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My approach to creating a book

There is no one process everyone must follow to write a book. All authors must find methods that works best for them. Some write plot outlines that range from general overviews to chapter by chapter details before they put down prose. There are writers who create descriptions of each main characters with their background, history and traits. As with outlines these vary from general to in depth. Others, like Salman Rushdie, David Mamet, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King Margaret Atwood and me don't write either.

Like the other authors mentioned above, I start with a concept I want to explore, place characters in a situation under pressure and see what happens. The way the characters react reveals their true natures and moves the story forward.

As I write, I learn more about the characters and story. New concepts come to mind. I may realize a setting is wrong. I may turn a hero into a villain. When these ideas come, I don’t go back and change previous martial. I make a note of them and continue from that point as if I had already made the changes.

I keep going until I finish the first draft. Before making any changes, I read the entire first draft. It will have grammar and spelling mistakes, dead ends, missing martial and inconsistencies. It will also have the core of the story and character development.

It’s then that I sit down, consult my notes and begin a second draft where I edit the manuscript and fix not just grammar and spelling, I make the adjustments I noted, alter character relationships, adjust scenes and so forth. I will find that some of the notes I made no longer apply to how the story or characters turned out. As I work, I’ll think of new story elements and characterizations that were not noted. Things shift and change. That’s good. The manuscript is taking on life and consistency.

When I finish the second draft, I read it without making changes, then start a third draft. You may be tempted to think only one pass is needed, yet you will be shocked at how many problems and mistakes you’ll find while writing the third draft; grammar mistakes, missing words, duplicated words, spelling errors, character development, story elements, etc. With the third draft complete, I start the fourth. I keep writing drafts until I’ve combed the manuscript to be the best I can produce. It will never be perfect. It is said a novel is a long piece of writing with mistakes. The stopping point for me is when I see the things I wanted to talk about, the representation of the characters, and the entertainment value express what I set out to deliver. For the final book of a fantasy trilogy, I wrote ten drafts because it had to tie up all the lose ends.

After I complete my drafts, the book goes to my editor. We than work together to improve it. This method has served me through five novels and an illustrated edition of one. Three of these books have won awards. Writing a novel is really rewriting until it sings.

Beware of cold calls praising your work

Well, I got another call from someone saying my novel came highly recommended and I was selected to receive something. Ya - Right. This is the fourth call I've received from different people who name one of my published books, say it was highly recommended (not just regularly recommended mind you) and I had been selected for their service. I never answer calls where I don’t recognize the name or phone number on caller ID and let them go to voicemail. This one actually had a company name displayed. The callers usually have thick foreign accents that are nearly incomprehensible. This one was understandable and stated the company name and said I was selected for a contest. I looked them up. They claim to offer interviews, reviews and marketing. This one has a contest I'd never heard of and I suspect no one else has either. If you receive a call saying your book was recommend and you were selected for something, you can out dollars to donuts it's a scam. Many self-published authors and independent publishers are desperate for any exposure or praise. Don't bite or you may get bitten.

The Place of the Pun

A pun is a play on words, a statement that turns spelling or phrases around in a humorous manner. I can paddle, canoe? (I can paddle, can you?) When avoiding chores around then house, mother is the necessity of invention (necessity is the mother of invention).

I had a teacher who hated puns and said they were the lowest form of writing. The TV show Get Smart, a comedy where Don Adams played an inept secret agent when spy movies were popular, was running at the time. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, each episode contained an onslaught of puns in a style Brooks used in his parody films such as Blazing Saddles and Space Balls.

My teacher despised the show and used it as an example of what should never be done. Her idea of good writing was Shakespeare.

I loved Get Smart and all the puns. I can still watch it today and laugh Thinking back, I don't believe that teacher actually understood Shakespeare's works because they're loaded with puns. However, the language and culture has changed so much over 500 years. Many people today don't recognize the humor.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audiences in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

This might sound like a meaningless exchange that's anything but funny. Yet, to audience in the 16th century it brought uproarious laughter. They understood the joke. At that time, to face a man had two meanings, either to stand up to him or for a tailor to add decorations to a garment. Braved also had two meanings— to challenge someone to a dual or for a tailor to measure someone for garments.

