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Saturday, January 27, 2007

What are you afraid of?

I know this is going to sound crazy with a capital INSANE, but over the years that I struggled to write and publish The Door Within, I was seriously afraid. But the fear I experienced might surprise you. Certainly, there was the expected fear of rejection, and the fear that I might never get published. But there was another fear…a fear so odd I'm almost embarrassed to admit it. I do so only because there might be another author out there fettered by the same fear.

I was afraid to succeed.

You read that correctly. For a long time (13 years to be precise), while writing The Door Within I actually was afraid of getting published. I'm not totally sure why, but I have suspicions. You see, I grew pretty comfortable always telling people, "Yeah, I'm working on a book. I hope it'll get published some day." That was good for conversation. It said to people that I was creative and interesting, but it always left me an out. It allowed me to be lazy and not give my writing the all that I could possibly give it. Because I could always say, "Yeah, I'm working on a book."

I also knew that if I succeeded in being published, I'd have to bear a lot more responsibility. I'd have much more work to do, deadlines, less leisure time (I sure was right about that!). But being "almost an author" allowed some of the fringe benefits with not nearly as much effort.

And of course, if I didn't really give my book the all I could give if I REALLY focused on my craft and worked at that story, then I also had a convenient excuse when my manuscript was rejected. I could always say, sure it was rejected. But it wasn't my best work. To really spill blood and guts into the manuscript and send it out there…that would be to invite the ultimate rejection with no safety net.

But, you know what? God doesn't tell us to bring safety nets. Yeah, I know, when Abraham took little Isaac on that little walk up the mountain, God provided the ram in the thicket. But He didn't tell Abraham that. Still Abraham trusted God to provide the lamb.

If you feel a love for writing, a passion for it, I can't help but believe it is because God placed that passion there. Say you've been called, say it's God's plan for you, phrase it any way you want. But do it. And not only that, do it well. Whatever it takes--creative writing courses, joining writer's groups, paying for professional critique, etc. DO it. Give it your best--your VERY best effort. Flush the fear down the commode. Yeah, you might fail. Yes, you will probably get rejected--maybe dozens of times. And yes, you just might succeed, and it will be more work than you can possibly imagine. But if God called you to do it, do it.

Oh, and…get an agent.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ever been to a cutting party?

A Cutting Party is what happens when your book is WAY over word count and the author needs to cut about 40 pages worth. For some reason that painting by Edward Munch--the Scream--comes to my mind. LOL

I've got to have these pages cut by Tuesday, so if there aren't many posts in that time…please understand.

And if you think of it, I could use a prayer or two.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And now for the surprise, mystery announcement!

All three books of The Door Within Trilogy will be released this year in Mass Market Paperback! The Door Within will be first, released in April, followed two months apart by Rise of the Wyrm Lord and The Final Storm.

But the coolest element of this softcover edition will be that each of the trilogy books will be "Extended Author's Cuts" of the books. They will include "The Lost Chapters" (cut chapters) of each book, complete with author/editor commentary. There will even be some all new material written just for the softcover editions.

I'm thrilled to see the cut chapters sewn back in. While some of the chapters really did need to go, others were cut or trimmed because of word/page count issues.

Wonderful tour everyone! Looking forward to the next one.

Never Alone!

Isle of Swords Sneak Preview!

My next book, Isle of Swords, is a high seas pirate adventure due to be released early this summer. Here for the first time online are two sneak preview chapters. Post in and let me know what you think.

