Tag Archives: writing

Sean’s File: King of a Lesser Hill

Thinking must precede writing done well. I have been accused of doing too much of the former and not enough of the latter, though in my mind things have settled out just as intended on a higher level. Writers, along with everyone inspired, recognize the experience of being set to a preordained purpose. So it is here at Single Candle Press approaching September 24, 2016. The date will be the official release of Novel8/Sean3, King of a Lesser Hill.

KLH225x337DSSean’s third is set in 1995, specifically the turbulent time of the Bosnian Civil War immediately prior to the lifting of the siege of Sarajevo. This intermediate title in Sean’s File is another look at the making of the man who has become for many their favorite of my characters. The Daniel Sean Ritter we met under one of his many pseudonyms in my debut novel—quiet, unassuming, settled in the philosophy supporting his duty, and very deadly—appeared after living twenty years of a serviceman’s life. I felt compelled from the beginning to discover the rest of his story.

Operation Naji and Romeo Down: A Short Story started that, and his third title fills in more blanks. His time line designated the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a waypoint. Little did I know how researching Lesser Hill would affect me. KLH will publish with a trigger warning, my first to do so:

*This novel portrays acts of atrocity during the Bosnian Civil War of the 1990s. Though presented with sensitivity, some scenes might prove disturbing to survivors of conflict and/or violence against women.

The media called it ethnic cleansing, which is a sanitizing phrase for the worst of what opposed demographics of our species choose to do to each other. It is difficult to see good people suffer. It’s a personal challenge to write, and might be more than some care to read. But such things happen in life, as do the violence, profanities, and sexual situations which have caused some readers problems in my fiction.

Some react with avoidance, others with criticism. The folk I hope can appreciate what I am doing are ones who can encounter such themes without shying away. Lessons as provided only by a story from trying times provide the worthwhile payload for Lesser Hill.

Ritter’s novels, like Jon Anthony’s, are about the people he encounters as much as they are about the man himself. Terrence Bain Bradley, a fixture in my Boone’s File novels, appears here in his capacity as a young CIA analyst. Likewise, you will meet fledgling Bosnian journalist Lucia Dorotea Crnjak, whose efforts at maintaining her written accounts give us deep insight into her bright, brave soul.

“There must be some difference between what they are and what we become, or it no longer matters who wins,” Luci observes. The events portrayed in my fiction are a means to an end, which is the small goal of going forward with my readers from then on. Conflict is a vital element of fiction done well, and a story’s antagonists need to contrast through their depravity the virtues one hopes will carry the day. Faith says it is the same everywhere, though sometimes our perspective might not be farsighted enough to provide that assurance. May it be so always.

“I write so that people do not forget what happened,” Luci also says. So do I. King of a Lesser Hill was a tough novel to produce, a challenge to edit, and doubtless will be equally difficult for some to read. But we cannot shy away from observing the ugliness of inhumane choices and be the source of wisdom and means for correction a fallen world needs.

Civilized folk cannot be derelict in their duty to such an extent without enabling insufferable decline. As more people yield ground faith should have them contest, it is occupied by the enemy. The same dynamic occurs in nations, communities, congregations, and individuals.

The fire having consumed so much of 1995 Bosnia could rekindle in the United States of the near future. Absorbing the lesson of the world’s late intervention there is our challenge today as our polarized nation debates its future. It must matter which side wins here also, as it did for Luci and Sean in King of a Lesser Hill. I can only hope you will read the novel and agree.

Choose to love, -DA

Arcs

It would be great from a business perspective if my characters stayed static throughout the course of a long series of novels. Adventure after adventure could follow in the endless timeline of a cast from whom the audience knew just what to expect. From the standpoint of realism and plausibility, of course, that’s not how things happen in the Dale Amidei universe.

Jon’s Trilogy is an example. His three titles took things, it seemed to me, as far as the character was going to go. When they finished, I had the distinct impression it was time to let Doctor Jon go back to a normal life … as normal as it could be remaining in association with Deborah Vosse, Daniel Sean Ritter, and eventually Boone, anyway. Those are different stories and ones we will address here eventually, God willing.

