After writing my post the other day- “Finish What You Start!” -my daughter made the statement, “I have a hard time starting a story.” her complaint wasn’t that she didn’t have good story ideas or characters, but that she couldn’t come up with that perfect opening line. The question became “How do you start writing a new story?”

My answer is, you type. I know, I know, one of the most important parts of any story is the opening line or the first paragraph. It needs to catch the readers attention and draw them into the story, making them feel a connection with the characters and build a desire to know where it’s going. But waiting around for the perfect line to pop into your head is like waiting on the Lotto check to magically appear in your mail box. Most of the time it’s not going to happen.

When I wrote Rock Bottom, I came up with my opening line and the story formed from it– Life! That’s what it is, just life. When I started the prequel, Rookie Case, I didn’t have a great opening, but I started writing. As I’ve worked on the project, I’ve slowly refined the beginning and now have it almost where I want it. The important thing is I wrote. Getting something down to work with is crucial. Just like a potter can’t form anything until he has a lump of clay, a writer can’t edit, fix or adjust his work if he hasn’t written anything.

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That question- why -I wanted answered more than anything, but now feared asking. I had chewed on it since receiving his summons, turning it over and again in my mind during the daylong trek across the estate. Had I done something wrong or failed him in some way? In all my years of faithful service, I had never met my employer.  My father, who worked the land before me, only met him once and rarely spoke of it. The image of him I created in my ignorance had been of a fat and lazy lord living in posh comfort while his subjects sweated to produce for him. Now being here in his presence, my impression changed. The hard lines and scars on his face displayed the years of toil and effort. My gaze turned to his strong, weathered hands. They looked as hard and worked as a blacksmiths hands. My eyes traveled back met his examining gaze. The stone look in his eyes caused me to shudder and search my mind again for anything I could have done wrong and still came up blank.

“No sire, I don’t know.” I relented.

His armor creaked as he leaned back against the heavy oak chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face and resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. His brow furrowed and his lips pursed as he sat in silence –for what seemed like an eternity to me– eyes staring at the fire and I could see its orange reflection lapping in them. I leaned forward watching him, waiting for him. I could feel my heartbeat quicken. What had I done?

He drew in a deep breath. “I want to know if you are a warrior.” He said with his eyes still glued to the blaze.

My jaw dropped and I felt my eyes widen.  A what? I would have laughed at the question, had it come from anyone else, such an absurd question. I did my best to wipe the astonished look from my face. “Sire, I have never been trained in the arts of war. I am simply a farmer.”

“I didn’t ask if you were a soldier!” He huffed, dismissing my statement with a swat of his hand in the air as if shooing off a mosquito. “Soldiers are trained. They take an ordinary man and drill into him the necessary Lessons to make him affective on a battlefield.” His right hand reached across his chest and grabbed the hilt of the sword leaning against the left arm of the chair and with one smooth effortless motion swung it up in front of him, tip to the ceiling. The mirror finish reflected the fire and I watched his eyes admire it, they took it all in from hilt to tip and back. “They become a weapon to be wielded, not unlike this sword.” Then with a quick snap, he spun the sword around driving the tip to the floor between us with a solid thud that startled me back into my seat and echoed off the stonewalls. “A warrior cannot be made, you are one or you’re not, simple as that. So are you a warrior?”

I cleared my throat, still staring at the glimmering blade that now separated us. His words echoed through the hall and hung in my mind as an icy chill ran down my spine. I have always been a farmer, why would he suspect me of being a warrior? The chill ran its course and settled in the pit of my stomach as a cold knot. I brought my eyes up off the sword to find his furrowed brow and eyes burning into me as he now leaned forward in his chair.

“I’m not sure what you are asking sire. I have worked for you all my life. You know I am just a farmer.” My shoulders slumped and I dropped my eyes to the floor in embarrassment. He called me here for nothing. Surely, I have disappointed him. I could count on one hand how many times I held a sword and I never learned how to use it properly. Give me a hoe or a rake, I know how to use those but a sword I have not a clue.

“Do wolves ever threaten my flocks?” He asked in a calm and steady voice.

“Yes Sire.”

“And when those wolves come, do you let them ravish my flocks?” Before I could answer, his voice boomed the answer. “No, you don’t. You fight off the wolves,” He shook a clenched fist in the air, “sometimes putting yourself between the wolves and the flock.” He nodded his head and took in a breath. “Could the wolves harm you?”

“Yes, they could. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked in the eyes of a snarling wolf bearing it’s teeth at me.” I lifted my head and felt my back straighten as I answered, my embarrassment gone for the moment.

“So you don’t fear the wolf?” He asked arching one eyebrow and I thought for a moment that I could see the beginnings of sly grin forming on his face but as quick as it appeared it vanished leaving just his icy gaze.

“Oh yes Sire, they are viscous animals. I have seen them tear a young calf apart. They are unpredictable you never know quite what they might do.” Images of the different encounters passed through my head sending a shiver through me.

“So you stand up to the wolf despite your fear?” He arched his eyebrow again. “That shows courage.” His brow furrowed again and his eyes showed a new intensity. “Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the ability to act in spite of the fear.” He lowered his voice and spoke with pure conviction. “Men who go into battle and do not fear their own death are fools or disturbed, but a man who fears his own demise and still does his duty, now that is a man I want next to me in battle” He paused and slammed the tip of the sword on the floor again punctuating his point. “A warrior has courage.”

