The Book of the Lost Royals is a massive tome of two million words in a realm of nearly as many peoples. Hidden from time in a secret vault that knew no decay, it promises to recount an unknown history from an age of wonders. And now, a meticulous translation has begun.
Starting from the front and reading toward the center, the Book tells of Amethestra Straverian, lost princess of the Kingdom of Evereign. A baby abandoned in the wilds, she was found by the unlikeliest caretaker, the one person in all of Empyrelia who might protect her from those dark forces that sought to destroy the world. Under this mysterious witch’s careful, if unusual tutelage, the girl known as Tildy will discover the world beyond the protective borders of the Garden of Dappledown.
Astute observers might find themselves compelled to flip the book over, finding there the start of the tale of Prince Adamantin Straverian, her brother. His story progresses also toward the middle, recounting how he was smuggled to safety under a dead child’s name, by an adoptive mother who would never love him as equally as the child he replaced. The boy known as Samor has grown up behind the walls of the remote ice fortress Yrrengard, being tutored and trained to recover the crown he is unaware he has lost.Continue reading →
In December 2019, I finished the final draft of Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen. I exhaled, wrote a post, and put the book aside for the holiday season, intent on querying in 2020. I started researching agents over the winter and began querying in earnest in early spring.
Around that time, rumors had begun, followed by vague news reports, about a new disease that would eventually be known as Covid-19. In March 2020, I said goodbye to my office desk and began working remotely for nearly 3 years. In May, riots erupted in Minneapolis and elsewhere over the murder of George Floyd. As the year progressed, the political landscape in America became fraught, then angry, then vicious, and civil discourse became less common.
The world seemed to stop.
And so did I.
I tried to write, and in two years, I had about 100,000 words of my next book, which featured Samor, Tildy’s brother. There was some joy, but the weight of things beyond my control pressed upon me, and the work became more grind than pleasure. I struggled to recapture the magic.
I decreased my blogging output in that time, too. After all, what did I have to write about my process? I wanted to share positive things and my passion for writing, but they were hard to think of, much less give enough attention to bring to life. There seemed to be more important things in the world.
A combination of personal matters, work, family health issues, and the state of the world put me into a dark place, the shadow of which still lies upon me. Fortunately, therapy, exercise, and alcohol have helped pull me out, though my writing brain isn’t where it had been three years ago.
I finally returned to my first manuscript, the thing had brought considerable joy, and I started to tinker. From a distance of more than two years, I found myself more objective than I’d originally been. I pulled out pen, pencil, and highlighter and began reviewing the book to edit the length. I found some plot holes, irrelevant details, and of course, a fair number of typos. All of which are fine and to be expected. I tracked every scene in a notebook to help me quickly navigate the story, which, at 189,000 words is a difficult thing to manage.
I read and made notes. I read and edited. I found that I’d tinkered away several months, and I still hadn’t completed the updates I’d identified.
I’m staring at the thick spiralbound manuscript as I write this, with its page marker flags and its crumpled edges from endless handling, with its arrows and ideas and X’d out passages. To the wary eye, it might appear a dangerous and indecipherable artifact that none but myself would dare open lest some ancient spell be unleashed.
It sits there, waiting for my return.
And while I don’t dread opening it later today, I’m anticipating less joy than I would if I were just sitting down to write, fueled by pure inspiration. Though that’s part of the deal, isn’t it? There has to be roll-up-your-sleeves work in addition to writing for pleasure. The editing is where the story truly comes to life. It can be frustrating, it can be difficult, and if you’re not careful, it can also be where your book goes to die.
If I ever want to get back to the writing side of bringing a book to life, that fine bit of creative heaven, then I’ve got to drag myself out of the purgatory into which I’ve placed myself and my project. It’s long past time that I returned to the Forest of Eddlweld and the hidden Garden of Dappledown.
As they entered the forest, Tildy heard the chirps and songs of blackbirds, neemenees, and wrens. Some of the tub-whumps croaked their evening greetings as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. The failing light mattered little to them. A path led to Dappledown for those who had been there before, though the two of them could have found their way on the blackest night. Nevertheless, bioluminescent greencaps limned the path. Ahead, the picket-willows parted, and with her first sight of the Garden, Tildy’s spirits soared. She was truly home. The clouds overhead cleared and green glowed from every place her eyes could see.