Ritter has Sean’s File, which is the man’s story from age nine onward. Growth there is a natural part of his continuing exposition. Portraying the change of the same person across years is possibly a factor leading to many readers designating him as their favorite character. That the man appears in every one of my novels to date likely says something about my personal attachment to the Colonel as well.

Boone’s File was meant to be a story of change from the beginning, where perhaps previously it was engineered out of a commitment to plausibility. My bio has always stated that I write in the real world, with real-world language and violence (and, when appropriate to the storyline, sexual situations). Constructing tales where the reader may easily suspend disbelief means persons appearing therein will change and grow. Every good guideline for storytelling says as much.

OLSJ_225x337DSWith Boone’s third on the horizon, I’m able to reflect on her very satisfying development. She has character and romance arcs spanning the six novels in which she appears and which will, again if we are so blessed, be brought to market over the course of the next three years or so. Writing as I have has made her tangible for me, and the results comprise a wholeness I am so glad to have been allowed to witness before anyone else.

Change should be embraced, not feared. In Professor Tolkien’s universe, the great failing of the rulers of Men in Numenor was the inability to accept their limited span. They envied the Uttermost West its Undying Lands, and so eventually brought ruin on themselves. As usual, though he denied any intent of allegory, with that theme J.R.R. Tolkien was portraying the essential link between valid faith and character.

The philosophy necessarily entails accepting limitations for one’s characters as well. They will not operate at a peak level of efficiency through thirty novels. They cannot dispatch endless numbers of villains without paying the price of self-doubt and conscience. They are unable to avoid necessary pain inherent in living well. Embraced, such seems to have only produced added dimension to my work.

My virtual people seem real to me because they have experienced stages of personal development I have observed in others, in persons both characterized and actual. From feedback so far, it seems others value the same effect to an even greater extent.

Boone’s third, One Last Scent of Jasmine, is now preparing to publish next month. The project has remained eminently satisfying throughout the process of bringing it forward. My longest novel prior to The Anvil of the Craftsman’s Revised and Extended Edition, it is, as described by the Editress, an amazing weave compiled into a great ending.

Boone’s story goes on as of this writing, of course, but it will not always. I know it, and she knows it. Though neither of us has been graced with having seen that ending yet, it will be the process of living through to the end which neither of us takes for granted or fears in the least. This, as Tolkien intimated so well, is what the Powers require of the faithful, lest we lose vital hope to futile delusion whispering the world is otherwise.

Choose to Love, -DA

NANOWRIMO, or Why You’ve Not Seen Your Writer Friend

The hammering sound you hear is the pounding of keys since the midnight hour of November 1, 2015. It’s National Novel Writing Month: NANOWRIMO, or simply NANO. The goal is to write a novel of 50,000 words minimum during the next 30 days, and that’s a notable accomplishment for anyone with any semblance of a life.

NANO sets a number of good habits. It practically disallows “pantsing,” for one thing. Most participants will spend October, at least, preparing an outline for their work. Personally, I can’t imagine writing any other way. There is plenty of opportunity in even an extensive outline for spontaneous creativity to occur. One must know where one is and where one is going, otherwise one does not journey, but wanders. There’s little enough time in life for purposeful work, much less meandering around the rim of an unfillable plot hole.

The contest enforces writing discipline, and discipline is a good thing. Commitment is a wonderful virtue. The problem with a rigid allocation of time to given activity is the writer missing other, essential aspects of his or her life. Those moments are not only irreplaceable, but go into making writers who they are. In essence, one’s life is what fuels writing a worthwhile piece in the first place.

When I was working on my first novel, The Anvil of the Craftsman, G. Gordon Kitty would come into the den and tap my leg to come sit with him on the Big Red Chair across from the fireplace. Those were special moments, but I often put him off for the sake of my word count. I didn’t know then it would be the last year of his life. Believe me when I say you don’t want to know how such a mistake feels.

Writers generally are artists. Largely they are insecure, obsessed idealists waging a battle where they lead a contingent of How Things Should Be while surrounded by the dark host of How Things Are. Like hard work and commitment, passion and idealism are generally good things, depending on the validity of one’s perspective and values. But all of those virtues, left to grow unrestrained, promote obsession … and that is less than healthy.

