Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Style/Voice change...

Let's go to Skullhaven today. I've revised the first chapter. I wanted to change the voice and try to add a slightly darker, more depressing, scarier feel to it. I hope I've accomplished my objective. Let me know what you think.

CHAPTER ONE – Saturday, October 18

Lilly was five years old when her mother kissed her goodbye and told her she would be right back.

Right back, she said.

But her mother didn’t come right back.

She didn’t come back the next day, or the next. And even though Lilly kept asking everyone where her mother was, no one could tell her, because no one knew what had become of her. Lilly wondered what she had done wrong.

When her mother didn’t come back, Lilly was sent to the orphanage. Not to visit. To live there. At Skullhaven. When she had first arrived, Lilly spent her time sitting by the big living room window. Watching. She watched the cars drive past on the highway. Hoping. And wishing one of them would turn into the gravel drive and her mother would be inside it. But she never was. Never was.

Although her mother never came back, Lilly never stopped hoping. After a year or so had passed, she stopped sitting by the window as often. Eventually, she stopped sitting there altogether. And although she didn’t sit by the window any longer, her heart would race when she heard the sound of car tires crunching on the gravel drive. Could it be? She would rush to the window to see who it was. But it was never the person she was waiting for. And wishing for.

Lilly had been at Skullhaven for five years now. She spent her days thinking about a happier time that faded from her memory a little more as each day passed. Then night came — sneaking slowly around the house, covering everything with its dark blanket. Nights were much worse.
On a chilly October evening, Lilly was in bed in her small upstairs bedroom. Even though it was after midnight, she was not sleeping. Couldn’t sleep. She stared at her bedroom window. Listening. The night sounds were coming.

Outside. The heavy metal chains of the old swings squeaked as the night wind pushed the wooden seats. Empty seats. Lilly could hear other sounds, too. Some of them were coming from inside. From the hallway. From behind the closet door. It was an old house — not a charmingly old house, or a quaint old house — but simply a worn out old house. Tired. A tired old house that made its own noises. Especially after dark.

Besides the Chapel, the house was all that remained of St. Bernadette’s Mission. The Church had made the decision long ago to convert it to an orphanage. For years, the house was alive. The sounds of children gave it life. Time passed. Those children moved away. Moved away to start new lives with their new families — all except for Lilly White. She was the only child living there now, along with Sister Rosemary and Sister Carmen.

If you had not known she was there, you might have missed her entirely, for Lilly was quite small for her age. She did not take up much space in her bed — especially when she tried to be as tiny as possible, as she was now trying to do. She had pulled her covers up and tucked them securely under her chin, covering as much of her body as possible, including some of her long, mousy-brown hair.

Lilly folded her arms on her chest beneath the covers. She pressed her legs together with her toes pointing straight forward toward the foot of the bed. No body parts were dangling over the edge, because she was not sure what might be under there. Her quick, nervous glance to check under the bed before turning out her lamp had revealed nothing more sinister than a family of harmless dust bunnies.

When you’re only ten years old, you never know what type of night creature might have slithered across the floor after the lamp was turned off and the shadows had crept out again from the corners of your imagination. Horrible. Hungry. Almost anything might be lurking under there. Waiting. Waiting patiently for a finger or a toe to slip over the edge. A quick bite would leave nothing behind. Nothing but a gushing, bloody stump.

Lightning. Lilly blinked her pale, blue eyes each time it exploded. When it flashed, she saw the gnarled limbs of the old maple tree just outside her window. She loved the old tree, usually. In the sunshine of a bright summer morning, it was majestic. Friendly. But on a stormy autumn night, such as this one, the branches took on a grotesque appearance like bony arms and twisted fingers.

Groaning. She heard the heavy limbs swaying slowly in the wind. The sound came through the window and into Lilly’s ears. It was like old men mumbling. Mumbling so that she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Sometimes a strong gust would send a different sound through the window. Like old women. Whispering their secrets. After each lightning flash, the crack and rumble of the thunder overpowered the voices, but it was only temporary. They returned when the thunder subsided.

The tattered bedspread moved a tiny bit when her small fingers felt toward her neck to find the cross Sister Carmen had given her.

“Please, please, don’t let anything hurt me. Please,” she whispered.