For puns to work, they must contain know cultural references. That modern audiences don't always get the puns in Shakespeare's plays doesn't mean people today are dumb. They just don't have the same connection to the older culture and language. Even for subcultures within any modern societies, the puns will differ and may not me understood by people in other groups.

It takes a lot of wit and intelligence to write puns. They make us pause, shake our heads, and if their really good, groan when people get them.

Keep going through the first draft

A portfolio of William Shakespeare's plays
The first draft of a novel is the initial creation of the story. The result will produce a manuscript, not a publishable book. The manuscript must be rewritten several times to craft a book. There will be many false starts, weak writing and mistakes. That doesn’t matter. I never write outlines; I just begin with a situation, put characters in it under pleasure and see what happens. Not everyone works this way. If you do write outlines before starting a book, don’t feel you must constrain yourself to them. You don’t fully know the story you’re writing or the characters you’re creating until you work with the prose for a while.

As you write, concepts will come to mind that you hadn’t thought of. You will realize the true nature of relationship between characters and imagine new twists in the plot. Put these things down and let your imagination run free. If you start on a divergent path, follow it to see where it leads. You may eliminate it later, but explore it anyway. It might lead to something better than you originally envisioned. The final book may bear little resemblance to what you considered in the beginning.

Never go back and edit anything in the first draft as you write. If you realize something needs to change at the beginning, make a note on the side and continue as if that change had been made, then fix the beginning in subsequent drafts.
Now there's only one true rule in writing - you can do anything you can get away with, however the trick is in knowing what that is, and that requires a knowledge of writing guidelines. It also takes experience.

Practice good writing from the beginning. Watch grammar, avoid clichés and be selective with adverbs as you create the first draft. Don't fall back on sloppy writing. Build a story, don't just dump words. Train yourself to be a better writer with each sentence. This will allow you to grow as an author because writing is a life long learning experience. It also makes life easier with the second, third, fourth and subsequent drafts to craft a manuscript into a book, short story or article.

The Importance of Mythology in Our Modern World

A Dragon Rises
A Dragon Rises

We live in a world of high technology where food production, communications, transportation, medicine and other industries improve our lives.

Through science, we understand the basis of life with discoveries in DNA, the formation of stars, the causes of illnesses and ways to cure them, and much more. Mythology seems to have no place. We no longer look to spirits or curses as the cause of sickness.

Folk tales and remedies have been replaced by research and medical practice. Some feel this relegates mythology to those absurd stories our ignorant ancestors told to try and explain the world. Yet, those holding this attitude miss the true purpose and power of myth to humans.

Mythologies in all cultures say much more about human nature than any physical aspects. All the gods of myths are manifestations of human strengths and failings. As such, mythology is the original literature.
Literature is a much-misunderstood term. It is simply fiction that explores the human condition and gives readers the opportunity to examine themselves. It is an expression of the human spirit in a nonreligious sense, and doesn’t require dense prose with convoluted structures. Mythology is a vehicle that can do this.

Today, mythology can be found in magical realism, science fiction and fantasy works.The reason Star Wars touched a nerve and became an overnight sensation wasn’t because of spaceships or blasters. In truth, Star Wars isn’t really science fiction as much as it is space opera. A 19th century sailing ship could have been substituted for the Millennium Falcon with cutlasses for light sabers, muzzle loaded pistols for blasters, misfit sailors as comic relief for CP30 and R2D2 and a sorcerer pirate captain for Darth Vader.

The basic story would have held up along with the mythology of The Force and the theme of self discovery.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has battles and action, political intrigue and noble acts, yet the core of the story is the exploration of human nature caught between the forces of evil desire and heroic service. Professor Tolkien knew and understood the place of mythology from his studies and research into legendary stories such as Beowulf. He said he wanted to give England a modern myth because it had none.

When a story is set in a galaxy far, far away or a created world that never existed, authors can discuss serious questions such as greed, avarice, prejudice, oppression, altruism and equality in ways that might be ignored or rejected by some readers who oppose these themes.