No one wants to hear the likelihood of one’s great effort going to waste, but no endeavor offers a better chance of just that than writing fiction. To have produced a solid novel is something of which one can and should be proud. Doing so can and has led to a great deal of acclaim and success, but those wonder stories are the experiences of outliers. So are the accounts of lottery winners, and both industries count on the Skinnerian appeal of intermittent reward aided by publicity. Don’t be afraid to dream, but accept that the world loves the taste of a really sweet one.

In the end, I can’t help but think that NANO does more harm than good. It doesn’t matter if your novel reaches The End by November 30. It matters a great deal if it is a worthwhile project, if it adds satisfaction to your life in having produced the thing, and that it will stay with your readers as you and they go forward together.

This where where the magic in writing is found, not in stress and deadlines and setting oneself up to fail through setting an artificial timeframe defining victory or defeat. The end product is the thing, and whether it arrives n November or December or next year matters not at all. These works will outlast us. I encourage you to give yours its due.

It’s better to write well than quickly. It’s essential to let the work cool and return for second and subsequent drafts. It should be mandatory that it be edited by a set of eyes other than your own and proofread by a third party who has not been part of production prior to that point.

But NANOWRIMO can be where all that starts. If you’ve prepared well and so choose, I wish you good luck. If you’ve attended your other duties, responsibilities, and all else life offers you first, you should be writing.

Choose to Love, -DA

*****

OLSJ_225x337DSIn production news, Boone’s third, One Last Scent of Jasmine, has passed midpoint in primary editing and remains on schedule to appear this winter. My first, The Anvil of the Craftsman, recently garnered five-star review No.100. If you’ve not had a look at the Revised and Expanded Edition, I hope you’ll take time to enjoy the Bonus Chapter. Anvil remains a free download where possible, and inexpensive as allowed everywhere else.

Tolkien for the thirty-third time

I was introduced to the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien by my 5th grade reading teacher, Mrs. Rougemont. We read The Hobbit aloud, painfully enduring others who pronounced the w in sword and committed other acts of disinterested, semi-literate mediocrity.

That was the 1970s. A love of words had already been discovered. The craft, you see, provided a place to go. When one is a child, and his father is gone, and one lives ten miles from the middle of nowhere surrounded by people incapable of projecting value or love, having a place to go was vital. It was, at the time, part of what I did to survive long winters.

I still have those original mass-market paperbacks. They are tattered, broken, since-retired remnants of the fresh copies a young man bought with allowance money. The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and of course the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings were read many times. Enough times, in fact, as it takes for such a copy to totter on the verge of disintegration.

The Perimeter would be incomplete without its library, even pared down as it is through many moves. Tolkien’s classics remain, now in hardcover, as the Editress is also a fan. She actually had not encountered the stories until the release of Peter Jackson’s movies, and furthermore exercised enough discipline to not outrun the films as they released, though she read up to the point as soon as possible afterward.

Tolkien, as he discussed in the forward of the Houghton Mifflin edition I have recently finished again, never intended to present allegory. His fantasy, the man insisted, had no bearing on the real world. Were that true, I suspect the work would not have endured to the extent it did. The Professor in actuality had quite a lot to say about our state of affairs. All writers do, in their own idiom.

Middle Earth, populated by elves, trolls, orcs, dwarves, Men, Hobbits and others, was born to a purpose in the mind of a genius. I believe, after a short lifetime of reflection, it to be a message and a simple one, unseen if unsought as so many are. Perhaps it was even unconscious as the man wrote. Character and faith are inseparable and vital attributes of a righteous mind.

It’s another law in a universe of actualities. Things are as they are. That which is true has always been true, and will ever remain. The Fourth Age of Middle Earth arrived, and Tolkien’s world sometime after merged with our own. Much that was in his world never was, yet is still. We yet have the challenges posed by evil and our options in acting where we find ourselves, right now, today. The choices remain to serve ourselves entirely, or trust, as Tolkien wrote, that Powers work in the world besides the will of the enemy.

