each class to help encourage them and be a part of it.) I'm also running the afterschool NaNoWriMo, whose kids are writing 10-15 thousand words each, and is voluntary particpation.

Well, alot of the kids in these classes don't want to be in the class, but this week, you'd never have known it.

My 1st period class, which met twice this week (Tues & Thurs), is writing a work titled "Won't Back Down" along the theme of "Evil vs Good." They logged 15,602 words this week.

My 6th period class got to meet three times, (Mon, Wed, & Fri) and their theme is "Never betray a friend." They are calling their novel BFNFL: Best Friend NOT For Life. This class turned out an amazing 27,239 words this week!

Finally, my 8th period class, which also met three times, chose "Don't pick a fight you can't win" as their theme and "Fighting with Demons" as their title. These students brought 28,427 words to the table this week! Outstanding!

I am so proud of all of them! Some on Friday had even hit their goal of 2,000 words! We gave them a big round of applause. Then I asked each of them one question: Are you done yet? *grin* Nope! They've still got pages of story to write!

In comparison, these are the same classes wherein earlier this year I asked them to write 500 words and they acted as though I had shot them and took two weeks to get it turned in. Now, they churn out 500 words in a class period without blinking twice, and go home promising to double their word count. I can't wait for Monday.

My afterschooler NaNoWriMos have also been hard at work, but many of them didn't get their word counts updated this week, so I don't have a total count for them. There are about 25 of them, though, and several have logged over 2-3 thousand words each.

This coming Friday night, November 12th is going to be really exciting, though. My students will be hosting a Write-In for the adult NaNoWriMo program here in Dallas-Ft. Worth. If you are in the area and doing NaNoWriMo, you're invited! If you haven't seen the information out there yet, send me a message and I'll get you what you need to know. There's going to be games, prizes, food, and drink. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blank Pages

It's here, that magical time of year that fills so many with such joy, and such dread. Yes, I'm talking about NaNoWriMo. One of my students last Friday told me she was scared of Midnight Sunday night, when NaNoWriMo starts. She's going to love it.

Well, in my last post (which was much too long ago; I'm falling down on the job), I talked about how my classroom students are writing anthologies to be part of NaNoWriMo. We discussed and voted and here are the results:

  • 1st period is writing about "Evil vs Good" and are calling their anthology Won't Back Down.
  • 6th period's theme is "Never betray a friend" and they are calling their anthology BFNFL (Best Friends NOT for Life).
  • 8th period chose "Don't pick a fight you can't win" and is calling their anthology Fighting with Demons.

I'm so excited to see what all they come up with. They've shown some real promise and growth all the way around. This 2,000-word assignment/challenge for NaNoWriMo will be their longest work yet (for most of them).

As for myself, yes, I am contributing to each of their anthologies and writing with my afterschool WriMos. For the afterschool bunch, I committed to 12,000 words. That puts my total word count for NaNoWriMo this year at 18,000. It's a great defense against student complaints about writing a mere 2k. My 12k work will be called Slave Princess and is an idea sprung from chatting with a Facebook friend. Bit of a fairytale style story, but it should be fun. As for what I will be writing for the anthologies, I'm not sure yet! I've been so busy getting them prepared and ready I forgot to prewrite my own! So, I need to come up with short story ideas for each of the above classes. I am planning to borrow some characters from the world of On Common Ground for one of them, but that could fit in two out of the three.

So, I need to figure out what to write for the other two. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo in site, er, sight!

Friday was October 1st, which is the day that NaNoWriMo unleashes the reigns for this each year's event. While I do exist on the grown up site, I mostly operate on the Young Writers' Program site, because I lead middle school participants in the program.

Well, this year, the staff at the Office of Letters and Light really outdid themselves on the YWP this year! They've created a Virtual Classroom area to help Educators stay organized and in touch with their students. It's wonderful! I'm so very excited. Tomorrow is when most of my WriMos will see it for the first time, when we meet after school.

The afterschool WriMos aren't the only ones that will be writing this year, though. My three Creative Writing classes will also be participating, making class anthologies of themed stories, about 2,000 words per student. I told my afterschool wrimos that I wouldn't be writing a full story this year, but would be writing as part of the class anthologies. I'm rethinking that idea, though, and considering setting a low target, like 12k, and writing one of the concepts that is swimming around my bowl of ideas, waiting to be written.

