Monday, May 30, 2016

THIS IS WAR! Memorial Day excerpt from new release

Where CS Lewis was wounded April 15, 1918
As we pause on this Memorial Day and remember those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, I want to share with readers this excerpt from my new WW I release WAR IN THE WASTELAND, my protagonist a lens to his platoon leader, teen atheist 2/Lt CS Lewis.War in the Wasteland is a gripping, informative, adrenalin-producing picture of World War I. The awful moments of fear and the reflective conversations of men who don't know if they'll survive the day, are captured on every page of this book.” Douglas E. Lee, Brigadier General, USA (Ret), President, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty

Excerpt from chapter 32 THIS IS WAR, moments before Nigel and his squad go over the top.

...Nigel did not feel particularly courageous that morning. He glanced to his left. There was Sergeant Ayres, so unlike other men. While most powerful men he had read about in history books—kings, popes, generals—used their might to subdue others, Ayres had the singular ability of giving his inexhaustible strength away to others, as a gift. Nigel listened to his own breathing, hot and rapid. He felt it was urgent. He studied the man; he had to know what made Sergeant Ayres so unlike other men.
His mouth set in a resolute line, Sergeant Ayres lifted his left hand and kissed the gold band on his ring finger. Sergeant Ayres was married. Dedicated as he was to his squad, he was married, perhaps with children at home; his wife may have a babe in arms, one that her husband may not have met—may never meet. It had never occurred to Nigel to think of Sergeant Ayres with a wife, children, a life beyond the army. Nigel watched his sergeant kiss his wedding ring a second time. He must love her dearly, more than life itself.
Nigel felt ashamed. Being in charge was a harder condition than he had ever imagined. Up to this moment, he had only seen his sergeant as someone to help him with his own problems, his own fears, with Perrett’s fears. It had never occurred to him that the man who guarded and doted over his squad, that that same man carried on his shoulders the still weightier responsibility of family, left without him back in England. Drenched fingers opening and closing on the fore stock of his rifle, Nigel felt selfish and ashamed.
But in that shame, an awakening began to occur in Nigel’s mind, a realization he had always tried to avoid. Giving the orders, when done well, was far more about giving something to others than taking something from them. Too many men cared far too much about the power and status of leadership rather than its cost. Maybe that’s why there was a war like this one. It was a consideration that Nigel felt he needed to think about deeply, alone, away from all this. If he ever had the chance.
Then it began. As if frame-by-frame, Lieutenant Lewis moved his trench whistle closer to his lips. Rain water ran off the sleeve of his trench coat, drip-dripping from the elbows. The fingers holding the whistle, white with cold, trembled slightly. A stream of rain water dribbled off the rim of his Tin hat onto the whistle. The whistle and Lieutenant Lewis’s lips nearly touched, like Sergeant Ayres and his ring. Nigel felt a twinge of hope; maybe the whistle, soaked with water, would fail to sound.
There it was. Trilling tunelessly, like a train nearing a crossing, a trench whistle blew. And with that blowing time seemed to fall to its belly and creep along like Nigel had once seen a sloth doing at The London Zoo.
The trench whistle, it made an odd sound. How could a single whistle sound flat, off pitch, out of tune? Out of tune with what? Beneath the thunder of the barrage suddenly it was the close sounds, the intimate ones that became distinct, penetrating: The shying of rainfall, the squelching of boots in mud, a raspy cough. And labored, intentional breathing, as men attempted to marshal courage to face the horror of what lay ahead. But there was the trench whistle.
“Why aren’t we going?” asked Nigel.
“Not our platoon,” said Sergeant Ayres. “Lieutenant Johnson’s boys, just there.”
“Why before us?” said Wallace.
Nigel watched Lieutenant Johnson, revolver in hand, whistle between his teeth, leap out of the trench, beckoning his platoon to follow him over the top. With shouts of defiance, Johnson’s men hurled themselves toward the enemy.
We’re for it next, thought Nigel. But still they waited. The waiting—that was the worst of it. Encircled
by grinding hopelessness, by the unremitting slaughter of men, oddly Nigel did not consciously consider whether it would happen to him. It seemed so utterly inevitable that it required no consideration. All would soon be over. Nigel found a corner of his brain toying with the notion of death. Could death be worse than this? Would not a hasty obliteration, as he had witnessed to left and right of him, would it not be an escape? It required a body to feel unrelenting pain, and a brain to be numb with fear. To live each hour under the enervating anticipation of one’s own violent dismemberment and dying, was it worse than death itself?... 
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Friday, May 20, 2016

INKBLOTS--Writing with the most prolific author of the 19th century

Seven ‘Blots tonight (Justin arriving after work, so eight), seated around my scriptorium. I began by sharing CH Spurgeon’s seven pieces of writing advice (one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century, if not all time). Much to consider here: 