We’ve no elves, but there are others just as fair and perilous if not possessed of the wisdom of the Eldar. No goblins, though in cases it can be argued certain communities are close enough to an orc-hold for comparisons to be drawn. Mordor no longer exists, but we have resurgent Marxism and its child plague of liberal elitism; each of those possesses an enduring diabolic ambition to subject all mankind to its own Darkness.

The race of Men maintains its weakness in the face of mortality. We’re told to have faith and given a limited lifespan to choose our loyalties, set our goals, and discern our purpose in the context of a much larger story. We can, after our own fashion, look west as did Faramir to Numenor that was, Elvenhome that is, and Undying Lands and remember.

We instead look up, and apply Tolkien’s unspoken premise to a faith wonderfully real. The long ages God has wrought in His relationship with children on Earth go on. We have, as my character Jon Anthony presented it, a choice between love and hate, with only indifference as a temporary hiding place before our circumstance forces one or the other. We’ve the long history and testimony of those many who’ve encountered Him, whose accounts are preserved by Providence every bit as well as were records in the archives of Minas Tirith. All allow a reasoned faith to conclude there are, beyond the gray curtain of this world, white shores and a far green country under a swift sunrise.

To discover character and faith, vital and inseparable, is the primary purpose of a living soul. To Realize one’s need sparks the tinder which inflames Exploration for truth. To Accept God’s gift of forgiveness and afterward Live what one believes makes one R.E.A.L. That is a good place to be before things “Get Real.”

These days, as they were through the ages of Middle Earth, are here to bless us or build us, but not to break us. We are made of God Stuff and will not be undone, to our eternal joy or peril. It’s time to choose whom we serve, and ever has been.

Choose to Love, -DA

*****

OLSJ_225x337DSIn production news, Boone Hildebrandt’s third, One Last Scent of Jasmine, stands 43% complete in primary editing. Her contest with elements of our own government remains on schedule to appear this winter, God willing, likewise to be followed by the next volume in Sean’s File, King of a Lesser Hill.

Characters in a Godless Universe

Before writing, one reads first, of course. After writing and further developing the skills needed to do it well, however, reading is never quite the same. That epiphany is a seed of thought especially relating to what I write, which is fiction from the perspective of a conservative and a Christian.

Characters I encounter in the writing of others—nearly universally now—seem to have little regard for the spiritual aspects of their existence. Plot lines develop, conflict is engaged, and crescendos pass … often without any soul-searching, spark of enlightenment, or flashes of revelation in the minds of the people with whom we travel through their story. The result can be constructed as well as fiction can get, be presented in flawless elegance, and yet for me is one notch away from truly satisfying … because an element of completeness is missing.

When someone asks what my fiction is “about,” the short answer is: “people, and the perspectives that guide their decisions.” Conflict, challenge, adventure and romance are all elements as well, but as my character Jon Anthony says, some questions are essential. This means we will all answer them in some fashion, whether or not the subject is ever intentionally addressed.

Whether one proceeds from a faith-based perspective is one of those attributes. We are all encouraged in polite company to avoid talking about the subject, along with politics, and that reserve spills into the world of literature as well. I cannot help but think it is as limiting there as it is elsewhere in life. In writing Political Fiction, I cannot avoid the latter. As a Christian, I have a Commission to engage in the former … come what may.

In Stephen King’s novel The Langoliers, the test of dimensional validity is the “rightness” in the taste of foods and vitality of materials for the passengers of an aircraft “out of synch.” So, in a way, is  reading the works constructed out of a secular perspective.

Certainly, judging from the state of the world, too many and an increasing number of people are living their lives in that same, flat, unfulfilled state King described. Blaise Pascal, in his Pensees, wrote:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

The results in fiction and in life are the same. Absent a foundational quickening, no recovery can be made without addressing one’s most fundamental deficit. As Christians, it remains our burden to watch and pray and counsel where we can. In fiction, I present the internal struggles and dialogues that steer a soul on a bearing toward Home. That likely is the primary distinction between my fiction and the majority of authors in my genre.