Won’t you join me? Either in your world or mine. Good luck on our writing!
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When I was in elementary school, phonics played a prominent role in the curriculum. Even at that young age, I recognized and appreciated the structure and rules, and I remember being surprised when others struggled. It was a method that resonated with me (heh), and I usually achieved high marks in spelling.
However, there are times when phonics lets me down, especially in the use of similar-sounding words: “appraise/apprise”, “elicit/illicit”, “passed/past”, and “awhile/a while”. Suffixes can also be a pain, such as “-ible/-able”.
“Affect/effect” is another, and I’m not alone in my confusion. They are among the most misused words in English.
While editing my manuscript today, I discovered a pesky “affect” had survived several rounds of revisions. I’m at the point with my writing where I don’t chastise myself for the miss, but I’d still prefer to learn from the mistake. So I decided I would find a way to minimize it happening again.
I created a mnemonic device. If I can substitute “outcome”, then I should use the noun “effect”. If I can replace with “create”, then the verb “affect”. Simple as that.
Sidebar: If you’re a person who uses “effect” as a verb or “affect” as a noun – both rarer use cases – this won’t work as well. I never do, so I think this will have the desired outcome effect.
The key for me will be remembering I’ve got this new tool in a crowded writer’s toolbox. Like my actual toolbox, the frequently-used ones always stay in sight, at the top. But I’ve been doing similar replacement tricks for years (illicit things bring ills; you appraise the prize), so I think this one will stick.
Will this prove foolproof? We’ll see. English is so fantastically, wonderfully, deliciously complicated that every rule can be broken. That’s when another rule of mine comes into play: when in doubt, rewrite.
I hope this post has the desired effect on your writing!
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I’m always reviewing my writing for exclusionary words. In this post, I’ll be taking a discriminating look at a few paragraphs from my book with the intent of removing discriminatory language. Don’t worry – this wasn’t some prejudicial diatribe I needed to cut. I’d found a trite, gender-centric passage, and I decided to shake it up to turn a trope on its head. Painless right? And kinda fun, kid.
Language is both simple and powerful in its ability to bring people together, but it’s also very easy to exclude broad swathes of people with specific words. For instance, using “men” to describe soldiers or “wife” or “husband” instead of “spouse”. If you’re always represented in the language like I am (i.e. a white guy), you’re less attuned to it and less exhausted by it. And even if you want to write differently, these things still unconsciously find their way into your writing because much of what you’ve read is rife with similar language.
The fixes aren’t difficult, but you have to look for them and be willing to change your way of thinking a smidge to include people.
BTW, if you want to complain about political correctness or wokeism, this probably isn’t the website – or book – for you. I’m sorry to see you go. We’ve got a heckuva a wild fantasy ahead of us and there’s room for humans of all kinds.
I’ll start by presenting the passage in its fixed state, hoping that you’ll appreciate how it reads like a perfectly normal piece of writing, not some screed trying to brainwash you.
She shook her head, clearing her thoughts like a dog shakes out waterlogged ears. “Listen, youths are idiots when it comes to impressing someone they like. They get all sorts of notions in their heads. Probably the storybooks they read,” she said with an eye on Tildy. She continued, determined to say her piece. “Some want to be knights, fighting to prove themselves worthy of marriage and titles and lands. It makes them do reckless things.”
Tildy stared, mind reeling. What in the world was she talking about? And like a smack to the head, she understood and laughed. “You think he’s going to fight for my honor or something?”
The witch looked unhappy. “I have seen many young people rushing to battle for honor or some chivalrous reward. Only some returned, and none were the same, regardless of the prize.”
I planned to delve into writing this weekend, mixing those responsibilities with other chores around the house. I needed to regain momentum on Project Two, which had stalled during the pandemic; ironically, I was also fighting the lingering effects of my own bout with Covid. I knew I would have plenty of optimism when I finally sat at the keyboard, even if I had no idea where to begin.
That’s when Serendipity paid a visit.
Goodnight, Saigon by Billy Joel came up on my playlist, and his lyrics drew me in like I was watching a movie. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but your mind’s eye takes over, even as your body goes through the motions of dressing and pouring coffee. I’m not even sure of the sequence of events: my mind connected the song to Memorial Day and a scene where Samor rejoins his companions after they’ve lost someone. There was nothing; then there was something.