There was much to be afraid of on such a night as this. But her biggest fear was what she had seen outside her window the night before. The lady. She wondered if she was there now. She remembered the misty image. The white dress. Standing beneath the maple tree and staring. Staring up at her bedroom window.

It was scary not knowing who the lady was or why she had been standing there. She might be there now. Staring at her window. Right now. Lilly considered, only for a moment, going to the window to check. She decided against it. It was better not to know.

If Lilly had gotten out of bed and gone to the window, her fears would have been relieved somewhat. She would not have seen the lady on this particular night. The reason she wouldn’t have seen her was because the lady, or what remained of her, was on the other side of the highway. In Skullhaven Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Done and Done!

I'm a bit late in posting this. I actually passed the 50,000-word mark on November 10th. I've been spending my time since then doing the first edit. My novel, CANNIBAL ISLAND, wound up being 57,000 words. After the first edit, it shed a little over 1,000 of those previously beautiful words and is now down to just a little over 56,000.

To be honest, this is my first attempt at a boy-focused adventure novel, and, if I do say so myself, it's not bad. I'm hoping an agent will find it of interest and offer representation so young readers can join Richard on his quest for the gold.

Just for fun, I'm going to paste my query letter below and see if I get any comments, suggestions, encouragement, or criticisms. Feel free to express your opinion.

Dear Agent:

Check into your turn-of-the-century cabin aboard The Seahorse for a dangerous voyage to CANNIBAL ISLAND, a Young Adult Steampunk Adventure that will take you from England to Peru in 56,000 words, complete with a Light Emitting Oscillator and Perpetual Matches.

When the old man with the monkey tells Richard Armstrong about the treasure, eavesdropping and oily-haired dirigible owner Hans Von Hisle is listening. Hans tricks Richard’s girlfriend, Wren Remington, into getting on the dirigible with him and beats Richard to the island. It’s a pretty place — complete with sharks and cannibals.

If the cannibals weren’t so intrigued by Wren’s beauty, she might be hanging in the underground chamber by now with her eyes burned out and another limb missing each time dinner is prepared. Of course, she has to spend a little time on the Sacrificial Altar first.

Although blinded by her beauty, these cannibals are a crafty little bunch. When Richard ventures into the underground chamber to rescue Wren, he falls into their clever trap. Darkness surrounds him as the poison darts start flying, and courage is the only weapon Richard has left. It’s going to take more than courage to escape when the cannibals push the stone lever and set the ancient mechanism in motion.

I would be happy to send sample chapters or the full manuscript for your consideration.

Thank you and I look forward to your reply.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 3

Wow! After the third day, my Nano novel just crossed the 20,000 word mark. I'm so amazed. I think the reason is because I'm really enjoying writing this Steampunk genre. My adventurers are still steaming down the coast of Europe. Two more chapters until the hit Dakar and head southwesterly across the Atlantic toward South America.

No editing is being done right now. That comes in December. The key to success is to just keep writing, and writing, and writing, kind of like the Energizer Bunny.

I hope Nugget gets some fruit in the next chapter. Poor litle thing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2nd Day of Nano

I'm pleased to report that my Nano project is progressing. I'm really enjoying the story that's taking place right before my eyes. The plot's good, the characters are developing, and I'm currently up to 13,878 words, which is way ahead of schedule. My only problem is that I want to back and start editing it. But that is verboten.

Here's an idea that you might find helpful.

When I begin a story I have no idea who the characters are. But as I get into it, I start to get a feel for them and for their appearance. I picture actors playing their parts. In fact, I take it one step further and find photos of the actors on the Internet and print them out with character names typed on them. I also pick a setting. Since this novel is written in the Steampunk style, I've chosen Southampton, England as the initial setting. But we'll be doing some traveling when the adventure gets under way.

Here's what my wall curently contains:

Brad Pitt is Richard Armstrong, a fourteen year old orphan whose father died recently leaving him a huge fortune, an estate, and sufficient hired help to run it.

Helen Hunt is Wren Remington. She is the love interest of Richard.

Sean Connery is Angus Callahan, who actually started this whole adventure by bringing a map into the mix that leads to an unimaginable treasure.

Rutger Hauer is Werner Von Hisle. Werner is a bad guy, and he owns a dirigible manufacturing plant in Porstmouth, England.

