The Rise of Eldor, and Other Stories: Introducing my July 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo Project

This July will be my eighth Camp NaNoWriMo adventure. I’ve worked on a number of different projects during Camp NaNo from novels to picture books. This time around I plan to work on a series of short stories set in the world of my current novel in progress. Since I’ll be writing too fast and furiously to adequately edit any of the stories for publication during the event, I thought it would be fun to ask you, my readers, to choose one story to be posted here on the blog once the July challenge is over.

That said, below are summaries for five of the stories I intend to pursue during July. These stories are the Legends and Histories of my novel world. If you find any of them intriguing, please let me know in the comments below. The story receiving the most interest, I’ll publish in full here later this summer.

1. The Rise of Eldor

During a time of unrest for the Empaths, whispers of an elder deep in the mountains above Bangor City lead four young Empaths on a quest to find him, to find an answer to who they are and what their role in the world should be. One among them may not be who they say they are, however. Can they reveal the traitor and reach the old man in time, or will the destiny of the Empaths be forever turned along a darker path?

2. A New Name

Captured on the battlefield and sold into slavery, Dalgren of Bangor must now prove himself in the gladiator arena. If he survives the training round, he’ll earn a new name from his benefactor. He isn’t the only new recruit hoping to earn a name, however, as Dalgren finds himself pitted against some of the toughest foes on the island.

3. Dyfedd’s Dagger

Prince Ashari of the fledgling kingdom of Dyfedd has been pledged in marriage to the Princess of Bangor with the hopes that this union will bring peace between the two nations. But treachery is afoot and Queen Cleo of Bangor is poisoned. Can Ashari prove his innocence and win the heart of the woman he loves?

4. The Plains Wars

There is a place near the edge of the plains, where the mountains begin to crumble toward the sea, a high plateau surrounded by mystery. When this holy site is violated by villagers from eastern Bangor, the plains people have no choice but to respond. Now it falls to Clemen, Lord Regent of Bangor to find a peaceful resolution or plunge three nations into war with the people of the plains.

5. Adventures of Andreú and Marcel

Andreú and Marcel are Empaths of legend in the realms of Bangor, Dyfedd and beyond. Feared by the Jut’ma of the northern wastelands, revered as gods by the islanders of Bisbaine, and even spoken of in awed whispers by the Arikkaans, the stories of Andreú and Marcel are far reaching indeed. They are credited for the rise and fall of empires, for the creation of mountains and rivers and the birth of the islands. But not many know – or remember – their exploits were all for the love a woman.

 

There you have it. A sampling of what I’m working on. Did any of the stories catch your interest? Your comments and feedback are welcome! Please choose your favorite and I’ll share the one voted the most interesting in full later this summer. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury: a Conversation

From my 2016 Reading Challenge, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, was a book I should have read in school, but did not. Now, having read it, I find myself struggling to write a traditional review. So instead, I’ve labeled this a conversation. I’m honestly not sure what I can add to the conversation that already exists surrounding this book. So many people have said so much already. I will try and do justice to the canon that is Fahrenheit 451.

This is the story of Guy Montag, a fireman charged with the destruction of books, in an imagined future where firemen start fires rather than put them out. Where the government has taken advantage of a culture that has given up all interest in books and intellectual learning in favor of immediate pleasure and entertainment. Parlors with full wall screens play “shows” directed at the individual within the home where players are referred to as “family”. The happiness of the population is the utmost importance to the government. Books are deemed to be offensive, and a source of pain and anguish for citizens. Thus, they must be destroyed.

As a fireman, Montag is charged with burning any books that are found, usually reported by a neighbor. Some people who exhibited odd behavior (such as taking a stroll) would be watched and monitored by the system, tagged, if you will. It is one such individual, a young teenage woman, Clarisse, who Montag meets at the opening of the story who becomes a catalyst for the events that follow. Montag finds himself drawn to the very books he’s charged to destroy.

Bradbury saw a culture obsessed with technology. In his imagined future, the people are bombarded by advertising, propaganda and meaningless messages through their parlor screens, Seashell radios directly in their ears at all hours, and even on the trains, the messages are unending. He saw the advance of television as an attack on free-thinking. This book talks about the effects of mass media on society, and about the complacency of the citizenry, a lackadaisical approach to life in seeking only self gratification. The book burning is only a symptom of this warped society.

I can’t help but draw parallels to our culture here and now in 2016, that glorifies the immediacy of social media and entertainment venues. TV screens are larger than ever, equipped with “smart” technology and access to more channels than anyone could ever watch. There is more information available via the internet than anyone could ever take in. In truth, even books and intellectual discussions have been to some degree watered down by the rise of self-publishing, blogging and so on.

It is within this complete glut of information that I can see how one could become overwhelmed to the point of ignoring or tuning out all of that information. It is easier to find a single piece of truth to hold on to and agree with, disparaging everything else as false.

Now, some weeks after finishing this book, I still find myself bothered by what I read. It keeps poking at my mind. I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to do. To encourage, even force, readers to think about the consequences of their seemingly innocuous daily choices. The choices we make in each moment on how to spend our time, and on how to spend our dollars add up bit by bit into the culture we’ve created. A society more interested in seeking self-pleasure than in truly understanding the world around us.

Though there is much more I could say, I’ll leave the conversation here. If you’ve read the book, you know what its message says and have probably formed your own thoughts about it. If you haven’t read it, I’d encourage you to do so.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s keep the conversation going.