I grabbed the computer, put the song on repeat, and 30 minutes later, I had this.
Samor greeted his companions as they gathered to him. Their welcome was genuine, their words warm. But he read something else on their faces that he hadn’t seen before. Or rather, he realized he hadn’t had the skills to interpret the tragedies that lay there. The worry that creased Hochness’s brow; the crow’s feet that used to merrily step away from the corners of Oafsson’s eyes. Even the betrayer Chork, addled as his mind remained, seemed more sedate against the bonds that held him to the litter. A weight drug at them all, anchoring them to the battle where they’d lost their friend and compatriot. The look of survivors, a mix of gratitude and guilt, made worse by each condemning beat of their living hearts.
His past naiveté angered him, but mostly it saddened him. No words seemed important enough, nor considerate or meaningful enough to break the silence of the moment. And so, he took his cue from his friends, yes, that is what they were now, and he embraced them silently and exchanged knowing looks that would have been inscrutable to the person he used to be. In the strength he gave, he felt more returned. They knew he knew. They accepted him and were grateful that he offered to share the burden.
Samor recognized this understanding wouldn’t have come from a lifetime of study. Simple words upon the page were shallow, going no deeper than the ink that sank into the paper – practically lies for their misinterpretation of the awful reality. The knowledge was horrible, and he wished he’d never acquired it. A small voice between his ears reminded him it was a necessary experience for the future leader of Empyrelia, a land destined for war, but he could derive no comfort from that. He hoped he never would.
A note to our son Sam, as he’s training to be a climbing instructor at Scout camp. I share it here because it was too long to text. Pfft, writers.
I know you had your eyes set on the aquatics director role and how you were disappointed when circumstances beyond your control prevented it from happening this year. However, when I heard you were moving to the rock wall, I thought, ”Now THERE is a role that perfectly suits Sam.”
And so, if you’ve forgotten how much you loved climbing as a kid, I wanted to share three climbing-related moments from your life.
The first happened when you were three, which would have been the Summer of 2003. You were playing in the backyard, and me, still a relatively new parent, assumed you were safely contained by our six-foot stockade fence.
You weren’t. When I opened the front door in response to a tiny knock, you stood there, smiling and oblivious to any of the thousand perils my worried parent’s mind instantly conjured, not least of which were the dangers of traffic or falling onto the concrete pad. To your mind, an obstacle three times your height was a trifle. And a fun one.
I have a day off from the office and I’m trying to savage my final draft like a drunken barbarian. The Project One manuscript ended at nearly 190K words, and that’s an awful lot for many reasons. It’s a big investment for a reader, not to mention a publisher. It also sets a precedent for future books, and that’s a writing pace I’m uncertain I can maintain. It feels heavy, both literally and metaphorically.
Amidst the edits, cuts, and barbarically setting the countryside ablaze, I came upon this sentence:
Tildy also noted that it was still as quiet as she remembered.
It tripped me because my brain registered “still” as a synonym for “quiet”. Well, if that’s confusing, does the sentence work without that unnecessary word?
Tildy also noted that it was as quiet as she remembered.
I wonder if I’ll be able to make similar cuts, the way I did here and here? A quick Ctrl-F showed 192 instances. Some will likely remain, but others will have to go. And then there’s this:
Well, that’s embarrassing, but a fine example of how difficult it is for a writer to be objective when editing their own work. If you’re curious, I deleted the first three, rewrote the fourth out, and kept the fifth. Only 187 left to go.
For more tips (and embarrassing admissions), we recommend these posts. Good luck with your writing!
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I’m sure some of that came from the societal stigma about showing vulnerability and my extreme reluctance to share personal aspects of my life. I think the greater issue, however, was the fear that such an admission would transform thought into reality if it reached the written page.
I wrote a draft of this post in mid-September after a rough couple weeks, when stressors and disappointments had piled upon another. I’d found myself angering easily or venting frustration in situations where it wasn’t warranted. My novel always appeared to be the catalyst: not having time, not being inspired, delivering garbage when I did sit down.
It wasn’t the first time I’d had similar feelings, but these were more acute and my defenses were down.
There’s a betraying voice in your head that suggests the simplest solution: Quit doing the thing that’s causing pain. Just walk away.