Regardless of what ends up happening, I am excited about this year's event. In fact, I'm in the beginning of organizing a NaNoWriMo Night at our school. Student writers writing right alongside the adults, and other students (for extra credit) serving drinks and maybe a bake sale. How inspiring! (I hope.)

Monday, September 20, 2010


Well, now that school is back in, maybe I should pull my posts back a bit. I'd love to hear my readers' thoughts on that. Supposedly, there are recommendations out there that say that to have a successful blog, you need to post 3-4 times a day! I don't have the time to read that many posts a day on a single blog, nevermind writing them! I am, however, open to your thoughts on this.

As I mentioned, school is back in. I am lucky enough this year to be teaching a handful of Creative Writing courses. Sadly, not all of the unlucky children who were stuck with my class actually wanted it. Many of my students are interested in writing, or at least entertained enough by my antics that they don't mind. Several others are merely biding their time, hoping to be rescued. With that in mind, and characterization on my lesson plans, I developed a "polyhedral character generator." Wow, doesn't that sound nice and science-fictiony? The average 13 year old should be able to take over a planet with one of my "polyhedral character generators." Fortunately, they can't take over a planet, they can only create people.

Borrowing polyhedral dice from the math department, I sketched out a set of charts that would allow the students to roll character traits. Polyhedral dice are dice with more or less than 6 sides.
From Adventures in Elvenfire
Technically, six-sided dice are also polyhedral, but the rest of them are more interesting! Once the kids rolled out about 20 traits (I didn't make them roll every chart.), they had to flip their paper over and flesh out their character, making all those random facts make sense.

No surprise, the kids loved it. Every one of them. They rolled traits the entire period and begged to do it again. My fast-rollers asked if they could make a second character that same day, if they had the time. In short, it was a success. Much of the fun was in the odd combinations that developed. One student ended up with a werewolf who had been bitten by a vampire (that would explain why he was scared of the dark). To make things even more interesting, this same werewolf's favorite food was roast chicken, and he was a vegetarian! Quite the story behind that one. Another students rolled a character who was claustrophobic and afraid of open spaces. With a little more luck, he could have been afraid of milk and we'd have an award winning detective show on our hands!

It was loads of fun and I decided to share it with all of you, in case you too, want a vegetarian werewolf, or a man that's afraid of both large and small spaces. Currently, it's hosted here in Google Docs.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Special Thanks to H. G. Wells

This weekend I finished reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Loved it. Great story. Well told. I don't want to spoil the ending for any who haven't read it, but it ends with a bit of a question, though I think Wells left it clear enough for an observant reader to figure out the general idea.

As I closed the cover, the idea struck me to write a sequel. The narrator of the story dated it three years after the close of the action. I could quite reasonably open a new story, from the same narrator's perspective, five or ten years after the close of the initial action. It is, after all, about a time machine.

While the idea appeals to me, I currently have far too many open projects to try to pick up such a challenge. I say a challenge, because I would not want to write a sequel if I could not write it the way that Wells did. When a writer tries to write a continuation of another writer's work, and completely fails to copy the style of writing, or the mode of speech, or the format of the entries, or other such subtleties, then they fail at writing the sequel, and instead, partly ruin the world the writer has so carefully crafted.

This happened with one of my own favorite series, Phule's Company by Robert Asprin. Asprin, sadly, passed away not long ago, and in his last years, he had begun sharing his writings with other authors. Eventually, the other authors took over. Some, like Jody Lyn Nye who took over the excellent Myth series, have done a wonderful job. Unfortunately, the Phule series did not meet as sweet a fate. The author who took the series has not kept Asprin's voice, nor even, apparently, read the previous novels! If he did, he did not pay much attention to the characterizations or even the format the books were written in. He has trashed all of it, warped the characters, and ruined the series (for me).

If I choose to write a sequel to the classic story by H.G. Wells, I would make every possible effort not to make that mistake. Like the friend of the time traveler, you'll just have to wait to see if I succeed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Next Nanite Episode: Under the River!

It's that time again. Time for Derek Daniels to save the day! Once again, the newest episode will be listed on the front page of under Short Stories. The previous episodes, in case you missed one, will be in the drop down box.

Give it a read, and remember that you can let me know what you think about it by clicking on the Comment link at the bottom of the story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Story Train

Every Boy Scout troop has done it. Most summer camps have done it. Countless English classrooms have done it. "Let's all tell a story together, one line at a time!" Well, a discussion between myself and another writer recently yielded an expansion idea, based on that, which I would like to share.

