Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Updates and More Fun in Music

Hello friends,

You've probably noticed, but I haven't been around a lot.  I've just been really busy. :D  And the busy isn't ending - not yet at least - I'm just taking a few minutes to pause and update my life. ^_^

For starters, the person who wins a free copy of my e-book short story "Blue Moon" is....


Congratulations. ^_^  To claim your copy, please email me at :)

On another note, I'm preparing to host another giveaway... this time for Frank Peretti's new book "Illusion".  I FINALLY received my ARC of the book about a week and a half ago... after it was already in stores. :p  But that's ok.  I'm slowly working through my copy of the book, and Simon & Schuster sent me an extra copy of the ARC as well... a book that has never, and will never see a bookstore shelf... a book that I should have been able to offer you long before the rest of the copies came out in stores, but oh well. :)

SO in the very near future, I'll be posting more info on how you can get your hands on it. ^_^

In the mean time, I've been spending WAY to much time doing things that are not related to writing novels.  In  fact, I've been writing music.  ^_^  You see, I've been playing around with the demo version of a program called FL Studios, and having an absolute BLAST with it.  I've put together three pieces of music since downloading the demo program three days ago. lol!

The first piece... needs some work. :P :P  I'll go back and edit it later.  Now that I'm getting the hang of the program, I know I can do much better than that. (even though I still like the original music. lol!)

The Second and third pieces are much better, and the third is my FAVORITE. ^_^  It's called "Beautiful Storm" and was inspired by... you guessed it... a very beautiful storm that blew over my house the other night.  I just LOVE listening to the rain on my roof at night!  And I think that this composition portrays the wonder of it fairly well... or at least I hope it does.

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the music.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Delicate Art of Torture – A Study in Conflict and Character Building

(A warning to any who read this, this post is rather long so be prepared to sit and really think about what your reading here. ^_^)

Now, if you are a writer, you’ve probably guessed what this blog post is going to be about from the title, right?  And if you are not a writer, then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about and have most likely conjured horrible bloody pictures in your head of writers using pens and pencils to stab people, flailing keyboards around like bludgeons, or else something of a similar nature to barbarianism. 

Oh please… *rolls eyes sarcastically*.  Trust me here; the art of torture requires so much more finesse than that.  >:)

Of course I’m talking about the writing process and a writer’s relationship with their characters.  It’s a very delicate balance, you see, that between creator and imaginary creation.  While the people in our stories do not have physical bodies, for say, they are very much alive in our heads.  However, until we start actually writing about them, they are usually floating around in white space waiting for something to happen.

The trick is in making something happen to them that is actually interesting.  In order to do that, a writer needs to infuse their story with conflict.  Personally, I feel that the subject of conflict is a sticky one to approach, but basically conflict is the element of the story that makes reading the story interesting.  Just recently I read a really awesome post on the subject here:

That posts breaks it down nice and simple, and really drives home the importance of conflict – not just in your story, but in every scene of your story. 

Now as many writers already know, there is usually an overall conflict in any story to begin with.  I find that this is normally what the story’s overall plot is based off of. 

For instance:

1)  The girl is in love with the guy but can’t have him. (or vise versa)  

2) There is an evil magic ring that corrupts people placed in the hand of young hobbit, and a dark lord is rising up in the east.

3) A girl finds out that she has inherited the ability to read characters out of their books from her father, but what happens when her father accidentally reads a villain out of his story?


These are all good examples of a conflict central to the story line, but there should also be a form of conflict within each and every scene of the book; something that drives the story forward continually, without leaving the reader in a lag of interest.  This is, I’m finding, not only very important for a writer to adhere to, but it’s also rather difficult to do well because it means that EVERY scene must have a goal… a set point in the plot that you are writing towards. 

If this all sounds confusing, try thinking of every scene as one thread in a tapestry.  A single thread may seem small, and on its own it doesn’t appear to be of much worth: it starts at a certain point… it ends at a certain point, and it doesn’t change colors.  Where that thread is tied off, another thread is tied on, its life span much the same as the previous one.  However, when the weaver is finished with her work, and we finally get to see the tapestry as a full picture, the life span of those two little threads suddenly makes sense.  They were aiding in the overall creation of the tapestry, strung out and woven tightly (which of course means “with tension” or in this case “with conflict”) between other threads in order that the purpose of the whole picture might be fulfilled. 