Tom Cruise play Werner's son, Hans Von Hisle. He's a bad guy also and an eavesdropping snitch who finds out what's going on and tells his father.

Kuko is played by Jackie Chan. He's Richard's assistant. A good guy who can take care of himself in close quarters.

There are also a bunch of pygmy cannibals who live on the island our adventurers are heading for. They don't have significant parts, so I just imagine what they look like.

It's very helpful.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nano Story Ideas...

Do you need a jump start? Want to enter the Nanowrimo but can't come up with a story idea? Well, here's a thought to get you going. If you Google "Plot Generator" you'll find several options form which to choose. Some are fantasy, some are mystery, some are general.

Give it a try. Maybe one will strike your fancy and you'll be on your way to fame and fortune.

Good luck! and keep writing.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I'm still thinking about Steampunk for my Nano project. I may write something involving an island and some lost gold. Not certain yet. Any ideas for a plotline? Please comment and let me know what you're thinking.

And if you're a writer wanting to write your first (or second) novel, be sure to enter the Nanowrimo this year. It might give you the opportunity to actually get that story out of your head and on the printed page.

Comments are always welcome. (It's lets me know people are reading this stuff.)

Friday, October 30, 2009


Those of you who don't know me may be interested to learn that I've been writing since I was in elementary school — and that much longer ago than I care to admit. Fortunately, my style and vocabulary have changed (I hope!) since completing my first short story, Flipper the Fawn, back in Miss Carmichael's third grade class at Wachter Elementary School in Independence, Missouri.

Since then, and since I began taking writing more seriously, my primary area of interest has been in the Fantasy genre, targeted toward the middle grade reader. So far, I've written four novels in that genre of approximately 40,000 words each. All four of those novels are still seeking a friendly agent to take them to the public, who will most certainly fall in love with them in a short period of time.

I've only recently acquired a significant interest in a relatively new sub-genre of fantasy and science fiction called Steampunk. What's that, you ask? Let me try to explain it as I understand it.

Typically, a work classified as Steampunk will be set in the 19th century, usually in Victorian England (or Edwardian sometimes). Steampunk can have some, or all, of the elements of fantasy and/or science fiction. But there's something special about it that differentiates it from the mainstream in those genres. You'll find a lot of gadgetry that was common in that era, i.e., steam-powered devices or clockwork mechanisms. Generally these novels take place prior to the Edisonade adventures following the advent of electricity. It's not unusual to find modes of transportation such as trains, dirigibles or submarines.

To give you an example, imagine the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, including The Time Machine and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. More recently, I would classify Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy in the Steampunk arena. By the way, if you haven't read the trilogy, they're excellent. If I've piqued your interest, and if you'd like more information, here's an excellent SITE that will enlighten you on more of the elements involved.

In many Steampunk novels, there is an inventor or a character who is obviously a genius in matters scientific, mechanical or chemical. This character may wind up being the protagonist or, just as easily, the villain of the story. I find it of great interest, and I'm thinking about trying my hand at it.

How about you? Have you read any recent Steampunk novels? Are you writing one now? Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you're up to.


In less than 24 hours, over 100,000 writers will begin the journey known as NanoWrimo, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month. It takes guts to commit to this undertaking. Will you be a part of it?

If you've always known that you have the Great American Novel inside you, this is your opportunity to let it out for the world to see. Except for the stress you may encounter trying to come up with a story, characters, a plot, etc., it costs you nothing. There is no charge, other than the drain it will create on your creative juices. But you've got plenty of those, right? All you have to do to be a winner is to come up with 50,000 words that contain the great story you know you have inside your head. Piece of cake, right?

And there's help along the way including writing groups, discouragment counselors, and people who feel your pain because they're going through the same thing. Misery loves company, right? Right!

So, what are you waiting for? If you've always wanted to write a book, this is your chance to do it along with thousands of others who have always had the same goal. To find out more, visit the NANOWRIMO site and get signed up. (It's free. Remember?) Then at midnight EDT on October 31, start hitting those computer keys and crank out those words that could lead you to publication. You never know what might happen. Createspace (from Amazon) also has a great prize of a published copy of your book if you succeed in writing those 50,000 words.

Put on your creative hats and get ready. Nano is coming soon. If you're entering this year, leave a comment (below) and we'll root you on to the finish line. You can do it!