First let me tell you the 'train' part of it. My wife does some couponing. I don't mean she clips a couple of coupons out of the Sunday paper to use at the store. I mean she plans deals and exploits sales with multiple types of coupons, stacking one on top of another until the store ends up paying her to take home a basket of goodies! Anyways, enough bragging. She is a member of a couponing site where other members, from all over the country, all do these deals and trade coupons with each other. "I don't need dog food, but I'll give you this dog food coupon for that pizza coupon." Once in awhile, she joins what is called a "train." Listen up, this is the important part. On a coupon train, several people sign up and the coupons go from one person to another, switching and adding coupons and everyone benefits. They have gotten really creative with the way the trains run and what gets on and off them, so to speak.

So, now that you understand "trains" and "stories," let's put them together and talk about this idea. What if several authors signed up (maybe even on a website made for this... hmm... more ideas!) to write a collaborative story. Say, just for the sake of explaining it, that we get 7 authors on this particular train. Perhaps we have not laid down a plot framework, but have limited it to a genre, perhaps Western? (Yee-haw!) and the going rule is that you have to work with whatever text you get. (You can't trash the main character halfway into the book and start telling the story of the cashier that got a cameo in Chapter 3.) At midnight on Sunday, the first author gets to start. He has 24 hours to write as much of the beginning of this novel as he can before handing it off to the next author. She, at midnight, takes what he wrote and moves forward with it. She has 24 hours to write all that she can before handing it off to the next author, and so on. The last author in the train is the caboose. This author has to get his caboose in gear and finish the novel! He, like the others, has 24 hours to do his work, but his job is to wind up the details, tie up the loose ends, and provide a satisfactory conclusion to the work. Voila, we've ridden a wild Story Train and written a novel in only a week! NaNoWriMo would be impressed!

Naturally, this probably wouldn't result in the next Great American Novel, but it could result in a lot of fun, and an interesting challenge for some writers. Naturally, like my wife's coupon trains, there could be all kinds of interesting rules and setups and designs of trains like this. There might need to be some artistic license questions to answer, but I'm sure we could find a reasonable method.

What do you think? Writers, would this be a fun challenge for you? Readers, do you think you'd enjoy reading something written by several authors all at once? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm jealous.

Actually, I'm envious. Despite popular use, jealous doesn't accurately describe what I'm feeling. Last week, the movie Kick-Ass was released on DVD, and I got it and watched it and enjoyed it. (I wasn't thrilled with the particular treatment, but I loved the concept and story behind it.) I'm envious of Kick-Ass because it's such an obviously wonderful plot. As the main character says in the opening scenes: "I always wondered why nobody did it before some point in our lives, we all wanted to be a superhero." It then goes on to follow the story of a guy who did it. He dressed up, he jumped around, he went out looking for trouble, and found it.

Two years ago, I was even more envious of the movie Hancock with Will Smith. I won't spoil that one if you haven't seen it, but what an incredible, brilliant, creative plot/characterization. It starts with a superhero that has amnesia and doesn't know who he is or where he comes from, and just gets better from there on in.

Since I'm currently working on a project that involves full immersion virtual reality, I'm also a little nervous of stealing from someone I can't help but be envious of: Piers Anthony. His novel Killobyte is one of my favorites.

I do occasionally feel a little down when thinking of, discovering, or watching what I consider creative brilliance, but mostly I am nervous of stealing the ideas. Shakespeare said there is nothing new under the sun. Considering the recent technological developments of the last century and a half, I'm not convinced he was in a good position to make this judgement. Nevertheless, even something as "recent" as superheros may not necessarily be "new."
"Gods. Angels. Different cultures call us by different names. Now all of a sudden it's 'superhero.'" -Hancock
There is even a book called Our Gods Wear Spandex by Christopher Knowles that discusses this concept of superheroes being a new incarnation of an ancient human concept.

I don't mind running along side creative brilliance in a similar, imaginative footrace, but I don't want to steal someone else's shoes trying to leave my own footprints. In the end, I guess it comes down to this:

Yes, I'm envious, but instead of standing in awe, or matching their footsteps, I'm trying to run my own race and, just maybe, I'll meet them at the finish line.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Excellent Post on Breaking the Rules!