Chapter 1 A Black Bird in the Storm
“Papa, I’m scared!” the little girl cried out as she slid awkwardly across the deck. Before she could regain her balance, she crashed into her father’s arms.
“Oh, Dolphin!” he said, shielding her from sheets of rain and sea spray. “What are you doing up here?”
She looked up at him, “I heard a monster out in the sea!”
“A monster? My darling daughter, you heard the thunder and the wind, that’s all,” he snuggled her in close beneath his coat. “There are no monsters in the sea. It’s a storm.”
“But it’s a big storm!” she whimpered.
“No, not big. Just noisy.” But this voice was not her father’s.
Dolphin peaked out from her father’s coat and grinned. It was Brand, the young ship’s mate she’d teased most afternoons since they left port. You’re my blond monkey, she’d said to Brand. And most times, he’d laugh, make chimp noises, and scurry up the nearest rope ladder or rigging. Now, the wind whipped his long hair about his face, but Dolphin saw him wink and felt her heart flutter.
“I’m still scared,” she said.
“It’s just a squall,” Brand said confidently. “Captain Halifax will see us through. And The Trafalgar is the pride of His Majesty’s fleet! Now you mind your father and go back to your quarters ’til it blows over.” And just like that, he was gone across the deck.
“There, you see?” said Dolphin’s father. “No monsters. Just a storm.” He looked down at his precious little girl. Her bright coppery locks were matted against her pale cheeks.
Dolphin stared back, but up beyond her father, following the main mast through shrouds of rigging, past the crow’s-nest, and into the turbulent gray sky. The churning dark clouds seemed to scowl back. Lightning slashed overhead, and Dolphin ducked again into her father’s coat. Thunder crashed, and the entire ship trembled.
“Papa!” she cried. He gave her a brave smile and cradled her head against his chest. He hoped she couldn’t hear his heart hammering away. No, she couldn’t. Not through the overcoat and not with the storm raging.
“There, there, my Dolphin. Remember what Brand said. It will all be over soon. Now, let’s get you back to our quarters and snug in bed.”
“But, Papa, I want to stay here with you!”
“No, you will be much safer below,” he replied, a slight edge to his voice. “I have work to do. I’m helping the quartermaster. He’s waiting for me . . . see?” He pointed to the grizzled graybeard near the mast. He alone of all the sailors on deck wore no coat. He nodded and grinned at Dolphin.
Suddenly, Dolphin clutched her father’s leg. She stared, pointing past the quartermaster, past the main mast, out into the rolling sea. “What’s that?” she shrieked.
Dolphin’s father turned and squinted into the murk. A huge sea swell rose and further obscured his view. “What, I don’t see anyth—” His mouth shut with an audible snap. The swell subsided. Lightning crackled and streaked. In the flickering light and through the spray and chop, an enormous ship appeared in the distance. It was tall, at least three masts, and narrowed sharply at the bow. It knifed through the waves, driving toward them.
Dolphin’s father bent low and held his little girl by the shoulders. “Stay here,” he whispered urgently. He ran to the quartermaster and pointed out into the sea.
“Pirates,” hissed the quartermaster.
“Pirates? In the middle of the storm?”
The quartermaster did not reply immediately. He stared out into the sea. Abruptly, he took in a sharp breath and went very rigid. He grabbed Dolphin’s father by the shoulder of his coat and practically dragged him back across the deck. “Get your daughter down below,” he said as they drew near the ship.
“Come, my child,” Dolphin’s father said, his voice taut. “We must go to our quarters.”
“But, Papa, the ship . . . who are they?”
“No one to worry about, Dolphin. Off the deck, now. Here we go—”
“You best not lie to your daughter.” The quartermaster’s voice was flat, terrifyingly void of emotion. “That ship . . . it’s The Raven. Bartholomew Thorne.”
Dolphin’s father felt the blood in his veins turn to ice at the uttering of that dark name. He whisked his daughter off the deck and raced for the cabins. He banged awkwardly through a door, and his daughter screamed.
“I’m so sorry, Dolphin,” he managed to say. He could feel her trembling against him. He held her close and continued running. A hundred thoughts raced through his mind: memories, hopes, regrets.
“Papa!” she pleaded as they plunged into their cabin.
He sat down with her on the bed and snuffed the candle in the lantern. As darkness enveloped them, he said, “Don’t worry, my precious daughter. It will all be over soon.”
And he began to pray.

