‘How Not to Write Dialogue’ (2014)

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I’ll have more to say about this later. Literary crimes are being perpetrated today that hadn’t been invented yet in 2014.

How Not to Write Dialogue

I think back to those days when literary agents and editors used to keelhaul new writers for even the slightest lapses in style and grammar–while at the same time, publishing stuff that was barely recognizeable as English.

If you can’t talk intelligently, you can’t think intelligently.

The prosecution rests, your honor.

The Conscience of a Queen

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Queen Maressa… What’s she plotting now?

Sometimes writing a novel takes an unexpected turn and it’s all the writer can do not to fall off and get left behind. That’s when the real fun starts!

I’ve just finished typing up another set of chapters of Ozias, Prince Enthroned. There’s no way I’ll be able to finish writing it this year, it’s too cold outside. But there’s already an indication that it’s going to be good.

When your characters whom you’ve made up start saying, thinking, and doing things that you, the writer, never expected–well, you’ve either lost control, but good, or you’re on to something good.

My wicked queen, Maressa, has an unexpected problem: her conscience is acting up. Crikey, I didn’t know she had one. It was buried pretty deeply, but now it’s gnawing at her.

This is so cool. It’s like the book’s on auto-pilot and I’m just a passenger. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Trying, Trying, Trying…

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It’d take a miracle for me to finish writing Ozias, Prince Enthroned. I don’t believe it can be finished this year. All the same, I’ve been trying my level best to get as much of it written as I can before bad weather shuts me down.

I have to write outdoors. I can’t write a novel indoors, that atmosphere just won’t do. You’d be amazed how many times the phone rings, once I settle down to writing.

The biggest obstacle has been the weather. It just won’t play ball. The second half of September, normally one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, was wall-to-wall rain. We went literally overnight from the sweltering heat of summer to a rather chilly fall–just like that.

It’s raining again today.

Happily, I have two books waiting to be published–Oceans of Time and Ozias, Prince in Peril. That gives Enthroned some needed wiggle-room.

I think I know how the book ends; but I am very far from knowing how to get there.

‘Here’s the Webinar! “Thoughts on Being a Writer”‘ (2016)

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This was the first time I was interviewed by persons who had actually read my books, and I enjoyed it. Andrea Schwartz was the host.

Here’s the Webinar! ‘Thoughts on Being a Writer’

All my life, I wanted to be a storyteller. Getting together with Bobby and Ellen across the street, the three of us making up ghost and monster stories in their appropriately atmospheric cellar… I was ten years old.

My Writing Mentors

Livy (3) - Livius

Titus Livius–a great historian

[Let’s see how much I can get done before taking Robbie to the vet.]

It might be asked of me, “Hey, you’ve got a book to write! What the dickens are you doing, sitting there and reading Livy?”

For those who don’t know, Livy, aka Titus Livius, was an historian who lived in Augustus’ Caesar’s time and wrote a history of Rome going all the way back to the beginning. I read the edition published in several volumes by Penguin Books. Livy was suspected of having republican sentiments at a time when maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have them; but as Augustus himself often said, “I’m a republican at heart,” he was hardly likely to persecute Livy for sharing them.

When I’m working on a book, it helps me a lot to select another writer as my mentor. For my previous book, Ozias, Prince in Peril, my mentor was Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose History of the Kings of Britain (including King Arthur), was a runaway best-seller… in the 12th century!

Now I’m writing Ozias, Prince Enthroned, and Livy has stepped forward as my mentor. Not that I’m imitating him; rather, I see in his work an inspiration for my own. Livy wrote real history, while I have to invent a history for a fantasy world. His vivid descriptions and keen analysis of early Rome’s one-after-another social, political, and military crises suggest to me the kinds of things that King Ozias would have to deal with. How should he respond to crisis? Livy knows! In fact, he knows about not only successful responses, but also failures.

Prince Enthroned is going forward rather slowly, from my end; but my editor, having read my most recent set of chapters, says “You’ve got your foot on the gas pedal, haven’t you?” I take that as encouragement.

I now suspect that maybe the Lord wants me to slow down a little. Okay. I’ll try that. A good book is worth taking risks for. Not to mention the abundant distractions we’ve had this year: Patty’s hernia, new computer, refrigerator dies and we lose a raft of frozen food, and my accident that badly damaged Patty’s car, and now Robbie’s sick. Oh–and tons and tons of really bad weather, lots of workdays lost.

So I hope it’s sunny and clear tomorrow, and that Robbie will get better, and that I can start another set of chapters. For “hope” read “pray.”

Another Bunch of Chapters Written

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There was the sun… behind those clouds!

As if all this rainy weather weren’t enough of an obstacle–I really do need to be outside while I compose fiction–I was wrestling with a detail of the plot that looked like it could turn out to be a serious error.

During a lull in the rain today, I sat under my umbrella and wrestled with my problem–thinking is a big part of writing a novel; don’t let anyone tell you different. Was I going to have to rewrite some of these chapters, top to bottom? And then what? I didn’t have the story firmly in hand, didn’t know what would happen next.

I always ask the Lord to guide my work–and I think today He answered me.

It wasn’t an unresolvable conflict in the plot! It wasn’t really a conflict at all. Instead, it was an opportunity. A door in my mind, a door I didn’t know was there, unexpectedly swung open. I don’t know if I’m saying this right; but now I’m very happy with a plot development that daunted me for several days.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s a simple one: when you’re stuck, stop, be patient, and thinkAnd pray.

You might be surprised by the answer that comes your way.

‘Was C.S. Lewis Wrong to Allow Magic in Narnia?’ (2015)

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I understand: C.S. Lewis was an academic, a scholar, he had all that learning that he wanted to use in God’s service, and over the years he’d gotten used to thinking like a college professor… because, after all, he was one. So it’s unlikely that this problem could have been avoided.

Was C.S. Lewis Wrong to Allow Magic in Narnia?

Well, his friend J.R.R. Tolkien warned him–all that “magic” stuff is going to turn some people off your books.

It makes me wonder: to what degree can a writer put himself in the reader’s shoes? And to what degree should he?

If you’re a writer, it’s a question that just will never let you alone.

‘Writing Tips: Getting Started’ (2020)

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As the Cat in the Hat once said, it’s fun to have fun but you have to know how. (Rule No. 1 for beginners: try to avoid quoting the Cat in the Hat.)

The hardest thing about writing is getting started, and the next hardest thing is to keep going. I think most writers would tell you so.

Writing Tips: Getting Started

There’s quite a response to this post, ventured by Marlene and well worth reading. That’s another hard part: writing with strict honesty.

If you can start, keep going, and speak from the heart… well, you’re on your way there.

Please Stay Tuned

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I know you’re all on tenterhooks, waiting for Byron’s TV Listings. But today I’m going to try something different. I’m going to try to get some book-writing in before it rains.

Ozias, Prince Enthroned–I’ve got him crowned all right, but I’d be very surprised if I finished the book this year, I got off to such a late start. Today I really must do something with the prophetic visions of Duke Esdras on his death-bed.

Anyway, I’ll see what I can do with this, and then come in to post Byron the Quokka’s TV listings. He would probably bite me if I left them out.

All right, then–out we go!

*Sigh* Now It Rains

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It went for weeks and weeks around here without a drop of rain, lawns turned yellow, our poor tulips just gave up and died.

But as soon as I have a book to write… open up the floodgates. Anybody got a rowboat handy?

Forget writing indoors. All that does is make the phone ring off the hook. And look at the time–where does the day go?

Oh, all right… what’s in the nooze? When one is truly desperate, one can always fall back on the nooze.