Recently (July 24th), over on (a website I have recently discovered and been loving, by the way), Edmund Schubert posted an article about the value of stylistic rules and advice. More importantly, the value of using those guidelines weighed against the value of breaking them!

This is excellent advice to any writer, whether a beginning novelist, or an 8th-grade, class-ditching, English-is-for-nerds essayist! Rules can be broken, but only if you know the rule to begin with, and then know when to break it!

Also (bonus!), imbedded within the article are some excellent clarifying ideas regarding grammar and punctuation. Among that part of the discussion, a few examples were dropped that invited widespread, rousing rioting in the comments section! Yes, I was part of it, but it was Edmund wielding the "very large dictionary!"

Monday, July 26, 2010

I NEED that!

So, one afternoon last week I get a call from one of my friends. She says that she has a friend that likes to read and pointed her to my website, where I have excerpts from much of my work. Now the friend wanted to ask me something. She hands the phone to the friend and the friend says:

"I NEED to read the rest of that book!"

Now, I'm still unpublished. In fact, she's lucky that the one she was interested in is even finished; not all of them are! So I arranged to get her email and email it to her, because it isn't currently under consideration by anyone.

So I have two thoughts on this situation, both of them very positive, and maybe they are just related.

1. How awesome a friend I have that apparently does regular word-of-mouth marketing for me? She claims it has nothing to do with being my friend, but hey, it feels pretty cool, either way.

2. What an amazing feeling to hear someone say "I NEED to read more!" I've had people read my stuff over the years, I'm not one that's shy about that, but very rarely have I had someone, especially someone I have never met, be that excited about my work.

So, this post isn't a deep insight into the mind of a writer, nor an exciting update as to what is happening with my work, but merely a very heartfelt thank you to my friend. Thank you, for bringing me that huge feel-good moment. Every fledgling writer could use more of those.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stormy Weather

It's that NanoTime again! Time for the next of Derek Daniels's ongoing adventures as a Nanite Chaser. Stormy Weather is now available to read on the DavidJace website. If you haven't read the previous adventures, they can be found on the main page of the site, under Short Stories, along with the current episode.

I particularly liked this episode for a couple of reasons. One, the girl he meets; I love the dancing in the rain image. Two, the little hints that are embedded in the story. I'm not saying any more about that, though.

At the bottom of the story, as usual, is a Comment link. Please let me know what you think of it. Especially if you catch an inconsistency with previous episodes, or if you think the voice is not staying true throughout. Or if, heaven help us, you just happen to like it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

If it weren't for this thing called Life...

Yes, I'm posting late today. It isn't my fault! I did it! Someone must have snuck in and deleted it just to get me in trouble! (I must have been hanging out with my kids alot. They're rubbing off on me.)

Ah, Life. If it weren't for that silly millstone around our necks, we'd be able to get so much more done! I have been determined to get some writing down now that summer is here, and yet, *sigh* not a word. I feel like a horrible failure.

"The Microcosmic God" by Theodore Sturgeon is about a scientist that invents an entire race of little creatures to which he is, effectively, god. It's a wonderful little story with a lot more to it than I have described here. Highly recommended. However, at one point, he invents a drug that completely removes the need for sleep, so that he can spend 24 hrs a day with his little creatures! It has come to that. I must either invent a sleep-removing drug or become undead if I want to get anything done. This ridiculous Life thing is just too in the way.

Drastic as this decision is, I have decided to put it off and try one more thing first. Hero Games is my current, stalled, project. Instead of trying to finish the planning on it, I'm going to jump into it, and start writing. I'll use the plans I've developed so far, and see where the rest of it goes. When I'm done, I'll tear back through it, change it all up, and write it again. Let's see how this plan works for me. I'm aware that other authors do it like this all the time!! And if it doesn't work out, I've always got that undead thing to try.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Thyme Four Ace Mile

This week, I wanted to do something with a little less "deep thought." OK, I admit it, I was having too much fun with kids, summer camps, swim lessons, and Elvenfire marathons to manage a proper list. My dad sent me this list of puns and quips and I decided to share a few smiles with my readers. I hope you enjoy them.