Chapter 2 Echoes of Cannon Fire
A cannon shot, deep and sudden, trailed off like a peal of thunder. Something cold touched his fingertips. Another shot. Run them all out, boys!
Water trickled over his hand. She’s taking on something awful! Bosun, pitch that leak! Another shot, nearer still. Water surged into his mouth and nose. A wave partially submerged his head and sprayed his back.
He woke, jerked his head up from the surf, and flailed onto his side. His face, his arms, his back—throbbed and burned. “What happened?” he moaned, coughing up seawater and grinding sand between his teeth. He could not see. Has someone cut out my eyes? Hands trembling, he reached up. His eyes were swollen and caked shut . . . but at least they were there.
After several painful attempts, he managed to pry them open. Brilliant white light knifed in, he clutched at his face. His head throbbed, sun blazed mercilessly off the white sand, but slowly his eyes adjusted. He squinted under a cloudless blue sky and saw water. As another wave raced toward him, he rose to one knee. That little bit of movement brought tremendous pain. It felt as if there were shards of glass embedded in his skin.
With another groan, he stood. He reached over his shoulder and, between the tatters of his shirt, he felt ripped flesh, sticky and wet. His fingertips came back glistening with blood, and he became lightheaded. He swayed for a moment, then steadied himself and looked around. Across a slope of white sand, there stood a deep copse of trees—mostly tall palms, surrounded by sea grape and divi-divi trees. He stared at the leaning, gnarled trunks. Divi-divi trees always leaned to the southwest. That meant something . . . he felt sure it did, but he could not grasp what. He looked along the tree line, up and down the shore, and again, out to sea. “I don’t know this place,” he whispered.
He grabbed fistfuls of his matted blond hair. His welted face felt foreign . . . like someone else’s. A sharp ringing came to his ears. The world seemed to spin. “My God,” he mouthed, “I . . . I don’t even know who I am.”
A flash of green racing across the sand drew his attention, and he turned. At his feet, a large iguana sat gnawing at the leather drawstring of a pouch that lay half-buried in the sand.
Brushing aside the lizard, he picked up the fist-sized pouch. It had some weight to it. “Is this mine?” he wondered aloud. He thought it had to be, but nothing about it seemed familiar. Still, when he loosened the drawstring and began to pour out its contents, he couldn’t help but feel a strange gravity weighing upon him.
A sparkling green stone fell into his hands first. It was shaped like an almond, but much larger. The brilliant sun flickered within it as if the stone was alive with fire at its core. Next, a lock of lustrous red hair dropped out and lay in his palm close to the jewel. The hair was a little damp but still very soft. He ran a finger lightly over it, wondering. . . .
The surf raced in and covered his feet, just as the last item—a rusty iron cross—fell into his palm. Ancient it looked—and not just from the tarnish. It bore strange markings and a script of some design, but he could not read it.
He dropped the three tokens into the pouch. He did not recognize any of these things. Nothing made any sense! His head ached. Weak and confused, he watched as an iguana scurried away and disappeared over the slope. Then he froze, for nearby the lizard’s trail was a trail of footprints. They wound away from the trees, down from the slope, almost directly to where he stood. A wave crashed with a sound like a cannon shot . . . or maybe, more like the crack of a whip, and he jumped.
The ringing came back to his ears, and he felt dizzy. As his vision blurred, he looked at the footprints leading up to where he stood. The thought, I am not alone, flashed into his mind before everything around him faded into darkness.

Original Door Within short story continued...

Why don't you write a short story, Mr. Batson?

That was the complaint from my wonderful 6th graders at Arundel Middle. They thought it terribly unfair that I had the nerve to assign them a short story to write, and yet I (the teacher) didn't have to write one. I took their challenge…and that's how the Door Within began.

What you'll find below (and in the next couple of posts) the VERY unedited original short story called The Faith of a Child. Hope you like it or at least get a good snicker out of it.


Blog Tour Day 3, The Best for Last!

Thanks to all who have made this Blog Tour excellent. I'm thrilled that The Door Within books are getting the CSFF "Thumbs up!"

For Day One: I posted The Door Within Trilogy Trailer.

For Day Two: I posted lots of "behind the scenes" files from the early days of the trilogy.

For Day Three: Check back as often as you can. About every hour, I will be posting something new, including: the original 1992 short story that became The Door Within, two sneak preview chapters of Isle of Swords (my pirate adventure), and a Surprise Mystery Announcement about something new coming from The Door Within!

Never alone!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

To Outline or Not to Outline?

Spoiler Alert!! The outlines below are my working
outlines from Rise of the Wyrm Lord and The Final Storm.

