Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Musings: Authentic Authoring

In our youth, we have all had our favorite authors. We devoured their stories like ice cream on a hot July, Sunday afternoon. We took them with us everywhere, while they took us to places we never dreamed existed.

In middle and high school, Judy Blume and V. C. Andrews were all the rage; graduating into Danielle Steele and others who wrote more adult themed books.

There were also the books that were forced upon us by our high school literature teachers. We groaned and moaned about the chore of making our way through the works of James Joyce, Henry James, D. H. Lawerence, Tennyson's plays, and a myriad of other classical authors.

In my quest to become a better writer, and dare I say author, I began to follow authors whom I could relate to, or had much more experience than I. One of those authors is Shawn Lamb, author of the Allon Series. The Allon Series, is an epic young adult Christian fantasy series. Apparently, my youngest daughter was well aware of this before I even knew who Shawn Lamb was. She also writes Christian Historical Fiction. This isn't a blog posting to sing the praises of a well known, successful author. She doesn't need my accolades to find personal fulfillment in her career. This is about authentic authoring.

I began cyber-stalking....ahem...following Shawn Lamb a few months ago. I'm not really stalking her, I'm learning from her, from a distance. I don't know her on a deep personal level; or any personal level at all, but what I have learned is Shawn is the type of author I hope to be one day. She writes in her own voice, adhering to her Christian values. Just because I follow her does not mean I want to BE her. I could never be, or even want to be, exactly like her, or even Debbie MaComber, whom I also follow for the same reason.

Some things I have learned from Shawn Lamb are: you have to know your subject matter inside and out for the story to be believable; just because something is reality doesn't mean it needs to be described with every detail - some things need to be left to the imagination of the reader; and find your own voice - never try to write like someone else.

Those are only a few of the things I have learned thus far. One thing I admire about Shawn Lamb is her adherence to her Christian values and never making apologies for them. In a world where profanity, sex, violence and darker things abound in literature, she makes no apologies for not using or including them. I can respect that.

In the infamous words of Judy Garland, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Blogger: Professional Editor, Gail Gabrielson

I met Gail Gabrielson several years ago, while blogging on, a blogging community of Forum Communicatons Company Newspaper and Broadcast websites, ie Newspapers, Television and Internet.

Gail graduated from the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks. She has worked for several hometown newspapers, as well as, North Dakota's largest communications company, Forum Communications, as the editor of the Celebrations section of the Fargo Forum (7 years). Today she is the President of Gabrielson Editing.

Gail is a whiz at grammar and punctuation, proofreading, and content suggestions, all the while maintaining a professional, yet friendly relationship. Gail's editing style is unlike anything I have encountered; she edits with encouragement. I asked Gail if she would guest blog for me today, which she graciously accepted, taking time out of her busy schedule. In her guest blog today, you will see a side of Gail that is humorous, and delightful, not at all the personality you would expect from an editor. Gail is also an avid reader and posts reviews on her blog: The Book Bag. NOTE: Gail posts reviews on books she chooses to read, she is not a paid reviewer. So, in the infamous words of Mel Blanc, on with the show, this is it....


Thanks to Donna for allowing me to “guest-blog” on her website! She asked me to write about editing -- my first love.

I had my first taste of editing back when I was writing for a weekly newspaper. The local “who-ate-with-whom” news came handwritten from the correspondents. I changed “quests” to “guests” and “ladies” to “women.” (The publisher told me, “All ladies are women, but not all women are ladies.”)

From there, I started editing the handwritten stories of city council meetings given to me by the editor of a sister publication. This editor basically took minutes of the meetings as they happened, and gave them to me for what she considered editing. Normally a writer would decide the most important thing that happened at the meeting, and put that first in the story, going on to expand on how the decision was made and how it affects the readers.

I applied that to her stories, coming up with a lead and headline mere minutes before printing. When she saw my changes, she told me to leave her stories alone – they were fine as they were. And every single story about the meetings began the same way. It killed me to see those stories go to print.

My first experience editing a book was also during the time I was working for the weekly newspaper. An acquaintance had confided that she had written a book and asked if I would consider looking it over. She brought her typed manuscript over and we discussed just how much input she wanted. She wanted all my ideas and suggestions, along with a thorough proofreading.

She had a good story, and she had dreams of having the novel printed by a real publisher. It was a historically-based novel that started out in the present-day and then flashed back. I thought her book would have been more interesting -- more compelling -- if the story would jump back and forth in time, using elements in the story to prompt the movement.

Unfortunately, she thought that would be too much work. And then I knew that she wouldn’t be able to find a publisher who would take her story as it was and print it. They would want her to rework it, polish it here and there, write and rewrite. So, my friend took her book to a print shop and told them to print and bind it.

When she gave me her second book, I merely proofed it. It was good, but not great. She’d found her voice by the second novel; it was nice to see that growth. This is when I realized that I was born to be an editor. I can write, but I’d rather see what someone else has written and work with that.

