The Next Big Thing: What I’m Doing Next

Roger Colby at Writing is Hard Work invited me to be a part of a blog chain that introduces my latest work while promoting his blog and three other blogs of writers like myself.  I hope that you will check them out.  I’m highlighting:

Daniel Bowman at

Jessie Clemence at

Elizabeth Hein at

  • What is your working title of your book (or story)?

The Tale of Calelleth

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is a hard question. I’d like to say it came from everywhere. What I was reading at the time – How the Irish Saved Civilization, what I was interested in writing – grand sweeping epics, coming of age stories and, yes, romance, and something that happened in my life – a vicious storm that swept through my home town. The sort of storm that makes noon like night. It causes the constant hum of reality skip a beat and become suddenly vicious and beyond your control. All three of these things collided one summer.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Fantasy – high adventure, coming of age, young adult.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I write with some characters in mind. I picture my villain Maero as Russell Crowe from Gladiator. Strong, noble, and a family man, but he is bent and tortured by his loss. Beyond that, the characters are drawn from people I have met, with the possibility of the main character’s best friend Comitis – recently, I’ve tried to paint him in the light of James Roday (Shawn Spencer) from Psyche.

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Calelleth’s leaders have sworn to forget the horrors of their past and succeed in rewriting history for their people, that is, until an army arrives unannounced demanding the past atrocities be remembered and atoned for.

  • Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ve met with an agent and will be submitting my novel to an acquisitions editor soon (hopefully next week). I’d like to have it represented. I know this is a difficult task but I believe in my work and will be relentless about publication until it happens.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year. However there have been numerous drafts. Some chapters have been rewritten 8-9 times, others 4-5 times. I’ve been working in the debut novel, outlines for subsequent books and the history behind my world for over 8 years.

  • What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

If you’ve read The Emerald Atlas you’ll find children thrust into roles that they find unfitting. One day at an orphanage, the next caught up in the grand struggle of trying to save a world. Also, the academics and young love of Harry Potter, the Merlinesque grandfather in innumerable tales, and the robbing of the rich to equip the poor that is accustom to Robin Hood.

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Sadly, I never read the Lord of the Rings while growing up. While that might shock some people I think this was to my benefit as it is not old hat now. I did not begin to write or read a lot until I was in college. I read while younger but stopped for sports. I rediscovered the spark by watching the first Lord of the Rings film. The age and reality of the other world was enchanting. I couldn’t stop until my one tale was written and I have been reading and reading since. I love the Inklings (C.S Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others) and my writer’s group is called the Weaklings in tribute to them.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is the first installment of seven books. You follow not only the life and death of many characters but also the redemption of a people that suddenly come to realize the depth at which they have scared the earth and the peoples they have forgotten beyond their borders. In The Tale of Calelleth I have tried my best to intertwine the familiar portions of Young Adult fiction – love, coming of age, and the reality that comes with responsibilities of adulthood with a medieval epic.

Use Dialogue to Advance Your Plot

When I look back on the first draft of my novel, I cannot help but cringe. I would liken it to a child’s first drawings, but I was not a child when I wrote it. Since that time I have tried to learn the technical parts of the novel while reconciling those rules with the nuances of the craft.

There are things I know: make sure your verbs agree, watch perspective, add a comma at the end of dialogue. However, there are rules I am familiar with that are much harder to learn. Showing and not telling is a perfect example.

Recently, I stumbled upon something that I should have known years ago:  Advance the plot through dialogue.  When I started writing all those years ago I penned what I thought was a nice beginning:

It was terribly early in the morning, before the sun had even bothered to stretch its rays over the sleeping city of Calelleth and Custos was already dressed, sneaking past his snoring roommates, and ambling down the stairs of the Hall of Arx. The reason for his waking before dawn was twofold. First, because it was harvest time and Custos was a farmer, though many who were to join him in the fields had yet to wake and boil water for their morning teas and coffees. Second, because it was still dark and he did not want anyone to notice his going.

Sadly, I thought this was good at the time. It continues for about four pages before someone else happens upon the scene. However since stumbling upon this tip I have crafted something I think is a bit better:

Custos slipped on his clothes in the dark. He dug his work boots out from under a pile of stinky clothes and a pungent waft of day-old sweat assaulted his nostrils. Custos gagged and stepped backward knocking a chair over. It fell to the floor sending a reverberating crash through the silent room. Custos froze. He listened. His roommates were all breathing heavily, save for one.