What wouldn’t have made sense was if these threads were tied on, and then just hung limply down instead of being woven in (like a scene that has no conflict in it… it doesn’t drive the story forward but just “is”).
What my friend Lydia states in her blog post is simply that without a goal, conflict is not possible.   And since conflict is what drives your story forward and makes it interesting to read, you want to have some form of it in every part of your story.  To do that, you must realize the goal of a scene (or, if you prefer, the importance of the scene and how it parallels with your plot) before or as you are writing said scene.  You can be an outliner or a pantster – in this case, it really doesn’t matter – but sooner or later, you are going to have to realize your scene’s goal.

Now, you are probably wondering at the moment what this has to do with the title of this post, but I promise that I’m getting there.

You see, I find that a great way to encourage conflict in my story is through the delicate art of torturing my characters on a regular basis.  Such evil actions can be planned out ahead of time, or they can be written in at a minute’s notice, but in my opinion, torture definitely presents itself as a form of conflict.

For example, the very definition of torture is as follows:

1.  to inflict pain on somebody: to inflict extreme pain or physical punishment on somebody 

2.  to cause somebody anguish: to cause somebody mental or physical anguish

3.  to distort something: to twist or distort something into an unnatural form 

If none of those definitions ring of conflict to you, then I don’t know what will. ;)

However, inflicting torment on a character is a sensitive business for writers.  If done wrong, the reader could be taken out of the story because the situation feels unrealistic, or (in the worst of circumstances) a writer’s characters might turn on him or her and cause a bloody massacre of said writer’s inspiration.

Of course we want to try to avoid such drastic and bloody measures on the character’s part, so it is the writer’s job to learn how to exact their planned persecutions on the character without the character ever thinking for a moment that all of his or her troubles in life become the fault of their writer.  

But how can this be done in a graceful manner?

Well, it is a tricky business to be sure, and to fully do the subject justice, I must touch on a theme that may seem completely off subject.

World and Character building.  Especially Character building, in this case.

For those of you who have been at this for a while, what I’m saying may seem “old hat” to you, but I wonder… have you ever really considered how close your character really is to the situations that you put him or her through?  I mean, of course it is happening to them, but what do you suppose they believe is the reason it is happening?  Obviously we are trying to avoid having characters guess that it is really our fault that they are going through so much trouble, but what is the excuse that their minds make in order to deter them from thinking of us as the writers?

If you think of it this way, it might make sense: the entirety of our world is based off of the rule of cause and effect.  For every effect, there is a cause.  In order to make our stories seem real to our readers, a writer must apply this same rule to their stories and the worlds that exist there.  BUT… just as every effect must have a cause, so must every cause match its effect and vice versa.

For instance… you wouldn’t want your dog character to step into a puddle of water (the cause) and then suddenly die (the effect).  It wouldn’t match up.  If the water was just ordinary water and the dog was just an ordinary dog, as is the case with this example, then there should be no reason for the dog to die by simply touching a patch of random, normal water.

You might, however, have your dog step into a puddle of highly radioactive muck (the cause) and then turn into a super hero (the effect).  This would make sense in a story, both to the reader and to the characters, as radioactive muck is known to be toxic, in many cases deadly, and in the comic books often all-empowering.

To apply the cause and effect rule to people and the dealings of people rather than a dog is a lot more difficult though.  This is because each person has a unique story behind them that may drive their actions in a scene.  

An example would be something I’ve written into my story, “Song of the Daystar”.

In one of the scenes in SOTD, I have a very complicated meeting between Commander Olan and his brother, Caellahn, where they are discussing a movement of believers in the kingdom of Alayia.  My main character, Curron, is listening in and tries to escape without being discovered, but changes his mind when Olan grabs his friend in a drunken state and is harassing her. (Nothing overly drastic, I assure you.)  In that instance, Curron decides to stand up for his friend and gets himself thrown in prison where he awaits his trial and his death.

