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In the Fall of 2017, I had a bizarre dream about being shot at while golfing. And it seemed so real with the sound of bullets whizzing past me. Except they weren't visible bullets. This dream gave me an idea about a high school golf hack who tried to improve his golf game, but ended up saving his country instead. Thus, my first fictional short story, "Brutal Hackage" was born.
I started typing away, and 5000 words later got a jumbled up story that was far too lengthy. Thanks to several facebook friends and other author/editors, I decided to use "The Snowflake Method" of organizing (read: clarifying) this story. If you've never heard of this method a quick internet search will list several sights. Basically you structure your story around a beginning ("setting the stage"), conflict(s) leading to climax, and ending with solution or resolve. It's not officially termed that way, but that's my take from it. From the three points you expand you story, letting it branch out into arms of a snowflake and there you go.
I didn't use it for either of my novels, because I didn't know about it, and frankly I was always against structure (other than a basic outline). My stories drove themselves albeit the main plot got twisted or deflected by other subplots. Picture a bumper car track with the main plot driving its course and getting bumped and spun about by other bumper cars. Hey, I could be famous with a new, "Bumper Car Writing Method."
Anyway, applying The Snowflake Method got "Brutal Hackage" shorter and clearer. I entered it in several contests. I accidentally sent a 3rd draft to one contest, and it won first place in the "unpublished" division. Not certain if I had an competition, but I know that first place is never instantly awarded unless judged so by a panel. So I decided to polish it up further and enter more contests. Stay tuned on that.
One last thought about "The Snowflake Method": it enabled me to shorten my story, just by breaking an arm of the snowflake without losing my main plot. For example I needed to reduce my final story by 750 words for a particular contest. I was able to condense my beginning a little while keeping conflict and resolve fairly unchanged. I lost a bit of sight, sound, smell, feel, etc. But the plot was sound.
In December 2017, "The Catholic School from Hell" won first place in the Wild Card category in the Great Midwest Book Festival (Chicago). I had polished up the original version from November. The Wild Card category includes (but not limited to) short stories, poems, as well as essays. So, I had beat out several other entries of different literary forms.
In November 2017, "The Catholic School from Hell," a personal narrative essay (about 4000 wds.), took second place in the Arizona Authors Association annual literary contest. It was my second attempt at personal narratives.
My first attempt, "Getting Primal on Schnebly Hill," lost two years in a row, but I think the association judges didn't appreciate humorous subjects. Several critiques appreciated the humor, but for some reason, the top three winners had dystopia or bizarre themes.
My creative writing instructor suggested I use darker themes. Memories from elementary school totally fit that tone, so off I went composing the deepest darkest most painful period of my childhood. Having facebook friends from that era also helped. The stories I got (besides my own) were equally horrifying.
The judges obviously liked the subject. Two out of three critiques were immensely favorable. The unfavorable one scored me 45 out of 100. It probably came from my third grade teacher, Sr. Mary Terrible (name changed to protect the innocent).
In November 2017, Royal Dragonfly Book Contest awarded "Voiceless Whispers" first place in "Young Adult Fiction." The cover design (by Dean Sylvia) was awarded "Honorary Mention." Much thanks to Dean for such an amazing, colorful and deeply seated hints in his depiction. The Royal Dragonfly Contest is part of a family of book awards. For more info go to: Story Monsters Book Contests
On September 23, 2017, The New Mexico-Arizona Co-Op emailed a list of finalists in their 2017 Book Contest. Voiceless Whispers was listed for "Young Adult Book" and "Best Cover Design (<6"X9"). For more info: Finalist List for NM-AZ Book Contest
January 31 - Febuary 2, 2016: My First Hike into the Grand Canyon!
This is our group at "the finish line" after a grueling ascent from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I'm in the back row, second from the right, wearing a tan hat. We had hiked down to Phantom Ranch and stayed 2 nights in a 10-person cabin. On the morning of our ascent, a cold front reduced the temperature in "the basement" to 25°F. Not too bad, but it got colder as we ascended. The final 3 miles were the coldest, most snow-covered. The mules trains got through, but did little to clear the trail. Our pace was sluggish, about 40 minutes/mile. Notice the crampons worn by Elaine, the lady in front of the sign. We all wore 'em and used hiking poles to maintain traction. The temperature at the top was 15°F! The Author section contains an account of my descent to the Phantom Ranch.
May 28, 2013:
Much editing for "Voiceless Whispers." I'm at 520 pages and would like to get down below 500. Must. Have. Quality. Over. Quantity (I also need to put more words into my sentences, snark snark)!
March 9, 2013:
Had a great meeting with our critique group this morning. Many great ideas from amazing members. If you're ever thinking of becoming a published author, form a critique group. Your members do NOT have to share the genre in which you write. They all have experiences, knowledge and perspectives that are still useful!
March 8, 2013:
This week has been very busy for writing, editing and presenting!
Thanks to Abraham Lincoln Traditional School for allowing me to present my first book, to the 6th, 7th and 8th Graders on Friday, March 1. It was my first experience with a SmartBoard, and thanks to the ALTS librarians for guiding me through its operation. The day before, my daughter and I rehearsed at Sts. Simon and Jude Library, but she was more interested in upgrading my PowerPoint Slides than teaching me the functions of the SmartBoard. Turns out the SmartBoard at SSJ operated differently from the one at ALTS anyway.