With that first historical novel, I could see the finished product: I wasn’t going to change her words, just the way in which they were organized. All it would have needed was a little juggling of her chapters and the creation of proper segues from one time to the next. That could have been accomplished easily with the use of italic font.

Another author I know was doing his own proofreading. That’s hard – the eye doesn’t always see the errors when you know what should be there. Even after his first printing, he was finding errors, but his self-published book was by far the cleanest I’ve ever seen.
What really disappoints me is seeing errors in books released by major publishers. It makes me wonder if they have people reading through these books, or if they’ve resorted to a spell-check program. If that’s the case, we’re doomed. With the heavy use of texting and brand names that purposefully misspell proper words, it’s going to take some heavy lifting by the rest of us to maintain the English language. ~ Gail Gabrielson,President, Gabrielson Editing
Gail, has helped me to re-work parts of one of my, yet to be published, works, "The Ten Thousand Hands Project". It was a pitiful piece of prose, which still needs more work, but with Gail's help I was able to get the project moving in the right direction again.

When I first revealed my desire to write, to be an author, Gail was right there to provide encouragement for me to pursue this dream. Thank you, Gail for guest blogging for me today!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guest Blogger, Author, Mark Levine, Musings on Valentine's Day

I was so excited when author, Mark Levine, accepted my invitation to guest blog on the Butterfly Phoenix blog this week.

Mark is married, and lives with his wife in Romeoville, IL, where he is a teacher and an author. Mark regularly blogs on Levine Writes


Valentine’s Day is upon us, and as with many “Hallmark created” holidays, we head to the store to buy what we are expected to, in order to satisfy the social pressures that we have learned to love in a mindless Lemming manner.  

I am one of those guys that actually have followed such a tradition of getting the “required” props for each given created holiday, so that no feelings are hurt and nobody feels left out.  Yes, I at times, have been amongst the crowds of guys in the lines at grocery stores, convenience stores, and even gas stations, early in the day on February 14th.    I have witnessed the shame on the faces of these men, who refuse to make eye contact so they do not have to admit to themselves that they have made it to this level of shame.  I am not sure if it is part of the guy code to collectively respect the other men by refusing to put another guy through the embarrassment, or if it is just an accepted line-of-shame decree passed down in the male DNA.  Either way, this sad phenomenon exists and I am pretty sure all women know it lurks in the shadows of the day. 
So where does this painful dance originate?  It appears that over 3,000 years ago, some guy, named Valentine, believed in love.  He believed so much, that he risked his life for love.  He agreed to marry young male soldiers to their loves, even though it was considered illegal at the time.  He risked his life in the name of love.  As he was sentenced to death, he was introduced to a young beautiful blind girl of significance.  It was understood that he was a healer of sorts and he might be able to heal the girl.  With no promise of freedom or pardon for his crime, he healed the girl.  He was executed and left the girl, who had become his closest friend, a loving note.  The note was signed, “from your Valentine.”

Now for the open and honest part, I am a man of passion and love.  I enjoy doing special things for the love of my life.  I look forward to being the romantic and caring one.  Yes, I am one of those sensitive guys.  I don’t really desire to be current on the latest trend of gift giving, or for that matter, follow the tradition of candy and flowers.  I would much rather give a hunk of wood that was found on a walk we took several years ago.  I might attach a note of a memory I cherish from that particular walk, and how the memory has enhanced my love for her.  As far as I am concerned, celebrating a tradition that we assert is a holiday does not have to follow every norm set forth for us.  It is more than the thought …it is the heart that counts. 

I am a teacher, an author, a person who values humor and honesty.  I am a guy with high expectations for self and for others around me.  Like everyone else…I seek acceptance and love.  On this Valentine’s Day, or week…I hope you all find what matters to you in your own way.  Whether it is tradition, or non-compliance; flowers, or a hunk of wood, outward or inward love…I hope you find what the day means for you. 

Peace.  Mark.

Thank you, Mark for taking the time (on short notice) to fill in for me today! To my readers: take a moment to visit Levine Writes and learn more about the fascinating author, Mark Levine. Have a great week everyone!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Musings: Keep Dreaming; Keep Trying

Writing is hard. It can bleed your soul dry if you let it. Choosing just the right word, imagining the perfect setting, developing the intriguing plot, all of it gets under your skin, but you cannot quit.

Not everyone is a ebook lottery winner. Not everyone is going to be the next member of the Million Kindle club, but that is not a reason to stop writing.

The passionate writer, writes for the sake of the art, and the overwhelming desire in their soul to share the story with the world.

There's a theory out there in the universe: 10% of all people are not going to like you; as a person, but you have to focus on the 90% who do. If you put all your effort into trying to woo the 10%, eventually you will begin to lose the 90%. I think this is true of writers too.

