Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Smiling, Nodding Fools


The characters in the rough draft of my new novel are smiling, nodding fools.

Don't get me wrong - I love them all! We've spent more than the last year together and I know all their secrets - well, most of them.

I finished the rough draft ten days ago, except for the final three chapters. I took up the (daunting) task of editing.

My editing process differs from most, I think. I do a read-through in my head, looking for continuity problems and fixing passive voice when I notice it. Then I read it aloud to Darling, who seems to have unlimited patience. I fix more passive voice. I correct things that don't flow when I read them out loud.

Darling is the one who noticed my characters were smiling and nodding all the time.

The truth of that slapped me wonky. My worst error was a preponderance of the word "nodded." Everyone in the story nodded, assuring me my reader would nod off. The worthless nods had to go. In most cases I deleted the word with minor modifications to the sentence. Sometimes it went something like this:
"Jed nodded, watching Maddie's face."
Wow. How about this instead?
"Jed watched Maddie's face." Yeah, quit the nodding. Do I nod that much when I'm awake?

Then I noticed the "after all" phrases peppered throughout my story. My characters said it a lot. I killed most of them and improved the sentences. Wow. My word count began to suffer. Just those two edits dropped hundreds of words from my story. (Yes, I did make some changes to sentence structure and flow during that time, also.)

Then I had to hunt and kill the *ly words in my sentences. When I finished I ran a word macro to get the word occurrences. I still had 235 *ly words occurring 1237 times. Thirty-eight of the *ly words accounted for over 800 instances and sixteen accounted for over half. Here were the top offenders (ignoring "Shelly" who is a major character):

110       only
96        really
49        slightly
46        probably
35        quietly
32        actually
31        simply
28        quickly
27        early
24        barely
23        finally
23        lightly
22        family
21        slowly
18        loudly
17        tightly

I deleted most of the "only" words.

I deleted most of the "really" instances, leaving only a few in the dialogue.

Every one of the "slightly" words disappeared. A few times I changed the sentence structure, but not many.

After some consideration, I deleted most of the "probably" words. A few remained in the dialogue.

I removed every instance of quietly, except one - where he needed people "rounded up quietly." I could have said "secretly" but that's another *ly word. In most I committed the offense by using the phrase "said quietly." Did they say it quietly? If so, they whispered. If not, then they just said it.

I deleted every appearance of "actually" except one, and I used that in dialogue.

The word "simply" disappeared except for two snippets of dialogue where the word applied. (See what I did there?)

I removed all but a few instances of the word "quickly." It wasn’t needed.

"Early" isn't a *ly word. Still I went through where I used it and deleted a few instances where it was not needed. That embarrassed me. It's so easy for these things to slip into my writing.

I considered most of the uses of the word "barely" legitimate, though I removed a few by changing the sentences.

I left "finally" in the places where it reflected the final action or the passage of a length of time.

I deleted almost all the cases of "loudly," leaving only the few I needed to convey a distinct difference in the sound level. That means that all the "laughed loudly" and "said loudly" phrases dropped down to "laughed" and "said," enhancing the tightness of the writing.

Of the ones not listed above, most notable is "briefly" which I deleted from the book. I'm a writer. I should be able to conjure a word that expresses something better than using "briefly."

"Directly" is another word I removed from the book. I almost always had it used with "looked" as in "Jed looked directly at Maddie." Would he ever look indirectly at Maddie? Maybe, but then I guess I'd use indirectly. Otherwise, all these sentences became "Jed looked at Maddie." People's brains get tired when they read "directly" repeatedly. My brain did. Whoops. That was another *ly word.

Editing is hard work. My novel is almost ready...

Oh, the new title!

Hunting August Moon: The Immortality Infection Series

maybe

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Birthday Wishes




The birthday card I got at work says "I know why you always look forward to your birthday!" On the inside it continues "It's the spankings isn't it?"

What surprised me was that two of my fictional characters signed the card!

"Who doesn't like a good spanking?" BA von Crapp
"Civilization is lost on my brother. Happy Birthday, Vince." Vic

My buddy Wes is the biggest fan of the von Crapp Brothers,  Adventurers. He captured them perfectly.

