My Office Is Destroyed

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Well, they’ve sawed down all the trees. The shady spot where I sit to write my books… is gone. They haven’t cleaned up the mess yet, either, so there’s nowhere else to put my chair.

I’ve written 15 books, sitting there. I don’t write fiction indoors because a) it’s nuisance phone calls every few minutes, and b) it’s good for my soul to be out there with the birds and squirrels, grass and flowers and trees, God’s creation all around me. There’s no substitute for that.

Turning this place into a desert, one tree at a time… or, in this case, all at once.

Coming Unstuck

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Well, I’ve finished another chapter of Ozias, Prince in Peril. It looks like the boy king and his mother will have to come out of Lintum Forest and fight for his throne. The usurper Maressa, her hunters having failed to find and kill the king, has resorted to even more underhanded methods to draw them out.

Now I have to move on to a Newswithviews column. We are governed by persons who really have it in for us, and I suppose it doesn’t matter how that happened–we have to get rid of them. Before they get rid of us.

See you again around suppertime, with another critter video.

‘Get OUT There, Lee!’

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It’s a knock-out gorgeous beautiful day! And I’m sitting here trying to dream up a blog post that’ll bring in readers.

Look alive, man! This weather won’t last much longer–only 11 days left in September. (Yeah, I know the month just started. Waddaya want from me?) You have a book to write, it’s going to be a good one, you already know what the next chapter’s going to be–what’re you doing indoors?

All right, I’m goin’, I’m goin’! Mustn’t waste this glorious weather.

Maybe the readers will come while I’m not looking.

Trying to Catch Up… Again!

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I’m way behind in my work today, the viewership is way down–and the WordPress problem that I had last week, with the comments failing to display… it’s baaaaack!

Man, this is getting old. Welcome to the Age of Nothing Works.

(And suddenly Robbie only wants dry cat food… What’s that about?)

Going about my chores last night, a new character for the book I’m writing, Ozias, Prince in Peril, popped into my head, along with what she’d be doing in the story. I’ve learned that it’s usually a good idea to stop what I’m doing and write it down in case I forget it overnight. Enter Aylen, the old nurse of the late King Flosi, who may have a loose screw somewhere but is otherwise sharp as a tack.

Where do these characters live when they’re not breaking into my plots? It’s so cool, the way that happens. It’s like I knew these people, once upon a time, and now they’re coming back. Do you think that’s weird? Welcome to the world of fantasy-writing.

Now They’ve Really Ticked Me Off

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I’m sure there are people who believe television depicts life as it really is. That kind of ignorance can wipe out whole civilizations.

We were watching Midsommer Murders. Subplot: Mrs. Barnaby, who has never written a word of intentional fiction in her life, has decided she wants to be a novelist. First she wants to write romance, but that lasts for only a single episode. She decides she wants to write mystery/thrillers instead. She’s married to a detective but she won’t let him read her manuscript.

Anyhow, she’s only had to write three chapters before she finds a publisher for the whole novel!

Eeeeyahh! What was I doing wrong, that it took me years and years and years of work before I finally sold a novel? Why didn’t I succeed on my very first try, like Mrs. Barnaby? Why did it take me so long, with so much hard work, to learn how to write a novel that readers would actually like? Didn’t I know that being a novelist is easy, literally anyone can do it?

And then, in the very next episode, the whole subplot simply vanished. Wasn’t mentioned. What–no best-seller? I mean, as long as we’re indulging in pure fantasy… But even fantasy has to be, at some level, believable.

If you are thinking you might like to be a novelist–well, don’t even think about it unless you are prepared for the incredibly high levels of disappointment, and the multitude of sacrifices that you’ll have to make… or else it’s just a thing to do and you don’t really care that much.

Please don’t believe what you see on TV.

What’s Wrong With Our Movies?

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Patty and I watch a lot of movies, and we own a pretty big collection of them, too.

Lately we’ve been watching–or trying to watch–some new movies, and have been coming away disappointed. Or irate over the wasted time.

There’s a widespread failing here: the plot, what there is of it, completely falls apart as the movie nears its end. They’ve got all these writers and they can’t finish the story. Suspense mounts–and then melts down because nothing much happens. Or what does happen is so preposterous, the viewer can’t believe in it.

I believe there’s a simple explanation as to why so many movies today are so crappy.

If you never read or hear a story, you won’t know how to tell one.

Who’s readin’ anymore? The people who become screenwriters? And in the unlikely event they’re reading anything at all, what are they reading–comic books? The backs of cereal boxes?