“And where do you think you’re going?” asked his best friend Comitis while stifling a yawn.

“Nowhere,” Custos replied while pulling on a boot. “Go back to bed.”

“I’m in bed. You’re the one going somewhere.” Custos rolled his eyes and thrust on his other boot.

“I’ll see you in the fields,” Custos said. Comitis rolled over, groaned and then flopped out of bed. “Um, what are you doing?”

“Going to the woods.” Comitis replied.

“How’d you…”

“I followed you the other day.” Custos was glad his friend sounded somewhat ashamed. “I’ll come to the edge, no further.” Comitis said as his head popped out from the top of his shirt.

“Calm down, I’ve never actually thought of going in.”

“Sure you haven’t.

Though I feel like this is an improvement I will leave it up for you to decided. Please comment in the section below.

Thank you.



Book Proposal Salvo Number 2

This morning was tumultuous, filled with excitement followed by the immediate feeling of regret. Yes, I sent out another book proposal. I am very excited but also had that tightening of the stomach feeling like speeding over a small brief hill in a car.

It’s Away!

I suppose this is how I should feel. If you spent a lot of time on your work (coming up on 8 years now) you should feel this way. After this it’s back to the editing front. I hope to get more chapters done this week. Time will tell.

Sorry for the brief post but I need to get back to work. Thank you to all who encourage and continue to read this blog. I could not have done it without my community. Writing is a solitary process at times. But no writer can get a book published on their own.

Good luck today. Remember your writing goals. Chase after them. Brush that sleep from your eyes and get it done today. Don’t wake up tomorrow with writer’s regret!



A Helpful Writing Contest

Yesterday I posted my 100 word challenge. It comes from the site Julia’s Place (here) and I’d like to mention it to my readers. I believe her contests are tremendously helpful for the writer trying to hone their skill and if you are a writer trying to reach the next level of the craft, sign up and try next week’s prompt.

The 100 word challenge makes you be selective and confines your writing, forcing you to exercise your writing muscles. The premise is, you are given a few words and they need to be included in the 100 words you write. Then follow the instructions to post your link on her site.

See yesterday’s post for an example.

Special thanks to Josh Mosey for bringing them to my attention.

I apologize for the short post, but I have something I am working on.

I will inform you all next week.

Keep Writing – 1000 words this weekend? You can do it!



The Dust Jacket of Calelleth

The Seige of Calelleth

Yesterday (see here), I promised to post the synopsis of my book as I continue to work through sections of my proposal. I am pleased to say I got a bit closer to the place I wanted to be, though there is always a (perhaps obsessive) need for the writer to refine and improve.

I have to admit I was a bit depressed by the perpetual mustering of strength  my synopsis required. I was trying so hard and focusing all of my energy on writing a synopsis that is good and gripping and inviting that I nearly tired of writing altogether.

Now, I know it is only a couple of hundred words but I am proud of them. Proud enough to hope that the thrill of finishing this portion of my proposal will be able to carry me through the next. I also hope it offers a potent enough spell to banish that depressive Bob that rears his ugly head every now and again to tell me I’m not cut out for this. You can go to seed, dear friend. This novelist no longer needs you.

Custos is a Humili – both farmer and volunteer in the Calellethian guard. Though war hasn’t happened for centuries, opportunities abound for a young man to display his talent with the sword and bow during the Harvest Celebration. However, before Custos is able to participate, he is chosen to fill a revered post that becomes available once in a generation: The Guardian, the protector of the future Sage of Calelleth.  

After Hailea is elected Sage in Waiting, but before the people of Calelleth discover they are not alone in the world, she befriends her bodyguard Custos and together they uncover a nasty secret buried beneath the city: a labyrinth of passageways leading to ancient ruins and piles of decayed bodies.

As Custos and Hailea struggle with the gravity of this discovery amid the political squabbles and backstabbings that usually encompass their daily life, an innumerable army arrives at the Calellethian gates demanding to have their captive families released to the utter bewilderment of the city leaders.

Will Custos and Hailea be able to devise a plan to appease the ferocious force in order to save Calelleth? Or will the city of Calelleth and its inept army be obliterated by the consequences of a forgotten past?

Keep Writing.



What Is Your Novel About?

I am having trouble coming up for the synopsis for my book. Funny right? I am the author and even I don’t know what my book is about. It’s not that. It’s just I am having trouble with finding out where my synopsis begins.