1. How Do You Catch a Unique Rabbit?
Unique up on It.

2. How Do You Catch a Tame Rabbit?
Tame Way.

3. How Do Crazy People Go Through The Forest?
They Take The Psychopath.

4. How Do You Get Holy Water?
You Boil The Hell Out of It.

5. What Do Fish Say When They Hit a Concrete Wall?

6. What Do Eskimos get from sitting on the Ice too long?

7. What Do You Call a Boomerang That Doesn't Work?
A Stick.

8. What Do You Call Cheese That Isn't Yours?
Nacho Cheese.

9. What Do You Call Santa's Helpers?
Subordinate Clauses.

10. What Do You Call Four Bullfighters In Quicksand?
Quatro Cinco.

11. What Do You Get From a Pampered Cow?
Spoiled Milk.

12. What Do You Get When You Cross a Snowman With a Vampire?

13. What Lies At The Bottom Of The Ocean And Twitches?
A Nervous Wreck.

14. What's The Difference Between Roast Beef And Pea Soup?
Anyone Can Roast Beef.

15. Where Do You Find a Dog With No Legs?
Right Where You Left Him.

16. Why Do Gorillas Have Big Nostrils?
Because They Have Big Fingers.

17. Why Don't Blind People Like To Sky Dive?
Because it scares the Dog.

18. What Kind of Coffee Was Served on The Titanic?

19. What is The Difference Between a Harley And a Hoover?
The Location of the Dirt Bag.

20. Why Did Pilgrims' Pants Always Fall Down?
Because They Wore Their Belt Buckles on Their Hats.

21. What's The Difference Between a Bad Golfer And a Bad Skydiver?
A Bad Golfer Goes, Whack, Dang!
A Bad Skydiver Goes Dang! Whack.

22. How Are a Texas Tornado And a Tennessee Divorce The Same?
Somebody's Gonna Lose a Trailer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

200 Word Challenge, Easy & Expert

A few weeks ago, I posted the 200-Word Challenge. However, as my sharp-eyed students and Donna Hole pointed out, I'm clearly not ready for that level of challenge! So this week, I would like to introduce the Easy and Expert levels of the 200-Word Challenge.

The Easy Level: Write a 200 word passage, without repeating a single noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. You may re-use articles, conjunctions, and even prepositions. The passage has to be cohesive, but may be about anything you like. It may be a descriptive vignette, or a short character profile, or even flash fiction.

The Expert Level: Again, write a 200 word passage, of any nature, but without repeating a single word. No repeating articles, prepositions, adverbs, verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, not even gerunds nor predicate nominatives! If you succeed on this one, I definitely want you to post it, because I at least know that it is theoretically possible...

The standard challenge is linked at the top of the page, so feel free to revisit that as well, if you like. I'd love to see your various efforts posted here. Good luck!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Memory: A Nanite Chaser Story

The new episode of The Nanite Chaser series is up! Along with the new episode, Derek Daniels got a snazzy new logo image for the series. (Look to the left. *wink*) I think he looks rather dashing, don't you?

The new episode has replaced the first one on the home page, so you'll now see Memory listed there instead of The Nanite Chaser. To get to the first episode, I've put in a dropbox under the new story to find Earlier Episodes. Just pick the one you need to read and click Go. Memory will go into this dropbox when Stormy Weather goes up next month. Oops, I said too much!

To me, Memory is a fun one because you get to see a little bit of the early days for Derek Daniels, when he was still learning some of the tricks that are more familiar to him later on. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Motivations of the Meanies

Last month, on Magical Words, Faith Hunter began posting a series about the requirements of a successful modern antagonist in several different genres. She calls the series The Great Satan, and has so far posted three parts. I looked forward to the continuance after ConCarolinas is over.

The primary thrust of her articles is that, in most genres, antagonists need character development and motivation as much as the protagonist. They are, after all, equal and opposite.

This aligns very well with what I have been trying to be more conscious of: making sure all of my major characters have a reason to be there. This idea also echoes my acting training very well. When on stage (or camera), every single movement or action or expression means something. Thus, you cannot do anything on stage (or camera) without a reason for doing it. Too many beginning actors make this mistake, moving across the stage because "they felt like it" or, worse, because "I need to be there when Erick enters the scene 5 minutes from now." Your character doesn't know Erick will be entering the scene in 5 minutes, or that he needs to be standing there to catch Erick when he falls in, drunk! So, the actor needs to be there, and the actor needs to find the character a reason to be there, too.

So now we see that this is a mistake a writer can make as well. Why does the dragon destroy the land? Why does the queen kill any pretty girl in the kingdom? Why does the magic tower of smoke drag people down the hole? It might be a dragon, a government employee, or a magic tower of smoke, but it has to have a reason for doing whatever it is that it's doing.