I am a storyteller. I write novels and get paid for it. How do I do it? I consume as many stories as I can! I learn how to tell stories by studying stories. Do this, but don’t do that. Do you see how Edgar Rice Burroughs or Charles Dickens juggle their subplots without ever dropping one? Do you see how John Blaine paints a picture while never forgetting to keep the plot moving?

But who’s reading anymore? Who’s learning how to tell a story? It’s getting so we simply won’t even try a movie made after 2000. We know the wheels are going to fall off the plot. We know there are going to be gaping holes left in the story… because nobody knows how to tell a story anymore.

True, even in contemporary movies, even in TV, I encounter a story that leaves me lost in admiration. An episode of Endeavour called “Deguello” had me convinced the writers were going to drop the ball, they’ll never bring all these story lines together–and yet they did it! Without padding, without leaving things out, without inventing ridiculous coincidences–wow!

But examples like this are getting to be few and far between.

Setting the Scene

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My allergies are annihilating me today. Maybe if I sit outside with a cigar and read The Golden Skull, I’ll find some relief–or at least the illusion thereof.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book since I was a boy. I started re-reading it yesterday–and the author’s ability to set the scene just blew me away! He wants you to imagine you’re in the Philippines, and so he puts you there. Effortlessly! Without slowing down the story, without any sense of padding, he smoothly introduces one detail after another… and next thing you know… you’re there.

This is technique of a very high order. Few storytellers can match it.

“John Blaine” was a pseudonym for Hal Goodwin, whose “Rick Brant science adventure” stories helped light up my childhood. And I still admire them today.

If you want to write novels, you can learn a lot from these books. I stand in awe of Goodwin’s ability to seamlessly insert details of the scene into the plot. His book is like a smoothly-running conveyor belt.

I keep on studying these. I learn from my favorite authors. That’s where the learning is.

‘Another Big Piece of the Story’ (2016)

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Good lord! Was it really seven years ago, that I was writing The Silver Trumpet? How many years ahead will it be, the next time I wake up in the morning?

Another Big Piece of the Story

The people of Obann dread the sea. They don’t even like to look at it from the safety of the shore. And I didn’t know why. I never sat down to hash it out. I waited for God to make it clear to me.

Which He did!

I’m not the only writer who’s had this experience. We’ll all tell you–it’s positively great when it happens.

A Writer’s Resource: Other Writers

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J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

I was in a jam last year, trying to write The Ocean of Time. I knew it would require a double climax, but I didn’t know how to pull it off.

For no conscious reason, I began to reread Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Not that I was trying to follow him, or imitate him–but suddenly my own book got very much easier to write! I managed the double climax, and by the time I was done, I thought I’d written my best Bell Mountain book ever.

Now I’m writing Ozias, Prince in Peril–and it looks like the guide that has emerged is C.S. Lewis’ trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength). This conviction has been strongly reinforced by a study of the trilogy, Deeper Heaven by Christiana Hale. So while I’m writing my own book, I think I need to be reading these four books.

Not to copy them in any way–that’s not how it works. A writer who tries to do that will damage his art. Actually, I’m not quite sure how this works. Somehow Lewis’ stories are giving me a clearer vision of my own. Writing novels is kind of weird, that way. I sort of wanted to revisit Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian novels, but the pull of Lewis’ trilogy is too strong to resist. Something’s telling me just to go with it. I was temped to call it “my instinct,” but that gives me too much credit. I do ask God to guide me in my work; and I think my prayers are answered.

 

‘I Love My Characters’ (2018)

The Cellar Beneath the Cellar (Bell Mountain, 2) by [Lee Duigon]

Ellayne at work in Book 2

I’ve written almost 100 pages of my new book, Ozias, Prince in Peril, and have had to meet a whole new cast of characters–’cause it’s 2,000 years before the events described in my other Bell Mountain books.

I Love My Characters

I say I “meet” my characters because that’s what it feels like. It’s like they’re already there, waiting to come into the story.  I take pains NOT to pattern them on real people. Let that mask slip just once, and your book is toast.

Queen Maressa has already shown herself a top-flight villain; but can she outwit Lady Gwenlann, the scatterbrained wardrobe mistress who controls the late king’s spy network? (“Scatterbrained” is only an act.) There’s the little fat man, Mallen, who heads a troupe of actors: Maressa wants to buy them. And of course Queen Parella, Prince Ozias’ mother, written off my Maressa as “that goose-girl,” but with a lot of gumption to her.

Dagnabbit, writing a novel is fun! And if it isn’t, you’re doing it wrong.