My story is one of suppressed histories and nasty secrets that eventually come back to haunt the characters in my book. So, I thought, I should start with the secrets. No, I don’t want to give too much. Should I start with the discovery of the secrets? No, I want that to happen during my novel and not giving it away in its explanation.

I’ve written about twenty drafts of my synopsis. All of them are terrible. I was sitting down in despair because this is a huge part of the proposal. It has to be good enough to capture the agent or reader to spurn them on and create an appetite to continue reading.

My wife eventually said why not start with a quote from my book, something a character says? Or why not start with the beginning of this novel only? I know it seems simple, and it was. Thanks to her I have a great start on description and I will finish it and post it tomorrow.

How about you? Are you having trouble with any particular portion of your proposal? If you’ve written one, what was the most difficult part?

Keep Writing.



When Characters Do What You Do Not Expect

There have been times when a friend has read my manuscript and told me something about my novel that even I did not know was there. It might have been, by pure accident, something clever or something deep and meaningful that I did not even realize I put into the text. This is one of the several reasons why I appreciate the art of writing.

Other things can surprise the writer of a story as well. Unforeseen plot twists, misadventures that add depth to the plot, and characters that at one point meant nothing can become crucial to the story are just a few examples of surprises that await the writer of any story.

During my first draft of the Tale of Calleleth, I wrote a one liner about a character that went something like this:

“Aeneia, a girl who sat three desks over from Custos smiled smugly at the rest of the class, most especially at the students who translated incorrectly. She was a beautiful girl two years younger than Custos but incredibly unbearable.”

Aeneia has a small speaking part thereafter, then disappeared into the netherworld of my story, to be forgotten by all, well at least everyone but me.

Elbow your way into a story

However, this was not the last of Aeneia of Calelleth. She morphed during my second draft and flourished in my third to become someone of dire importance. To be honest I was shocked, not because she was now a pivotal piece of my story, but because it was so natural to include her in the story. It was as if she was always supposed to be there.

How does this happen? How does one character who is inconsequential in the first draft become detrimental not only to book, but future ones?

Even as the writer I do not know. Has this ever happened to you?  Has a character, or some other element in your story, elbowed their way to the surface and demanded to be written?



Writing to Music – Impossible or Essential?

At first I thought the idea preposterous. Trying to articulate a sentence using carefully chosen words, while guitars, drums, and a forlorn singer are echoing rhythmic poetry into your ears at unnecessary loud volumes. It’s like two people trying to go through a turnstile to board a subway from opposite sides. It simply does not work…or does it?

Coincidentally, I have, at least to my feeble understanding of what writing is, composed my best chapters when listening to Frightened Rabbit or one of my favorite classical movie soundtracks. I even finished a draft of a novel while doing it. I am not sure if it is the simple fact that I listened to the same music again and again while writing a particular chapter or novel, but after a while, I simply could not write without music.

There are many places to get music: iTunes, Pandora, but I choose Grooveshark. My friend Josh introduced me to it and its my favorite website for music I’ve discovered thus far. If you have other places (legal domains only please) do share.

I often write to Frightened Rabbit‘s live album Liver!Lung!FR! Why? I’m not sure exactly. While their music may be sometimes over the line, they remind me of Mumford & Sons only a bit more, well, English.

The soundtrack to Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen has been a favorite. The single movie of the trilogy that I did watch, I did not like. But the soundtrack to Transformer 2: Revenge of the Fallen help me finish my latest draft on The Tale of Calelleth. Why? The noble trumpets made me think of a cavalry charge and self-sacrifice, two events incorporated at the end of my book.

The soundtrack to War Horse is my new favorite. I have started my next novel which takes places at Keuka Lake in upstate New York. Its a tremendously verdant area, filled with green mountains, groves and groves of trees, and deep mysterious lakes. It is also about friendship between two kids who meet there one summer and an event that changes them forever. I hear this in the music. I can imagine the films’ landscape while listening to the soundtrack and it combines a feast of imagery that fuels my writing.

Regardless of what I listen too it must either fit the story or scene. It can also be the a random album just like Frightened Rabbit. However, I could never write about something sad while listening to a song blazing at a furious pace. For that I must have something melancholy, striking a chord, releasing a flood of mental images that pours from my finger tips and onto the page.

How about you? What music do you listen to when you write, if any? Do you find it too distracting?