Faith Hunter asks four questions as she addresses the common antagonist in each genre:

1. What makes them work?
2. How do we keep them from becoming formulaic? (The pseudo-Satan.)
3.What mistakes do we writers make that allow them to become formulaic? (Just another way of looking at number two above, with a different perspective.)
4. And how do we as readers contribute to the success or failure of the BBU? (Culture and the reader.)

Based on the first posts, and my own experience, I would say that generally, the answer to #4 is "expectation of the genre" and "suspension of disbelief." The reader knows if they pick up a mystery, that there's going to be a murder and the guy's going to try to get away with it. If they pick up a fantasy, there's going to be magic involved, especially from the "Big Bad Ugly."

The other three questions, however, are what we writers need to pay attention to in this realm. Much of the answer falls into the idea of developing the antagonist the way one would (should) develop their protagonist: make them believable, give them proper motivation, paint them with both weaknesses and strengths, etc. In other words, make your "villains" into "characters" instead. Give them a reason to be in your book other than what you need from them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Missing the Bricks

I've re-initiated work on Hero Games and realized that there really wasn't enough pre-planning done for this work. There was a good conflict laid out, most of the main plot was in place, and I had a whole double-handful of characters. However, those characters had almost no depth to them. I had images, which I had gotten from HeroMachine (thanks for the permission, Jeff), and I had a couple of character bases, borrowed from people I know. Mostly, I had a great world concept with lots of possibilities in it.

That, my friend, does not a novel make! I had already written the first few chapters, and I had done a fair amount of planning, using spreadsheets, on the game design which was part of the world concept. Fortunate, because that was what most of the first few chapters were about, introducing the reader to the game itself. Those first few chapters, by the way, were lots of fun, because they were delved from the body of research and planning that I had already done: the game design, and a few character bases/game-character concepts.

What I realized when I dove back in to the work, was that I was missing two things crucial to any good novel: subplots and characterization! I had an over-arcing, main plot that involved everybody, but nothing personal to the characters. There was no individualized subplot to give the characters drive, purpose, motivation. Without that sub-plotting, characters become flat and static. So I decided that I needed each character to have their own, personal subplot. Have I mentioned that this novel's characters include 11 player-characters, who each have 1-2 game-characters? A total of 23 main characters?! Quite a daunting task! Well, I did some thinking on it. For most of the game-characters, they are just an alter-ego of the player-characters. For instance, Paul is a person playing the game. He creates a game-character called Peacekeeper. Paul and Peacekeeper are the same person, with a different look, in different situations. I realized that the game-characters, like Peacekeeper, already have their plot: the main plot that drives the total story, and the general sub-plot of leveling up and advancing their character within the game. Thus, the game-characters don't need a separate plot; they are an extension of their player-characters. Ha! Cut my work load nearly in half with that one!

However, I still have some characterization to do, and I don't think I can cut that down by much. The game-characters still have a particular style, a way of doing things, a feel about them. Also, they will still have a backstory, but the player has to write it! That becomes a fun challenge, as well. I'm having characters create the backstory for other characters. Thus, the 12 game-characters have characterization to be done. Naturally, the player-characters can't get left out of that! They need their own style, way of doing things, opinions, morals, backstory, motivations, desires, oh-the-list-goes-on!

So I found myself with the daunting task of weaving 11 sub-plots around a main plot, in a clever world, with 24 well-fleshed, intriguing characters! Phew! Standing on that precipice, I went to the net to see what other authors might have to say about such things. Most helpful as yet, has been Simon Haynes, author of the Hal Spacejock series. On his website, he has a series of articles that begin with How to Plot Your Novel. In this article, Haynes describes a piece of free software that he uses to plot his novels, as well as To Do lists, and many other things. This software is called FreeMind. I decided to try it, and I have to tell you I LOVE it! I started with the title of the novel in the center, branched out to each of the player-characters, who branched out to their game-character, their subplot, their real-character, and went on from there to fill in plot details, physical descriptions, backstory, power information, etc.

I'm nowhere near done, but I'm really enjoying this tool; which is helping me get organized. Thanks to Simon Haynes and FreeMind. I suppose now that I've talked all about it, I should go work on it!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Issue with IE fixed.

For those of you that were having trouble viewing the new excerpts in Internet Explorer, that issue has hopefully been resolved. :)

Please, let me know if you find more problems.