We need a nation and a world revived in Spirit through valid faith, and thus given to acts of love rather than self-indulgence. I believe that we need novels written just that way as well. Toward that end, we here at Single Candle Press will continue to do what we can.

*****

In TBP112x169production news, May promises to see Novel6/Boone2 The Bonus Pool complete primary editing and the title move into pre-publication on a schedule for release next month (June 2015). Boone’s first, Absinthe and Chocolate, is an absolute prerequisite to her latest novel.

Doctor Rebecca Boone Hildebrandt returns in style. The Bonus Pool, as did the second novel of Jon’s Trilogy, brings together characters and set pieces established in the introductory volume into a storyline and presentation so energetic and excellent that we truly feel it shakes the blessed earth.

You will not want to put this one off, people. My advice is: get started now. Boone’s File Book One, Absinthe and Chocolate, is available now where your ebooks are sold and linked on the sidebar.

Choose to Love, -DA

Writing

If you’re wondering what exactly it is I do, let me break it down:

First, I experience something that has happened, without bidding, for my entire life. I see sequences: movies, almost, playing in my head. Slowly, the characters acquire names, and the names become people, and those become real though I am the only person to know of them.

Once that goes on long enough, a one-line description emerges, and that is the core concept of a novel. It evolves through one paragraph, then one to four pages of outline. Then it becomes a full-blown detailed synopsis, which is where the blinding plot development headaches occur. You must steer true to your characters and your message, and each successive title in a series becomes more difficult in that way.

The characters are real enough that I know everything about them: when and where they were born, where they went to school, where and how they served. I know their quirks, their personality types, whether they are strong or weak, good or bad, smart or stupid. I feel every bit of their pain.

When their story starts to flow, I sit at a keyboard for hours at a stretch, being dragged along behind the story that it’s my task to write, come what may. Characters, at times, do completely unexpected things. In many ways, I truly feel I am the conduit of something completely beyond my control. When it’s over, and again when it publishes, there is a crash … a postpartum depression that one does not expect from an event one loves so much.

My work is torn apart in editing and reassembled until everything is as it should be. The four hundred hours of writing that produce a novel are matched in editing until the work reaches final form. The next in line and Boone’s second, The Bonus Pool, is undergoing that process now. It was written two years ago. The long process of perfecting each novel that came before is the reason for this nearly intolerable delay.

I endure the sideways looks and the expressions of contempt from people who tell others that “he only writes” and “he publishes them himself.” My titles go out into a world of undervalued fiction and readers who are happy to read them for free or pay as much as 99¢ for a bundle of ten novels. They ask when the sequel will be available free as well. They rate your best work three stars for profanity you warned them about in the description. Three hundred others will read the same work before another review—one you request in the end matter—appears.

Writing is a labor of love, a craft, a mission, and a privilege. I would never tell someone to undertake the effort, but rather to spend the time it would consume enjoying perishable moments with the ones they love. We are all moving quickly through a fleeting life, and each of our fires will burn down to embers, and then to ash. Write if you must. If it is so, nothing will stop it. Writers know this very well already.

So, friends, if you download one of my novels, please read it. If you read it, please tell me, and do the same for any other author you know. We need to hear most of all that someone set our story free by the turning of a page.

Choose to love. -DA

Giving back: “Romeo Down: A Short Story” Free launch!

I’m giving back on ‪#‎VeteransDay‬. Thank you, ‪#‎Veterans‬!

Daniel Sean Ritter’s second, “Romeo Down: A Short Story” ‪ is having a #‎FREE‬ launch November 11 and 12!

Here is the blurb:
“Where does a man’s strength originate? In 1991, during the short, brutal air war above Iraq, two men unknowingly discover the same answer during an intense CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) operation.

A short story, “Romeo Down” is an account of the action resulting in the award of Daniel Sean Ritter’s first Silver Star. Alluded to in dialogue within the first novel of “Sean’s File,” “Operation Naji,” this episode stands alone as a spoiler-free companion volume to that title.

Approximately 8000 words / 30 pp. print length”

For now, “Romeo Down” is a Kindle exclusive. You can read for free anytime with Kindle Unlimited! If you’d like a review copy in EPUB, please ask ….

Romeo Down cover art