I began The Door Within in 1992. Granted, I had a lot of life going on--married, four kids, graduate degree, leading a Bible study, full time teaching, etc. But still, it took 13 years to complete the Door Within manuscript. THIRTEEN YEARS. I'm convinced that one of the main factors was my approach. I kind of wrote stream of consciousness, i.e., as the muse strikes. I had a general idea of what I wanted to happen, and day after day, I sat there and let it come.

I won't ever write that way again.

When TN contracted me for a trilogy, I had to crank out two more books in a hurry. The Rise of the Wyrm Lord took me @5 months. The Final Storm, @6months. I outlined them both meticulously. Isle of Swords, I finished in 4 months. I spent close to a month outlining it. For me, that's what works. How about you? Do you outline or do you wait for the muse--or do you have some other way that works?

Now, about the outlines above:

Top Outline: This is my initial outline for Rise of the Wyrm Lord. Each block or two equals a proposed chapter.

Middle Outline: Same organizer (based on moviemaker's storyboard), but note that this outline is composed of scenes within a chapter. Each box or two composes a scene within the chapter.

Last Outline: This is the first outline for The Final Storm. Note the boxes that I have violently scrawled NO, NO, NO all over. LOL I was totally exasperated by this turn of events. But, at least it didn't take me 3 months of manuscript to figure that out. ;-)

Monday, January 22, 2007


This is one of my first rejection letters. ONE of MANY rejection letters. Notice that this editor was nice enough to provide critique. Most do not. You get a form letter--"Thanks for playing. We have some swell parting gifts for you back stage."

You can see also that, at the time, The Door Within was called The Door Without Hinges. Uh, not quite as catchy. LOL

Rejection is never easy to swallow. You tear open the envelope thinking this could be the one, and BLAM, shot down. But it's part of the path. Very few authors get snatched up first try. But don't get discouraged. I always tell writers you really only need to impress two people with your story: an agent and one editor at a publishing house. Turn on these two, and they will do the work to impress everyone else. You just need to write a good story and find the right two people to impress. ;-)

Tools of the trade...

Top image: If a character hasn't come to life for me, sometimes I have to sketch them out. I made a quickie character card and tried to flesh out Aidan's friend Robby, and then later, Merewen.

2nd image: 3 cool things on this page. First, in the midst of a manuscript, invariably logic problems arise--if Aidan was in Yewland on Monday, how can he possibly be in the Blue Mountains by Tuesday? That kind of thing. Some problems are more vexing than others, but I write them down either way. Otherwise, I'll forget, and the story suffers.

Then, you'll notice that I had a huge problem with my chief villain. Initially, I had given him the name "One of pure light," which in the old language would be "Paracrist." But a smart friend pointed out that having ANYTHING that even remotely sounded like Jesus…associated with the villain is a BAD IDEA. Whew, glad I have smart friends. Where was my brain? You can see me struggling with every root and medieval sounding alternative. But, as you see, Paragor won out. Funny how now, it seems like it could not be anything else.

And finally, see the little drawing of Pennath Ador, the mountains of glory. This is my favorite rendering of that icon of the story. I have a wonderful friend who actually commisioned a silversmith to fashion a lapel pin with those mountains on it.

Early Door Within Scrawls

The top page shows my initial visualizing of the moonrascal critters. I like to doodle. Can you tell? I also wrote a bunch of notes from Stephen King's On Writing. Great book about the craft. I don't agree with everything King preaches, for sure, but he knows the craft.

The bottom page shows some VERY early musings about the first few chapters of The Door Within. One of the similes I'm most proud of is there. His father's hand, the hand that had been a comfort, Aidan shrugged it off like it was a wasp. Also, notice that in this early stage, Aidan was…well, Wayne. What a rookie I was. lol

The Door Within: Behind the Scenes Part One

The posts that follow tonight are a series of images show how The Door Within Trilogy came about. These are old outlines, background notes, and mindless scrawl of every possible story ingredient. I'd love to say I am ultra organzied and have some huge corkboard with everything neatly categorized and storyboarded, but…I'm not, and I don't. ;-)

I do outline, but I keep plenty of scrap paper around for meandering bits of dialogue or events from yet unwritten chapters. Just a warning, there may be some BIG spoilers, so read at your own risk. LOL