You can find them on Smashwords and Amazon.



Their first adventure is the short story called The Duel, where you're introduced to the Von Crapp Brothers. Safari in the Mist is a novella.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse becomes Wendigo Hunters

Doc Savage is similar
to one of my characters
Since last July I've been writing my first full-length fiction novel. That might seem like a long time, but I have this rule that if I'm bored with what I'm writing - then I'll bore the reader. So I stop for weeks and months while my mind cogitates the plot and characters. (In the meantime I wrote and published a few short stories, and they are on Amazon and Smashwords.)

So last July I actually put the rough draft of the first few chapters in my blog - you can find it here, but it doesn't look quite the same any longer. I also gave it a working title: Zombie Apocalypse: Vampire Raiders of Las Vegas, which still makes me chuckle a bit.

I'm at over 82,000 words and the first draft is finished. I have an excellent editor who suggested I change the beginning of the novel, so that's what I'm working on. For your reading pleasure, here's the new Chapter One.

Oh, and I changed the title. The novel will be called Wendigo Hunters: Revelations.

Here you go, and if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Chapter One

Claire stretched, shifting her weight in her saddle. "Well, Shelly, Jed sent us out for three horses and we end up with five. I think we can head back today." She took a deep drink from her weathered canteen. "I'm just glad Jed only has us do this scouting thing every quarter now instead of once a month. The best thing is we haven't seen any zombies - or smelled them," she laughed.

"The only thing I smell is me after four days without a decent bath," Shelly replied. She patted her horse's neck, staring into the distance. "I'm just glad there aren't as many of the rotting rovers as there used to be, so we don't need to worry about our livestock as much." She stood up in her stirrups, catching a glimpse of something sparkling in the distance. "But I think we might be a little premature," she said. Shelly turned her bay mare toward the south and walked her slowly across the wide field. "I'll be glad to get back home and take a proper shower, that's for sure." She shook her long black hair loose, retying it with a red bandanna before putting her hat back on. "Don't you want to go home, Chula?" she asked her horse. The mare whinnied agreement.

Claire grinned, her straight white teeth contrasting with her ebony features. Her wavy black hair hung to her shoulders, her cowboy hat firmly on her head as she trotted next to her friend. "I know what you mean, girl. A hot shower and soft bed would be welcome about now."

Shelly laughed, a low, tinkling sound echoed by the sparkle of her brown eyes. "You're thinking of August again, aren't you, you crazy Amazon?"

Claire sighed, pulling close to Shelly and swatting at her with her hat. "The big guy doesn’t seem interested in me."

Shelly laughed again. "You just need to try harder, Claire. He's interested. You can see it in his eyes."

Claire's face clouded over. "There's more behind that big man's eyes than interest, Shelly. There's some dark secrets, or I'll eat my hat." She patted her horse's side and whispered in her ear. The horse shook her head and snorted.

"You have some secrets of your own, chica. Don't think I can't tell." Shelly stopped Chula and pointed toward the thing shining in the grass. "Look suspicious to you?"

Claire's horse shuddered and Claire put her warm hand against the black mare's neck. The horse flicked her ears at an errant fly. "Hush, Kiya," Claire whispered. "It's all right." Claire's hand shot forward and snatched the fly from the air, casually crushing it and wiping her fingers on her dirty jeans. "I hate flies, too," she muttered.

She dismounted and pulled a long, smooth blade from a scabbard attached to the back of her saddle, leaving Kiya ground-tied. Walking forward slowly, Claire pushed the tall grass aside with her blade. Disturbed flies swarmed into the still air and Claire backed away, an ancient curse erupting from her.
Shelly's horse moved close to Kiya, stopping a dozen feet from Claire. "So what is it, chica?" She asked.

Claire returned to Kiya and mounted, sliding her sword into the scabbard, her mouth set in a grim line across her face. "Shiny belt buckle. Really dead zombie," she said quietly. "Can't tell what kind of zombie, though." They moved the horses away from the smell of rotting flesh. "We'll have to follow their tracks. Jed will want to know how many there are."

Shelly groaned and her shoulders drooped. "Well, this will keep us out here, won't it?"