Not every reader, or reviewer, is going to like what you write. There are many reasons for their opinions, but you have to remember, the value or likeability of the story is subjective, and again, opinion based.

Writing constantly improves the skill. I know this first hand. I'm not perfect, I make mistakes. We all do. I still write. I still try.

Don't give up your dream due to mistakes and slow progress. At least you are trying. When you try, you are way ahead of everyone else who doesn't.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Conversations: Hoarfrost

The fog silently rolled into the valley five days ago. Its entrance came relatively unnoticed, until the dawn of the first day. At first morning's light, the hoarfrost covered the branches of every tree, the planks of every fence, and attached itself to every exposed surface.

The sun's rays shining dimly through the thick fog, reflect ominously, creating an eeriness that envelopes the valley.

Beyond the horizon, some thousand miles away, blow the winds of change. In the stillness of the valley, the wonderment of it all seeps into the minds of the inhabitants. Small children, as though with a knowing, place fingers lightly on the fragile crystals, watching them crumble like dust to the ground below. Mothers and fathers capture the images in their Kodaks, Fujis, and other devices, to render the moment immortal. Grandmothers and grandfathers find themselves in anxious moments, awaiting the arrival of the winds of change; as has been before, and comes again.

The hoarfrost hearlds in a new day. Perhaps it is the change of season that this way comes; or as the eeriness of it all implies; something more. As the inky shadow of night overtakes the sky, with the setting of the sun of the first day, the hoarfrost remains unmoved.

The fog, relentless in its steadfast stay, wraps its fingers of mist about every living thing, as though breath hanging in the dense air. Rolling across the outstretched fields, which slumber under the blanket of snow, the fog whisps its way into the nooks and crannies of the city, seeking safety from that which comes upon the heels of the hoarfrost. The winds of change.


As I sat listening to the stories, handed down from century to century, the legend of the hoarfrost was among them. It is said when the hoarfrost arrives and makes the land its home, the winds of change will soon follow. No one knows what the winds may bring, it may be for good, or ill. But, it is not of the making of man, but God's own will. May it be better days for us all.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fractured Friday: Ten Thousand Hands Project

It was Saturday and James had been working in the chapel for several hours, since the early morning. He was nearly finished with the elevated flooring, and about to pound another nail, when a strong hand came down on his shoulder. Dropping the hammer to the floor with a clatter, James jerked around to see the face attached to the hand. 

A large man in his late forties, with an unkempt head of wiry gray hair and beard, peered down at him with sparkling blue eyes. His checkered, button down shirt, with a torn pocket, was covered with dirt. His crumpled khakis bore stains of food from several meals, spotting them from waist to cuff. He wore his brown loafers with srtark white socks.
“Freddy. My name is Freddy.” The man said with a broad smile that revealed missing front teeth – top and bottom.

James rose to his feet wiping his hands on his faded blue jeans. “Nice to meet you, Freddy,” he said reaching for Freddy’s hand.

Freddy emanated a light air about him with a true joyousness in his spirit. “Can I help you with that?  I don’t know a lot about carpentry, but I know the son of a carpenter. Used to hang out with him a lot back in the day. We helped his dad build boats, boxes, and buildings when he needed the extra hands.”

James smiled at Freddy and handed him the hammer from the floor. “Sure, I need all the help I can get. If you have questions just ask.”

James and Freddy laughed and joked through the rest of the morning stopping only to have lunch in the dining room with the rest of the homeless population. They sat at the table and as they ate Freddy began to speak.

“You know, I heard once that ‘where God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel next door’, what do you think about that?”

“I’m not sure what you mean by that Freddy, but I don’t think that is so much true, in that it’s not the devil, himself, but people influenced by evil ways.”

“Well, I think it is true. I think that the devil is working his way through this place, and he’s not gonna stop until he has every last one of us on a chain.”

The conversation was getting a little weird and deep for James after expending all of his energy in the morning, nailing boards together and measuring for the carpet that would need to be laid overtop.  He was tired and his mind was not anywhere near the realm of philosophical or theological topics, but he asked anyway, “What do you mean by that, Freddy? What place? The shelter?”

“If only it was just the shelter. No, James, I mean this whole city. Nobody seems to care about anything, or anyone anymore.  It’s so devoid of all hope. Even the rich bastards that go to your church are feeling it. You’re feeling it too. You can’t deny it.”

What Freddy had said was very true. James was definitely feeling it, and was aware of the complete lack of care and concern in the community.  He felt it everyday with an increasing sense of despair in his own heart.  He prayed hard every day and night for understanding, strength of faith, and courage of spirit, but it never seemed to come.  He was slowly being worn down to a shell of the man he was in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles, the City of Angels.  How he missed her.


Today's Fractured Friday is an excerpt from 'The Ten Thousand Hands Project', a work in progress.