Mythology, science fiction, fantasy and magical realism can tell stories with universal themes that comment on human nature. Through engaging characters, good and bad, set in immersive worlds, authors can explore who we are and how we can live together in society.

Of course, some stories are written as pure, entertaining romps where the action and adventure are more important than the characters inner struggles. These can be great fun to read and I enjoy them.
Mythology can open minds and change people’s lives. May the force be with you, always.

An honest critique is a gift

When you give a critique, concentrate on the execution of the work, not the author or the themes.

Writing is hard and can be frustrating when you can’t express what you want or have trouble moving forward. A critique can help if given with respect. Point out both what works and what doesn’t. Never slam a writer, though it’s a service to say the writing doesn’t convince you of a theme or action or character development.

Those who receive critiques should take them in without defending themselves and consider if they can help improve both the writer and the work. It’s important to realize the critique is one person’s opinion. Other people may have different observations.

There are those who look only for praise. Some consider their writing as their blood on the page or their baby being murdered before their eyes by a critique. Such people will consider anything negative as a personal attack and may not consider any observations or suggestion.

It’s not your responsibility as a person giving a critique if the person receiving it feels under attack as long as you are respectful and cover only the work.

Mutual Respect in Business Pays Off

Many companies, large and small, still live with the 19th century notion that managers have to stand over employees to make certain they’re working. Yet, evidence shows when managers set clear goals and allow employees, who know the details of the work, the leeway to function in their most efficient ways, productivity and profits increase. In too many respects, western business culture still holds feudal attitudes of lords and peasants rather than as partners who are all required to achieve goals and all deserve equal respect.

Don't fall for scams on social media

If you post about writing on social media, you will be presented with many advertisements for writing contests and services on social media. These can promise publishing deals, agent readings, film connections and many other things for an entry fee. Some are legitimate. Some are scams. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association published paper on how to evaluate a good contest from a poor one and lists some known contests with problems.

Copyright Registration Recieved

Copyright registration for Covenant With the Dragons: Volume III of the Carandir Saga.
The copyright certificate for Covenant With the Dragons: Volume III of the Carandir Saga arrived on Friday from the United States Library of Congress. I was born in Beautiful Downtown Burbank, California, directly between NBC and Walt Disney Studios, something I’ve always thought had an impact on my life. I came to Nova Scotia to research my first novel, Beyond the Shallow Bank, which I set in the province for several reasons. I was so taken by the land and the people I moved and became a Canadian citizen, though I retain my American citizenship as well because I strongly believe in the principals upon which the United States was founded. Nova Scotia just feels like home.

The reason I registered the copyright in the U.S. is because the former conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, gutted the Canadian copyright act such that universities that once paid into a fund for the right to photocopy sections of articles and books are no longer required to pay anything. Before the copyright act was changed, if a book was a part of a university curriculum, the students would buy copies. Professors can now digitize an entire book and distribute it to a class without paying anything, leaving the author with no revenue for what could be years of hard work.

Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, who heads the current Liberal government, has promised to fix the copyright law for over seven years. Nothing has been done. Writers obviously don’t make up a large enough voting block to be considered. There is no chance Pierre Poilievre, the Conserve Party leader, would even consider undoing a wrong committed by Steven Harper if he formed government. It seems both political leaders think writers should work for free.

The Writers’ Union of Canada has been fighting for the government to keep its promise with no results. I spoke with my MP, Kody Blois, about the problem and gave him a copy of Beyond the Shallow Bank that won first-place at an international award ceremony so he could see the kind of work Canadian authors are doing and how they raise the profile of Canada on the world stage. He promised to rise in the house and speak on the issue. That was last fall. Once more, when the Liberals announced the budget, there was no mention of copyright.

So, as a duel Canadian/American citizen, I register the copyright for all my books in the United States where the rights of writers are stronger. If any university or professor copies my work without compensation, I will be able to take legal action both in Canada and the United States and file a complaint with the World Trade Origination.

Of course, it would be best if politicians kept their word and actually served the citizens instead of their own selfish bids for re-election.

Don't Write to Trends

Don’t try to write to trends or opinion polls. These change too often. By the time your book is ready for publication, tastes can vanish.