Claire shrugged. "A few more days won't hurt us." She looked at the small herd they gathered, all of them peacefully grazing in the long grass. "The horses should be all right until we get back." They rode south.

Less than an hour later, they scared away coyotes pulling parts from a second dead zombie.

Shelly pointed at what was left of the rotting corpse. "No signs of a struggle, so this one dropped, just like the first one. Not a persistent zombie, then."

"Might have been running with some Persistents, though," Claire replied. "It can happen if they aren't too old." She looked at the coyotes. "Good thing the virus doesn't spread to scavengers."

Shelly nodded. "No kidding. I just don't get it," she said. "We're miles from any people. Why do the Zs always seem to come from the north, that's what I want to know."

"At some point Jed will have to check into that, I suppose," said Claire, nudging Kiya forward to follow the trail. "They picked up speed here," she said.

Shelly looked into the distance. "Hey, that's Highway 160 ahead of us. I didn't realize we were so close to the road."

They heard the loud crack of a gunshot ahead. The women looked at each other and galloped their horses toward the sound.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Good Samaritan

I'd credit the artist if I knew them.


Let's look at the Good Samaritan.
Luke 10:30-37 NKJV
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The Bible is an interesting document. There are layers of meaning interlaced through the whole thing. It almost makes me believe in the Bible Code concept… But I digress.

On the surface, the story of the Good Samaritan is about defining our neighbor. I've heard some Pastors say that the story means everyone is our neighbor. I disagree.

It is the people we meet in our lives. The Samaritan was going about his business. He wasn't going out of his way to meet new people, and he certainly wasn't seeking out Jews to befriend. Yet in his daily travels he met a person in need. Unlike the ones who talked a good game (the priest and the Levite), the Samaritan's heart was moved with pity for his fellow man.

He didn't kneel down and ask what religion the man was. This man was stripped and beaten half-dead, so I suspect you couldn't tell if he was Samaritan, Jew or Gentile. He was simply a man in need.
We help family when we can. That's what family does.

We help people w ho help us back. That's human nature. Quid pro quo, tit for tat, reciprocity. "It's the right thing to do," says your mother. "They helped us, we help them."

The Samaritan helped someone who could not reciprocate. God (Jesus) did the same for us - gave us a gift we cannot repay. Helping others who cannot repay us is imitating God.

Do we ask their religion first? I think not. Do we convince them that our religion is right? The Samaritan never even raises the issue - he simply helps the man in need.

A few things to note, then I'll let you go.

The Samaritan was going about his business - and he continued to do so. He simply added this one small service to his agenda. He had places to go, and he did so.

He didn't question the hurting man's race or religion or personal values. Really, for all he knew the hurt man was a mean man whose friends got tired of him. He didn't ask. He didn't do it for the man (the man never thanks him in the story). He did it because it was the right thing to do and it heart was moved.

The Pastor followed it up with a quote from the NLT of the Bible that makes me laugh when I read it. Galatians 6:3 "If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important." (I knew that!)

(Okay, before your feathers ruffled, it doesn't say you are not important - it says you're not more important than anyone else. God loves us all, regardless of our faults.)

I'm not saying that we are always equipped to help someone. If you have a computer problem, give me a call; I might be able to help. Want me to cry with you - uhm, can I get Darling for that? 1 Peter 4:10 "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others!" Yeah, sorry. Crying with you isn't usually my gift. I'll sit with you, though.

I'm also not saying to help everyone.

Ooooo. What did I just say? I can hear church people picking up rocks to throw at me. Look, the fact is that some people are just out there to get what they can from others. When my youngest brother was a deacon he investigated the people that asked for money from the church. Quite a few of them did not have the financial issues they claimed. (He was chastised for checking!) How do you know the difference? I suggest prayer and do what your heart tells you, but be cautious. You know when someone is truly in need. You can pretty much tell when someone is taking advantage of you. If not, ask for advice.

Here's the bottom line:
Saved People Serve People. It's what we're supposed to do.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Heroic


What is it about our hearts that cry out for the heroic, the sublime desire to become better than we are, better than we even dream of becoming?


Thank you to all my heroes, the ones in uniform, the ones who showed me kindness and taught me the meaning of being more.