6 Writing Goals: My Journey Toward Balance

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about trying to find balance in my life, and specifically in my writing. I wrote about four major areas where I am actively seeking change in order to achieve this balance. I’d like to take a deeper look at one of those areas in particular, my writing. Here are six goals I am currently pursuing toward this end.

1. Read every day

I’m reading at least a little something everyday, whether a novel, a blog post, or something I’m researching. I’ve already finished the same number of books that I read all of last year. I can attribute a good bit of that to the 2016 Reading Challenge that I chose to participate in. Clearly, making a specific list to work from, is beneficial to me in pursuing a reading goal. I should therefore continue to work from a reading list. When the end of the year approaches, I will look for a new list, or create one of my own. I have some rather extensive book lists already, but I need to keep it specific so I don’t become overwhelmed.

2. Write every day

I started the Write Chain Challenge at the end of November 2015. I challenged myself to write or edit for one hour every day. I reached day 148 before life intervened in the way of a wedding – the wedding of a close family friend that did not allow me to write even one word for two days. I renewed my journey on April 24, 2016 and have now reached day 46 (on June 8, 2016) once more. I’m still writing daily, currently working on this blog and on two novels in progress. One is a middle grade adventure series and the other is a fantasy novel. I have plans to complete both of them in the near future. At which point, I will begin the arduous journey of editing them and then on to seeking publication.

3. Start a blog

Another one of my goals along the road to “becoming a writer” was to start a blog. I struggled with this decision for quite some time, and my concerns may have been valid. With limited available writing time already, was it a good choice to add another writing “obligation”? Does blogging take away from noveling? I haven’t quite figured that out. Yes, it does often prove a distraction from my other writing projects. Take now for example. Instead of working on one of my novels, I am writing a blog post. But I did start the blog, and I think it has kept me writing more, and thinking more about writing.

4. Write short stories

This one is proving problematic. Like the blog, short stories take up valuable writing time. I need to know that time taken to write stories outside of my novels is worthwhile. I have toyed with short story plot ideas as well as attempted to begin working on one or two stories. But so far, I’ve had no real success in producing a short story. I’m not ready to give up on this idea quite yet. One of my novel ideas originated from the idea of writing interconnected short stories. I’d also like to pursue a serial publication of short stories through a channel such as Channillo.com or other venue. This will require a great deal more discipline in order to produce regular content.

5. Read poetry

I still haven’t done much in this area either. I worked on creating a list of poets the internet considers some of the best. I ran across a random book of poetry by T. S. Elliot, but have yet to read any of it. I did read a book of poems by Nick Cannon that my children picked up randomly at the library. I enjoyed that experience, especially reading the poems aloud. The reason I want to pursue this effort is that I feel the study of poetry is the study of language. The precision required in a poem to direct the flow of words accurately is far more demanding, in my opinion, than the torrent of words released in writing a novel. At the same time, a novel should be no less poetic and beautiful as a poem.

6. Become a beta reader

This last goal is one I’ve only recently added. It is part of the give and take that is the writing community at large. I joined Twitter and started a blog in an effort to build relationships with other writers and other readers. Becoming a beta reader for another writer seems a logical next step in this building process. I am going to make an effort to add this to my writing and reading routine. There are a lot of brilliant writers out there, and if I have anything to offer by way of helping them succeed, then I consider myself fortunate.

 
Awhile back I made the conscious decision to pursue my writing more actively. I made a list of the things I needed to be doing in order to “become a writer”. From the general, read and write every day, to the specific, buy a printer. I needed a place to start in order to work on moving closer to my goal instead of continuing to drift along in an endless, circling eddy.

These are the goals I am working on. They may not be the same as yours, most likely they are not. I’d be interested in hearing about your writing goals and how you go about achieving them. What successes have you had?

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss: a Review

That moment when you’re reading a book and the whole world around you ceases to exist…

That is how it was while reading The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. My 2016 Reading Challenge continues at last with this book that was recommended to me by my new favorite bookseller, Escape Fiction. Upon learning of my preference for fantasy, the shop owner enthusiastically suggested this book, calling it among the best in fantasy fiction. I’m really glad that he did.

This is the story of Kvothe, as he retells his tale to the Chronicler. The book opens at a small town inn, sometime after the events that have become legend, with Kote the innkeeper and his assistant Bast. Though there isn’t anything specific said, it is clear these two are anything but your ordinary innkeepers. Some strange things happen in the town, including the arrival of the Chronicler, who figures out Kote’s true identity, Kvothe.

The Chronicler convinces Kvothe to allow him to write down his story. And so, Kvothe begins relating his tale beginning with his early childhood at the age of eight. The narrative is interspersed with “real time” breaks that are written and woven in so well, they flow naturally as a break in the story in which to move about, to breathe. They also serve to add greater depth to the character of Kvothe himself and greater anticipation to hear the rest of the story.

This is hands down, the best book I’ve read in quite some time. If you like fantasy fiction at all, this is a must read. It is beautiful and engrossing. The story sucked me in right from the start. I hated having to put it down, and had to be careful about picking it up lest I accomplish nothing else. I don’t read many books more than once, but this is one I will definitely read again. I’m sure there are many subtleties I missed the first time through.

This is book one of the Kingkiller Chronicle, Day One, as Kvothe’s story is told in three days. Book two, Wise Man’s Fear, picks up the story. The final book, Doors of Stone, has not yet been released.