Be bold. Sit down and write your book. It's all you can do.

The Lord of the Rings was a modest seller when it first appeared in the early 1950s. Nothing like it had been published before.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, when college students discovered the books, that it became the hit we know today.

J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t write to please fans or media swings. He wrote from his heart. Write from yours. Tell your story. It has just as good a change of selling as trying to catch yesterday’s fad.

2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 55

55 years ago, a movie transformed science fiction films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written in collaboration with legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, who has second billing for the screenplay and wrote the novelization, the movie is based on Clark’s short story “The Sentinel” in which an object is dug up on the moon and sends a signal to an unidentified alien world, leaving the main character to wonder who will receive the alarm that humans have left the Earth.

Other Sci-fi films have tackled serious questions such Forbidden Planet, with it’s exploration of the human mind and it’s powers, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, whose themes cover the human propensity for violence and war with a draconian solution.

2001 Delved into more than social warnings. It contemplated the existence, place and future of human beings. It also introduced HAL 9000, the artificial intelligent computer who speaks and acts as if human, and in the end succumbs to human foibles to tragic ends.

The meticulous detail Kubrick put into all his films produced ground breaking special effects that won an Oscar and continue to stand up to this day. There would have been no Star Wars, Silent Running or any other modern sci-fi movies without 2001. The measured pace of the spacecrafts contrast with whizzing space battles, yet create the reality of space travel as had never been seen before. Astronauts have said viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey is like being in space again.

I’ve viewed the film over two dozen times, first in Cinerama with its 180-degree screen that wraps around the audience and fills the peripheral vision with the illusion of three dimensions without glasses, then in standard theaters, drive-ins, scan-and-pan broadcast TV before wide screen, VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray, which I watched again this week.

It was one of the major influences on me as a youth and a reason I became a writer, a teller of stories that expand the imagination.

Chat-bots are sending false message around social media - beware

If you receive a direct message on social media that starts with, “Hi”, you are likely connected to a chat-bot, not a real person. Chat-bots are computer programs that troll social media for accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. They then generate message to accounts in attempt to gather personal information, ask for money or hack into accounts.

I spend 45 years in the computer field, decades of which involved physical and online security and privacy. I’ve engaged with some of these chats to see where they led.

After “Hi”, they ask how you you’re doing. If you make a response like, “Fine, I’m going on vacation to The gulf” the bot will say something like, “I’ve been to the gulf. What will you do?” A response like “Snorkeling” will cause the chat-bot to say, “That sounds like fun. Do you enjoy snorkeling?” It will ask questions and give responses in what can seem a conversion with a real person. The goal of the criminals who use chat-bots is to get personal information from you about where you live and what you do. The more data it collects, the more it can build a psychological profile of you to sell or use to exploit you.

Eventually, the conversation will get around to, “I’ve got something I want to ask you. Do you have WhatsApp so we can chat?” If it were a real person and they actually had a question they could just ask it in the direct message. You will often be asked to give an email address, a phone number or send money for some cause or problem.

These chat-bot messages can be found across social media. They may appear to come from a friend or follower. If you see the patterns above it may be a chatbot and your friend's account has been hacked. Look for the warning signs and be cautious.

Dragons Unremembered wins triple awards

Dragons Unremembered cover. The first I volume of The Carandir Saga.
Dragons Unremembered, the first volume of my epic fantasy series The Carandir Saga, won three medals at The BookFest Awards; Silver (second place) for Literary Sci-fi and Fantasy and two bronze medals (third place) for Fantasy Action & Adventure as well as Fantasy Dragons & Mythical Creatures.

The announcement came at The BookFest semi-annual conference held in Los Angeles in the Spring and Fall. Hundreds of books in multiple categories are submitted by authors from around the world.

The Carandir Saga consists of Dragons Unremembered, Half Awakened Dreams and Covenant With the Dragons, which won third place for Literary Sci-fi & Fantasy and Honorable Mention for Epic Fantasy last fall. It’s set in a world shaped by dragons who taught humans to farm, to fish, to work the forge, to read, to write, and all things they needed to know.