Because writing is the primary way I express emotion, my head started drafting a post along those lines. The admission hurt, and that feeling intensified as I fleshed it out, because it reflected the abandonment of something I’ve wanted my whole life.
I sat at the computer that morning with little optimism and a negligibly more determination. I didn’t want to write this post…and I told myself over and again that I was pretty sure I wasn’t quitting.
Then I happened to read the following passage I’d copied from a book, and my perspective changed.
I used to do freelance resumé work, which meant I regularly visited professional job websites like LinkedIn and Indeed as a way to generate leads. It’s also a good way to learn how not to point out a person’s typos (it’s nothing personal – those darn things exist everywhere!).
When it comes to the hiring process, we’re all looking to put our best foot forward, make a good first impression, or follow some other idiom that makes sense here. Unfortunately, candidates and hiring managers are sometimes too eager to give their document one last review. Here are a few fun typos I’ve found and my made-up definitions.
Obsexsed – a person who really, really wants some lovin’
Scarnio – one of the weakest Bond villains
Opportunites – the best evenings for stargazing
Upfortunately – a positive turn of events
Transfernation – describes an emigrating person
Carer – one who attends your needs
Decuted – made ugly
Handeling – completing a messianic task before getting Bach to other business
Cross-crunctional – twisty sit-ups
Leeder – when Lee is in charge
Cowworker – the person in the cubicle next to you who has a straw bed and milking pail
One of the primary distractions from my writing is gaming. It’s a storytelling of a different kind, which I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid playing Atari 2600 or Apple ][c.
Ask your parents. Or (sigh) grandparents.
Like literature, it’s a media not immune to typos, but it also provides human interactions. So, between in-game chat, trash talk DMs, and the game itself, there are plenty of opportunities for unusual spellings.
Here’s some I’ve encountered recently, humorous definitions added.
erans – the movement a man makes when a Flock of Seagulls chases him so far away
carectors – a steel building set that fosters empathy
campain – the result of pitching your tent on tree roots
spone – the complementary utensil to a fark and knive
dushbagg – the container in a vacuum that catches all the bits
waisted – when a weight gain causes you to stretch out your pants, but they’re still comfy
ingadging – adding a new indicator to your car’s dashboard
My younger son, Benji, is nonverbal and autistic. I don’t share it much because one of my primary responsibilities is protecting his dignity and privacy. And it’s usually not relevant to this site. But like any person important to you, his influence is always there in my writing, nevertheless. In this post I’ll share one of the ways my craft has changed because of him.
Ben has a limited vocabulary, though his communication includes expressive gestures and sounds, not just words. In talking to us (people who clearly are too dim to understand), he’s practically speaking three languages, and often, more than one at a time. It’s not his problem when we can’t figure out the translation; it’s ours.
To an outsider, however, it might create an uncomfortable situation. Not because that person is a bigot who despises neurodiversity, but because they are walking in unfamiliar territory. I liken it to me meeting a Black man for the first time (in my memory, he looks like actor Brock Petersin his Star Trek days). I was just a little kid, terribly shy around strangers, and before me stood a person so completely unlike every person I’d known in my secluded little rural town. At least, that’s the lie your brain tells you. In every aspect that I could see except skin color, he was like my neighbors.
I hadn’t been taught to hate or even dislike Black people; I just had some unintended bias to push past because my world was filled with people who looked like me and had basically the same beliefs and ancestry.
It’s one thing to know there are a variety of people in the world. Seeing them is another. Further still, interacting with them changes your perspective in significant ways. Watching Black people on TV wasn’t the same as meeting them. And meeting one certainly wasn’t the same as having people like him in my daily life.
I choose to believe the same lack of experience is true for people who aren’t sure how to react around Ben. It could be uncomfortable at first, but the smallest effort by them can overcome that. I don’t think they can do it alone, however. As Ben’s father, I believe one of my responsibilities is to help people with this, which also helps him.
Now, I grew up as a Boy Scout and I’ve always cheered for the underdog. I’m predisposed to helping others and recognizing those who are disadvantaged. But there’s a distinction between that and being an advocate. Believe it or not (sarcasm), there’s a difference between adding a rainbow frame to my Facebook picture and standing up to LGBTQ bigotry when people post it. Advocacy requires deliberate action, and I can help by leading through example, by sharing posts like this, and by injecting it into my books.