1. Write to Help others
“We are very mistaken, if our work does not prove to be of the utmost value to purchasers of books…no object in view but the benefit of our brethren…it will be remuneration enough to have aided the ministers of God in the study of his word” (Sword & Trowel, March 1876).
2. Write Short
“Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.…Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify…In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short” (Sword & Trowel, September 1871).
3. Write for God
“Courteous reader, throughout another year we have endeavored, month by month, to provide for your entertainment and edification. For both, because the first is to the most of men needful to produce the second, and also because God hath joined them together, and no man should put them asunder” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875).
4. Write Clearly
“So I gathered that my sermons were clear enough to be understood by anybody who was not so conceited as to darken his own mind with pride. Now, if boys read The Sword and the Trowel it cannot be said to shoot over people’s heads, nor can it be said to be very dull and dreary” (Sword & Trowell, November 1874).
5. Write to Compel
“It was an ill day when religion became so decorous as to call dullness her companion, and mirth became so frivolous as to demand the divorce of instruction from amusement. It is not needful that magazines for Christian reading should be made up of pious platitudes, heavy discourses, and dreary biographies of nobodies: the Sabbath literature of our families might be as vivacious and attractive as the best of amusing serials, and yet as deeply earnest and profitable as the soundest of divines would desire” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875). “If the writer had possessed genius and literary ability, this might have been a highly interesting work; but as the writers’ sole qualification is his honesty of purpose, the work is most reliable and dull” (Sword & Trowel, November 1882).
6. Write, Write, & Write
“Many of our hours of pain and weakness have been lightened by preparing the first volume of our book on the Psalms for the press. If we could not preach we could write, and we pray that this form of service may be accepted of the Lord” (Sword & Trowel, January 1870).
7. Read to Write
“Read good authors, that you may know what English is, you will find it to be a language very rarely written nowadays, and yet the grandest of all human tongues” (Sword & Trowel, August 1871).
Only 3 places available on the July Oxford master class--Register today!
Doug Mac led off our Inkblot's time this evening, reading from Return to Tarawa, his intriguing WW II Pacific Theater yarn. Cosmic epic scale, world war is big, but seen through the eyes of ordinary young men trying to figure it all out and survive. We discussed the challenges of the vague attribution, we, us, they, etc, and the importance of sticking with a dominant perspective (which Doug Mac largely does throughout), and what to do with the other men without names from the squad, platoon, etc. There is reality at work here, because we don’t know the names of lots of the people we rub shoulders with on a given day, but how to make the contrivance in fiction come off as genuine. Great progress on this manuscript, given the highest rank that Writers Edge reading service gives a manuscript, and soon to be another Inkblots Press release.

Rachel Y read, with some urging, from her cheese yarn, a fascinating, detailed, mouth-slavering story about smuggling cheese from Italy to Russia. We are all hungry, salivating, craving cheese. And thinking about how devastating government regulation of the economy is (especially when it comes to good food). We discussed the use of the almost, nearly qualifiers. John brought up how we deal with criticism. Take what is being offered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the critic is right, but they have helped the writer by pointing out an area that needs attention. Embrace the criticism, keeping in mind that the person who just heard you read doesn’t know the larger context, what you wrote in the last chapter, where you’re going after what you just read.  But swallow pride, and welcome criticism (or hang up your pen and take up underwater basket weaving).

Josh Y puts us in context in his post-apocalyptic drama. Lodges and outside of town. It seemed like an odd mixture of the primitive and the civilized. Sort of shirt, is it sort of or the real deal? Blouse or tunic might be better. Mouth sweetly shaped, could this be a more specific comparison? Sweetly is a vague descriptor for a physical feature, rather than a character quality or a taste. Where are you going with this story? Is it part of a larger yarn. Josh explained that it is a series of books. The female interest in the yarn loses her toenail. John thought that sounded odd. Josh explained that it would come into the story later. Rachel PH and the other women present offered valuable perspective to a young male writer who would rather be writing a fight scene than a tender romantic moment in the yarn. Thanks, ladies.

INKBLOTS PRESS New Release! WW I yarn
John S reads from Saving Grace, his contemporary fiction work, a novel that exposes the evil of abortion. This is a moment where the protagonist is pondering a moral dilemma. If she doesn’t have an abortion she will lose her job, scholarship to college, pressures exerted by a manipulative parent. Someone had to be thrown under the bus. What about clichés in contemporary fiction? If a character is using it in dialogue then it makes sense to use it, but in narrative, the use of clichés is off limits. Are there other mannerisms that Grace would have when she is talking with the counselor? Does she cross her legs and bob her leg up and down, or ring her hands, or tuck hair behind her ear? The interaction between the counselor and the counselee seems kind of wooden, and the prayer is good, but I think it works better to give us only part of the prayer and then summarize the rest in narrative, how it was heard by Grace. I think there’s some overwriting here. I promise to be quiet, thank you Sarah. It seems to pat. Things worked out for her. Maybe there’s hope for me. Seems too pat. Sarah’s story is profound, but seems too much. For now. Justin commented that it seemed too fast forward, too much happening to fast. 
I finished off (no time to read from my Drama of the Reformation, audio theater project) by sharing about the final process to finished book with WAR IN THE WASTELAND, now available in print and ebook. Order a signed copy here and get free domestic shipping and a free download of the comprehensive study guide.