The question that I’m sure you are asking by now is, why would Curron’s actions warrant him death?  According to the summary above, it would seem that Curron didn’t commit a crime worthy of death… not exactly, anyway.

And the answer really does have to be as complicated as my characters are (besides the fact, of course, that Curron tries to slam a heavy mug over Olan’s head… <_<)

You see, it’s quite obvious by now that by me having Curron thrown in prison and sentenced to die, I am applying a writer’s “torture” technique to him.  But in order to do this and make it feel reasonable to the reader, I have to give each of the characters involved a background that would warrant their actions… and, not just warrant their actions, but also support their actions since it would seem that many different character backgrounds are based on each characters’ unique personality.

For example, in my story Commander Olan is not happy that his brother has returned(as is made quite evident in a fight scene that happens just before Curron is sentenced).  In fact, Olan hates his brother because Caellahn was his father’s favorite son, though he was also the youngest and illegitimate.  Also, Olan has a strong (almost instinctive) sense of following the rules… any rules set… which in this case and sense put my MC in danger.  He also doesn’t like my MC, partially because he feels that Curron’s very presence is a breach of the king’s law (for multiple reasons, of course), and partially because Curron reminds him of his brother, Caellahn. 

Caellahn, on the other hand, doesn’t have trouble with his brother so much as he had trouble with his father.  He recognized the fact that his father’s favoritism was the cause of his brother’s hatred, and once he became a believer in his younger years, he resented his father’s choice of having an illegitimate son, even if he was it.  To that end, he left the fort in an attempt to outrun his troubles, his past, and his heritage, and eventually his adventures gained him a name among Alayia’s believers.  However, he did come to forgive his father in due course, but has not yet been able to win over his brother.  Caellahn is a loner, and much more erratic than his brother, with a strong sense of right and wrong despite what the law has to say about the matter.  He can see what Olan hates about Curron (mostly that Curron reminds olan of him), and so, feeling guilty for at least part of Olan’s hate for the boy, he steps in to protect Curron, thereby furthering Olan’s wrath.

In the mean time, Curron is a young boy who doesn’t yet know where he stands one way or the other.  When he was ten he watched as his guardian was hung for her beliefs, and the event has scarred him deeply, making him doubt the way of Anahdor.  And yet, however clouded his beliefs are, he still has a young and naïve sense about him that makes him sensitive to right and wrong, and ultimately loyal, once a person had actually gained his trust.  On that same note, because of Olan’s hate for him, his guardians awful death, and the terrible treatment he has received since then, his trust is not easily earned… and that becomes both a hindrance and a blessing within the contents of the book.  He definitely has a strong sense of protectiveness that is triggered when he sees another person being wrongly mistreated, especially if he knows and is fond of that person. 

It is during such a moment that Curron decides to step up to protect his friend, thereby triggering Olan’s hate for him (based on his hate for his brother, and his inward need to uphold the law at all cost), which in turn triggers Caellahn’s need to protect Curron (partially because he recognizes the reason that Olan is targeting Curron and feels guilt), which further stokes Olan’s wrath at his brother and at Curron who reminds Olan of his hated brother, thereby causing him to throw Curron in jail and sentence him to death as a punishment to Curron and, by effect, Caellahn as well.

I’m hoping this is all starting to make sense now.  You see, it is the conflict within each character’s life and background that drives forward the conflict within the scene, which in turn ultimately drives forward the conflict of the whole story and allows me to throw in more obstacles and tortures for my characters without having to worry about Curron stepping out of the tale to berate me.  In the same way, it is how the world is built (in this case with the King’s Law driving forward most of the conflict in each of these characters’ lives) that adds to the conflict in both the scene and the story. 

And, because all of these problems are within Curron’s mental and physical background and makeup, I find that he doesn’t often question my motives because he understands the hardships within the context of the story and the backgrounds of the other characters.

In essence, it is the world of the story itself which averts my characters’ wrath from me.

This post is getting a bit long now, so I’m going to try and stop very soon, but I would like to end on this note: the world as we know it is a very complex thing.  Everything within our world, including human lives and our histories, are governed by a set of unspoken and unwritten rules.  Scientists have pondered the nature of these rules for centuries, though of course there is no scientist who ever lived or is now living who could fully understand the complexities that God created and is holding this world together with.