I had this conversation with my son the other day. His mind is full of great story ideas, they seem to just flow from him like a well spring of fiction water. He has started several stories, but as of yet not finished any. He works on one for awhile then comes up with a new story line, setting the first one aside to work on the new one. He works on that one for a bit then another new one pops in that talented head of his and the process repeats itself. Truth be told, he comes by it naturally. I tend to do the same thing. While writing “Rock Bottom”, I had the idea for a sequel and wrote the first few pages. I had to force myself to set it aside so I could finish the first book. Now I have three stories started including the sequel and am finding it hard to work on any of them.

When writing, my mind becomes fully immersed in the world of my story to the point I find it hard to participate in real life. I have to set time aside to spend in that world or I wont accomplish anything. Switching between that world and reality becomes frustrating add in multiple worlds of different stories and I’m the literary equivalent of a vegetable.

Let’s face it. We all like to tell stories, that’s why we write after all, but putting that story down on paper in a way that other people will read and enjoy, is the hard part. It takes work to gut out the middle of story. Writing the beginning is exciting. Exploring a new world or new idea, building the foundation. As I journey into that story I become impatient, I want to get to my destination, I want to get to the end. The finale is what we are all after. Our good guy won, our bad guy lost and the world is a better place because of it. The tough part is building all the roads in the middle to get your reader, and your characters, from that great beginning to your fabulous ending. Human nature is to avoid what is hard. I think that is why it is so tempting to jump to a new project in the middle of another.

I have made the commitment this week to set two of the stories aside and focus on one until it’s finished. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying to ignore new story ideas. By all means write them down, make good notes to come back to at a later date, but don’t start a new project until you finish the last one. I understand that every writer is different and I will concede that there could be some writers out there that can multitask well enough to be able to write more than one story at a time, but for the majority of us it just isn’t possible.

If you are like me and have more than one project started, pick one and finish it. I’m choosing to finish the shortest one first, then move on to the second shortest. That way I can see progress and keep myself motivated.

Posted: March 15, 2012 in Writing Workshop
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Good article on driving hits to your books website, from BookDaily.com

http://www.bookdaily.com/authorresource/blog/post/1044425

AP News: Mexico cops nab suspect in 75 drug cartel killings.

This sets the stage for my next book “Road of Revenge”!

Warrior Dad Part 1

The yellow light from the flickering lanterns and candles danced across the gray stone walls and combined with the glow from a large, round-stone fireplace at the end of the long room. The three-foot cedar logs sung a low rhythmic chorus of snaps as the fire slowly consumed them. Roughhewn timbers, blackened in the middle by soot, encased the hearth. The cool dampness from the dark hall faded as I entered, slowly replaced by the heat of the ample fire as I crossed the room. On my left spaced evenly along the wall, hung three vibrant colored satin banners from ceiling to floor, a full three times my height. I paused and took in the first banner of rich royal purple, the hue of a king’s robe. The second banner was a dark green. Darker than any emerald I had seen. The third banner sent a shiver down my spine, crimson, blood red. I thought myself brave but that banner froze me in my track. A color so somber, it conveyed not merely the color of blood but the feeling of pain, of sacrificed and fear. As a man, I had seen my fair share of wounds and no picture, no drawing, no words could capture that intensity of red. To call it a color did not do it justice. Entranced by the emotions that flooded over me brought on by that banner, I stood motionless.

“So, you have come.” His aged voice snapped me from my abstraction, jerking my head back to the fire and the high back of the chair sitting in front of it. I could see the gray hair on the crown of his head over the top of the chair back. “Come pull a chair next to me and warm yourself by my fire for we must talk.” Not the voice I had anticipated. It did not boom through the room like a clap of thunder, instead came soft and warm, yet still carried authority. Not frail, yet the aged voice demanded the respect due it.

Without a word, I moved around from behind him as he motioned me to a chair with his right hand. When I took my seat, I came in full view of the man who had summoned me. Strength show through the wrinkled ashen skin of his face. Strength not measured in how much he could lift or throw, although I think even at his age he could still hold his own, but strength of heart. A strength that came from knowing what he believed was true and right. His bulky frame filled the enormous chair. My eyes drifted down to see his breastplate, embossed with his coat of arms. The same three colors as the banners placed in three diagonal stripes, the purple stripe on the top followed by the green with the red on the bottom. His armor fit him well. It was clean and well cared for, but showed every mark inflicted in battle giving me the feeling he could tell me the story behind each one.

His elbows rested on the arms of the great chair with his fingers knitted together above his lap. My gaze traveled back up to meet his steel blue eyes. They say a man’s eyes are a window to his soul but this man’s eyes seemed a window into my own soul. They pierced me, cutting me open for all the world to see. No pretense, no hiding, just exposed. I squirmed in my chair suddenly uncomfortable. I wanted to lie; I wanted to try covering up things I had done wrong years before, to make excuses for the failures of my past. Without a word, his eyes condemned me. The guilt of my life twisted my stomach in knots till I began to wonder if I might throw up right here, right in front of him but then I saw it in his eyes. I saw mercy.

He took in a deep, slow breath and let it out with a slight sigh. “Do you know why I have called you?”

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Warrior Dad
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