So, a big shout out to the ALTS students. You were a great audience, and I learned a great deal about your interests. Several of the students asked about my book going into a movie. When I first published the book in 2010, several students thought my book should be a movie, too. This was pre-The Hunger Games Movie, and we all know how well that book-based movie did!
Hopefully when my book breaks out into the mainstream, some Hollywood or independent producer will contact me about screenwriting for The Azurite Encounter. And when they do, you all will be the first to know RIGHT HERE!
ALTS' science teacher is teaching mineralogy to his 7th grade class, and they were very interested in the azurite nuggets as well as the polished stone that I passed around. It makes my presentation more interesting when they can look at and feel a stone that is native to Arizona (which I did on purpose).
'Tis the season for cold weather, snow, and Santa Claus. The revised edition of The Azurite Encounter is now available from the online retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). The 2nd edition is a much easier read for the junior highers. Of course the plot, theme, and characters remained the same (or perhaps improved!). This would be a perfect holiday gift for your junior high or older reader.
Thanks to all who stopped by the Deer Valley Airport Craft Fair held December 2nd. It was a great day selling books next to one of the area's best Sunday brunch buffets!
November 2012 News
The Azurite Encounter was selected as a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards! The winner was announced during the awards banquet in Albuquerque, NM on November 16. Needless to say I placed 2nd (or 3rd or 4th or...you get the idea); I wasn't the winner. But that's OK; I am proud to be able to have my book listed and announced to a great group of authors and publishers.
Some of the judges were pretty harsh. A few of them did not appreciate my writing style (the narrations, the AZ facts of history and geology I was describing, etc.) but that's OK, too; you can't please everyone. One judge gave me a super high rating and called it "unusually good." I am totally appreciative to each judge. They give me great ideas of how to make a good book even greater.
October 2012 News
10/8/12: Thanks to Sedona Public Library and Jeri Castronova for a wonderful "Read a Lot" event last Saturday (Oct. 6). Several authors read from their published works or manuscripts. They were quite diverse and ALL were interesting.
I chose to read the literary banter from Chapter XIII. It went quite smoothly thanks to a fellow AZ Authors Association member (and neighbor), Ms. Barb. She held up the book that pertained to the quote I read. Luckily Macbeth (Shakespeare) and Mystery of the Blue Train (Christie) were thin paperbacks, and she had no problem holding each up. But Dickens A Tale of Two Cities and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare were a bit heavier, so Ms. Barb had quite a work-out. Thanks, Ms. Barb!
Usually questions were held until the end of each author's read, but there was so much interest in my presentation that the authors asked all sorts of questions in between the sections that I read. And that's OK, for me because I like to be interactive with my audience.
10/7/12: Thanks to the Cholla Library (10050 E. Metro Parkway, Phoenix) and the AZ Authors Association for sponsoring the "Read a Lot" event this past Saturday. It was fun for me to present snippets from "The Azurite Encounter" as well as learn of other local authors' work. Wished I could have stayed longer, but I had to play taxidriver for a few family events.
Got more ideas about sprucing up my presentation for the Sedona "Read a Lot" event--this coming Saturday, October 6 (I am more of a presenter than a reader anyway). I want to animate it more. I really like the Jimmy Fallon style of presentation even though I can't sing. Hopefully there won't be a toddler in the audience throwing cheerios at me either.
With Mr. Fallon in mind I'd like to animate the literary banter I used in Chapter XIII, where Dominique, Taylor, Desiree were playing a game of literary banter, using their favorite authors:
Shakespeare: "Is this a dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand?
Dickens: "Oh, don't cut my throat, Sir...pray don't do it, sir!
Agatha Christie: "Have no fears, I will discover the truth."
Shakespeare: "I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear the noise?"
Dickens: "Hold that noise...or I'll cut your head off!"
Agatha Christie: "You agree, Monsieur, with this view?"
Shakespeare: "I dare do all that may become a man; who dares do more is none."
Dickens: "What's in the bottle, boy?"
Agatha Christie: "No gentleman is happy unless he drinks something with his meal."
Shakespeare: "What three things does drink especially provoke?"
Agatha Christie: "The heartaches, the despairs, the jealousies."
(Loud buzzer sound---Agatha Christie was quoted out of order. Shakespeare quote repeated)
Shakespeare: "What three things does drink expecially provoke?"
Dickens: "...ooze and slime and other dregs of tide." (Game over; everybody wins)
Keeping Mr. Fallon in mind, I wish to further animate this banter by having all three classic books in front of me, so that I can hold up each book while quoting from it. I even plan on holding up the book that is quoted out of order. Now I don't have an electronic buzzer, unless I can find one on my smartphone. Still, I could always use my own voice, but I don't want to knock my audience from their seats (should they be sleeping at this part, lol)!
As of Monday, December 19, 2011 I have completed 356 pages of Voiceless Whispers (formerly A Shaman Unforeseen). I've already employed a few junior editors to start correcting the manuscript. Just when I tied up a loose end I formed two more! So I anticipate everything coming together in 10-12 more pages.
Ever since The Azurite Encounter has been published, I have been working on this sequel because the original story left so many loose ends.
Is the hidden civilization still alive and well? Has Mr. Roeser discovered them yet?
Has Desiree moved past her grandfather's death? Has she kept the Azurite Tribe (Taqa's extended family) a secret, like she promised?
What happens to Royce during his field trip to the Grand Canyon?