In a sense, one might say that the very nature of humanity is conflict.  We are often fighting each other, hurting each other, even running away from each other.  From sibling rivalry to all out war, one could even say that humans are masters of discord, especially among ourselves, and as complex as the world around us may be, our very nature is even more complex.  After all, you don’t see monkeys or any of the other animals going around building cities and making world changing discoveries in technology.

The point is that while we writers can never hope to make our worlds as complete and complex as God made this one, we still must work to make our worlds as believable as possible.  To that end, we must create and write, not only our worlds, but our characters and the other inhabitance of our worlds with some sort of complexity in mind, including common rules that those worlds and people are built and live by.  Only by following what we know of this world can we ever hope to create our worlds with any sense of reality.  It’s true that we may never be able to hope for our creations to live on into eternity or take on an actual living and breathing life of their own, but that is not our goal after all: a writer’s goal is for the stories that we create to take on only some brief semblance of reality for the few precious hours that readers enjoy our books… and once we have reached that point, that’s when our characters truly step out of the white static of our minds and actually come to life… if only for a moment. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A New Novella??

Lately I've had a flurry of writing inspiration, but strangely enough, none of it has been aimed at SOTD.  I'd like to say that SOTD has moved forward, but sadly enough it has not.  Instead, I've been filling notebooks with the ideas for a possible novella titled "Siren".

"Siren", is a story about a character named Syren.  (Obviously there is an unmistakable connection between the title of the piece and the MC's name.)  The plot is still in being worked over, but I know that the piece is going to be slightly allegorical, and yet will still explore some fun mermaid mythology. ^_^

Here's a picture of my main character at the age of the initial story:

(I'll share some of what the story is going to have in it, and then post a short excerpt of what I've written so far.)

First of all, this story is going to have two different perspectives that a reader can take... there's the face value of the story, and the allegorical value of the story, of course. :D

On the surface, I want this story to resemble one of those stories told of medieval times where the girl was offered up to the dragon, etc, etc... sort of like in the story of St. George and the Dragon.  However, it won't be like the traditional versions of the story, as Syren's village will be offering her to a sea monster rather than a dragon... and besides that, the story will also have strong allegorical ties (that may not be entirely apparent at the very first, but that will grow more recognizable as the story progresses.)

For instance (and don't laugh here... I'm totally serious), in the story Syren is sort of going to represent Christ... She's a pure, young, innocent girl that stands out from the crowd because of her different views which are truthful and honest and loving in a world filled with darkness and sin.  The sea will represent God... obviously I've named this book "Siren" for a reason... Syren has an intimate connection with the sea and can hear it speak to her, and... well, it gets more complicated than that of course. ;D  The village in which Syren has lived represents mankind; the village commits a terrible sin and for its crime it is going to be destroyed by the Monster of the Sea (which represents the devil).  The village comes to believe that the reason for the coming destruction is Syren's fault.  To abate the coming massacre, they decide so sacrifice her to the Sea Monster... but Syren knows that her sacrifice will not save the village from being destroyed unless she forgives them their transgressions against her and lays her life down willing in the stead of all of the lives within the village.

I'm hoping to make the allegorical ties much more apparent within the story itself.  :D  Hopefully the novella can be enjoyed for both of perspectives within the tale.

Here's a small excerpt of what I have so far.  It's the opening scene -- a flashback of when Syren remembers seeing the Sea for the first time.  Let me know what you think of it! :D


            I remember the first time I really saw the sea, as clear as if it were only yesterday.  I was six, and stood on a rocky ledge sheltered by the Cliffside, facing the water in awe and terror.    The sky rolled with dark clouds that sped across it like frightened spirits fleeing death.  The air smelled of threatened rain and salt.  Lightning flashed purple and silver within the roiling thunderhead, and wind flayed the rocky shore like a bull whip.  Blue green waves swelled up on high, towering over my tiny shelter as if they wanted a closer look at me and weren’t quite sure they liked what they saw.  When they’d had their view, they plunge back into the depths with a tremendous crash to whisper about my oddity.  I could hear their rushing, gurgling voices, even so far above them, pondering, contemplating… calling.