One dragon named Baras fell from grace when he taught the forbidden knowledge of magic to sorcerers called the Barasha, the servants of Baras, who used the arts for evil. This sparked a war between the dragons in which Baras was subdued with a magical crown weilded by Avar the Great, chieftain of a northern people. The Barasha were destroyed, or so it was thought.
Avar founded the monarchy of Carandir in the south, a land where people of different genders, gender orientations & identities, colors and ethnicities have the same rights, opportunities and freedoms.

Yet, not all accept this idiology. Some traitorous nobles plot civil war to gain control, oppress the rights of women and expel or kill all whose ancestors came from different lands so that only those the nobles consider pure are allowed to live in Carandir to make the monarchy great again in their eyes.

All the while, some of the Barasha who survived conspire to steal the crown and release their master.
All this is wrapped in a grand adventure with histories, legends, music and engrossing characters; good, bad and simply weak — rather than as a dry lecture.

I am very happy to have the book recognized for its action & adventure and its unique magical creatures. There are no elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, Ents or any other Tolkienien characters in the story.
The honor I am most proud of is for Literary Sci-fi and Fantasy.

Some think literature means those old, boring books they were forced to read in school and immediately forgot after the exam.
Others feel it has to be a contemporary story in which the format is the most important aspect.
Yet literature is neither inaccessible to those without advanced degrees, nor does it consist of books filled with dense prose and convoluted structures.

Literature is simply fiction that explores the human condition and allows readers the opportunity to consider their own lives. It can be found in contemporary stories, westerns, historical novels, science fiction, fantasy, detective stories or any other setting.
The science fiction novel Dune examines some who seek noble causes while others seek selfish gain. The Lord of the Rings looks at strength, courage, service to others and tyrany. The western Broke Back Mountain explores intense and forbidden love. All are literature.

There are, of course, books that are pure rollicking escapist fun. They are just as valid. A good story is a good story, and stories bind societies together.

Fantasy Book Corner Norway reviews awared winning Covenant With the Dragons

June at Fantasy Book Corner Norway posted a review of Covenant With the Dragons on her Instagram account. June is an avid reader who loves fantasy and writes an excellent book blog.

Her Review of Covenant With the Dragons reads in part:

"This was a little hidden gem of a series I probably never would have discovered without bookstagram. And I thank David for gifting me a copy. I love to discover new indie authors with books I don't normally find in a bookstore... I really enjoyed how the author has built up a great universe with an immense detailed world, complex characters and exciting plot. All wrapped up well in the final installment and the story takes on a lot of twists and turns as you are drawn into the world. Many twists I did not see coming. Tragedy's, love, family and magic. All woven together. Thank you for the opportunity David. And what a wonderful tale you have created."

Covenant With the Dragons was released in September and in November as the third and final volume of The Carandir Saga. It won third place for Literary Science Fiction & Fantasy and honorable mention for Epic Fantasy at The BookFest Awards in Los Angeles, a bi-annual conference devoted to independent publishers.

You can read the complete review on Instagram at This is a wonderful blogger. I'm following her to discover new titles.

Which to use - didn't or hadn't

Didn’t and hadn’t both refer to events in the past. Which you use depends on the context.

If the action in question cannot be completed, use the past simple form of didn’t. The action occurred in the past and can't be changed in the present.

If there’s still a possibility for the task to be completed, use the past perfect form of hadn’t. The event occurred in the past and can be changed in the present.

Assume there are three people, Tom, Mary and Joe.

Example 1 - “Tom read Marys’ report where she spoke with Joe who said he didn’t finish painting the wall.” This implies the painting of the wall was not completed and Joe is no longer capable of doing so.

Example 2 -“Tom read Marys’ report where she spoke with Joe who said he hadn’t finish painting the wall.” This implies the painting of the wall was not completed and Joe has the ability to do so.

This second example doesn’t tell the whole story, however, because we don’ know what Joe’s intentions are. You could write, “hadn’t yet finish painting the wall.” This indicates Joe intends to finish. You could also write, “hadn’t finish painting the wall yet.” This implies Joe could finish but has shown no indication he wants to.