Monday, May 31, 2010

200 Word Challenge

My students are swearing to me that it can't be done. Care to prove them wrong? Post your efforts in the comments below!

The 200-Word Challenge: Write 200 words, without repeating a single one, save for articles, conjunctions, and helping verbs.

Thus, you can have "We have seen that statue before. I have known this woman." but you cannot have "I have a grape. You have an apple."

Topic unlimited, but it must be cohesive. You cannot jump from topic to topic every 20 words.

Below is my own attempt. Written using Dr. Wicked's Write or Die lab as a handy word-counter and cattle-prod, I managed to almost succeed. I believe that the only word outside of the rules that I did not manage to eliminate at the start was 'of.' However, with a little help from my brilliant wife, I found the keys and succeeded! Also, a very cool little legend has spawned from the challenge! (It ended up at 209 words, instead of 215.)

Sure enough, once I showed my effort to my students, they found four more words I had doubled! Proof that editing is a good thing, right? I said I would give them credit for finding those errors, so:
Henry found "that"
Maria found "any"
Chris found "at"
Andrew found "could"

Accolades to my students for being good editors!

The slumbering dragon snorted hot flame and we saw the cavern around us. The towering mounds adorned with glittering gold and roughly cut jewels sparkled amid the flickering light, the beast's sleeping breath. Lord Charles Overcault sheathed his sword and clambered atop the nearest treasure pile for a better view. Sir Calreth O'dell moved around the edge, blade held ready. They were truly best friends; no two warriors could be closer even if born brothers. Suddenly, a sparkle caught their eyes. Above the heaped emeralds and scattered rubies, a single gem sat in the moon's lone ray that entered the cave through a hole at the top. It was the Princess's Heart, stolen from the vaults under Aramathus and thought lost these many past ages. The legend said the artifact would carve jealousy, greed, and doubt upon any man's soul. The curse echoed the stone's origin. Supposedly, an ancient king's daughter, who loved a commoner, denied her father's wish to marry. Instead, she and the unapproved lover eloped. The parents, upon capturing them, killed the boy and encased the girl within a lump of coal. The filthy charcoal instantly became perfectly clear and beautiful as the royal child had been, though now harder than the rock.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Poetry Commentary

It has been brought to my attention that there needs to be a place for commentary or discussion of the works that have now been posted on the site. Until I can arrange something on-site, this thread can be for commentary/discussion of the Poetry that is posted on

Short Story Comments

It has been brought to my attention that there needs to be a place for commentary or discussion of the works that have now been posted on the site. Until I can arrange something on-site, this thread can be for commentary/discussion of the Short Stories that are posted on

Novel Discussion

It has been brought to my attention that there needs to be a place for commentary or discussion of the works that have now been posted on the site. Until I can arrange something on-site, this thread can be for commentary/discussion of the Novel Excerpts that are posted on

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Website Relaunch! has just undergone some improvements and additions! Of course, it isn't a huge change visually, but there's a lot more content now and I am hoping everyone will like the changes.

To start with, I've added excerpts of most of the novels, whether they are completed or in progress. You can reach the excerpts by clicking on the titles. For the novels, I've also added word-counters, so you can see the progress being made on the novels and in what stage of completion they might be in. (Those nifty word-counters are courtesy of Writertopia. Thanks, Bill!)

You may notice that there are some cute little "Bonus Material" signs in the novel section. Those now take you to the pages that were up for Hero Games and On Common Ground, where you can meet some of the characters. I hope/plan to add more bonus content as time goes on, so keep watching for those signs!

In the Short Stories section, I've now posted the short stories free to read! :) Hope you enjoy them. I've also added another short story that wasn't there previously. On The Nanite Chaser, you'll see a little sign that reads "First in Series!" That one should be pretty clear. That particular story is a series, of which "The Nanite Chaser" is the first installment. Three other installments are currently written, and I plan to be writing more. I intend to post a new installment of this series about once a month or so. You'll have to keep checking back to keep reading the story.

Finally, in the Poetry section, I've added a couple of new (old) poems.

Now that my first year of teaching is nearly done, I expect to be getting back to writing. You'll have to look carefully to figure out which novel is currently 'under construction,' but I did leave you a hint on the site!

I don't yet have a system for comments on the works, but feel free to leave comments here for now if you have them. Comments welcome!