            What was I?

            The hand on my shoulder tightened its grip as if afraid I would wrench free and disappear into the waters below.  Rúweth had to shout in order to be heard over the pounding surf.

            “Do you know why I brought you here, Syren?  Do you understand?”

            His words were kindly, but his voice was strained.  I knew he meant well by bringing me here; somehow this was supposed to be for good – a lesson maybe, or a story: a parable.  But I did not want to be here.  This was a bad place for me… I could sense it.  I shook my head in answer to his question rather than attempting to shout over the incessant roar.  I did not know why Rúweth had brought me, and I certainly didn’t understand.  The sea was a dark and terrible thing, raw and beautiful and dangerous.  It was perfection, a flawless seductress in a world of faults.    I felt as if it would just as soon swallow me whole as allow me to look at it. 

            Rúweth’s grip on my shoulder grew firmer, and he gently pulled me closer to him as if by keeping me near he could hold back the waters that wished to devour me.

            “Syren,” he said, and though he was shouting to be heard, I recognized the underlying concern in his voice.  “Syren, do not pretend with me.  This is important.  You deny that you know why I’ve brought you here, yet I think that deep down you do indeed know.  I can see the look in your eyes, and feel the tremble in your bones: you hear the call of the waves clearer than any sea-loving man in Boatswain.    I brought you here because the sea has a stronger hold on you than on any living person I know, and I wanted to show you the dangers that it harbors.  To you, Syren, it is like a clouded and poisonous jewel, deadly in every sense of the word just as it is beautiful.  While I am here with you I can protect you from its malice, shield you from its spite…but you must promise me; promise me that you will never come out here alone to answer its call.  Promise me that you will remember its cruelness and keep far away.  For should I ever think that you would come here to look upon the sea, by yourself or otherwise, I would be forced to send you away, somewhere far inland where the water’s voices cannot reach you.  I will protect you, Syren, by any means possible, but that, my dear child, would break my heart.”

            The last words choked in Rúweth’s throat, and his arms encircled me in a tight embrace as he bent his wizened face to kiss the top of my curly head.  I felt his tears drip into my hair and tickle my scalp.  Around the side of his arm I saw another wave rise up from the sea, towering green and glistening in all of its majestic horror.  And I could have sworn then that the smooth surface of the wave transformed into a long face with a frothy beard, as a spout of water stretched forth like an arm to beckon me come.  I could almost feel the wave-creature’s longing, almost hear its fluid and rippling voice calling out to me, begging me to return…

            And there I promised Rúweth that I would never come back to the sea.  Not alone – not ever.  I would by no means return to gaze out at the vast watery expanse because deep down I knew that should I ever come back, I would not return to the village of Boatswain, my home, or my dear Rúweth again.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blogging with a New Perspective

I have been reading a book by John Locke recently about online marketing titled "How I sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months".   One of the things that this book highlights is the importance of blogging and how it effects you as a writer, a reader, a businessman, and basically a person.    I've found it very eye opening.

Since starting the book, I've gone back over some of the blog posts I've written in the past, and there's one thing I've noticed about these posts that remains consistent.  They all scream "off the cuff"... as if I didn't spend much time thinking about what I was going to write about.  I don't like that thought... not at all. Several of these posts seem chaotic and disorganized... a rambling mess of thoughts thrown out in no particular order.  Other posts appear more thought through and consistent, but perhaps they are too long (I seem to like posts that sit somewhere over 1,000 words at least. :P) or maybe they shy off topic near the end.

No more.  It's time I start blogging with a new perspective... a more thoughtful perspective.  It's time that my blog lives up to the passion I hold for my craft.  No more rambling posts; no more halfhearted attempts to update the P&P with small, uninteresting facts about my life that don't pertain to anything in particular.

As a writer, I know that I should be doing better than this.  In fact, I know that I could be doing better than this, and all of you deserve better.

As a writer who is also an avid reader, I know what others who are like me or who share my interests might find engaging.  I know all of this... and it's time I start putting this knowledge to work.  The way things are around here will be changing in the near future, hopefully for the better.  It's time that I made the change.

Thank you, John Locke, for the inspiration your book provided me.  I may not have read any of your other works, but I will hand you this: you sure know how to write!  Every writer I know should get this book and study it thoroughly. It's well worth the price, I'll tell you that!

"Blue Moon" by Nichole White


Friday, March 2, 2012

Excerpts From My Life

Hello friends,

This post is sort of a mix of an update and a mix of something else - I'm not exactly sure what. :P

On the "Update" side, I have some exciting news. ^_^  If you've been reading my posts, and you've read through the comments on the post "Updates on my life... and no, I'm not dead yet", then you might have noticed that I've mentioned I was in the middle of an experimental project in which I prepare several of my short stories for publications through Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Well, step one in said experiment is now complete... which means, in essence, that the first of a set of my short stories is now available on Amazon for Kindle. ^_^  The first object of the experiment is to test my text formatting and type setting skills when it comes to digital publication, so that I'm 100% prepared for Magpie Eclectic Press' first title.  Well, according to my kindle, I have a good handle on the type setting and formatting for amazon.  Now I just have to prepare the book for Smashwords and B&N.

The second (and currently less important) object (which I will explain about in a moment), is to test my online marketing skills.  The book just went live a little over 12 hours ago, and the story is only 4k long.  It's also one of my older pieces, but it's one that I still really like and I've been "tweaking" it. :D

Here is the cover and the blurb:

(Note about the cover: My name is really dim on purpose, because I didn't want the extra words to take away from the picture's effect.  However, if you find this troublesome, please let me know. :D)

ZI Mara is an elite soldier in the F.A.H (that's Faeries Among Humans for those of you without fae blood).  When an enraged male ghoul escapes the faerie realms and begins on a rampage for Chicago, Mara and her friend, Officer Lee Moker, are the only ones who can stop the monster and save the humans from disaster.  However, the ghoul has already taken a large bite out of Mara's shoulder and its venom is slowly rendering her immobile.  The only hope for the people of Chicago rests in Mara's hands... and that hope could cost her her life.

(A disclaimer for those of you who are a bit more sensitive, the word "heck" is used several times throughout the story.)

The book is now available for $0.99 on Kindle. ^_^  It was not released under Magpie Eclectic Press, as it is more of an experimental personal project.

As the story is only 4k, and hasn't been previously advertised before release (which would be standard procedure with a novel), I don't expect the story to really "take off", but I still hope it does well.  I don't write short stories very often, and this is definitely one of my better pieces.  Hopefully it will help me gain a few new readers and maybe even a couple of fans... which, of course, would be nice and encouraging. :)

Here's the Amazon link:

"Blue Moon" by Nichole White

In other news, school is going well and so is the progress on Magpie's new site. :D  It's not live yet, but it's coming.  In the mean time I've been working on a new writing post called "The Delicate Art of Torture", which is about conflict and torturing your characters... *evil look*

I've also been working on more jewelry... really fun pieces which are all twisty and beaded. :)  I've created an FB page for them, and I'm working to set up an etsy shop. Here's the FB page if any of you are interested:

Handmade wire wrapped jewelry

And in between that, music theory homework, and life in general, I've also found some time to squeeze writing in through the cracks of my crazy, wonderful life.  I have a few more book reviews due to be up within a couple of weeks, and I'm really, REALLY hoping that this will be the last "update" post in a while (meaning that instead, I will be posting more book reviews, writing posts, and perhaps even hosting a contest in the near future... ^_^)

In the mean time, how about a giveaway... The prize is either a PDF or Kindle Formated author review copy of my short story "Blue Moon" (which is exactly the same as the published version, only you will be getting it for free. :D)

To join, you must:
1) follow this blog (1 pnt)
2) Post a comment (1)

To earn more points, you can:
1) Post to FB (1) 
2) Tweet about it (1)
3) blog about it (something thoughtful if possible) and post the link in the comments (2)
4) get a friend to follow the P&P (and for this to count, your friend must post a comment saying who it was that referred them) (3)

I wonder who will win this contest. :D  I've never hosted one like this before, so it should be interesting... good luck to you all!