Monday, March 31, 2008


This was written a few years ago; poetry being subjective, I'll leave any deeper meaning up to you.


My map is crossed
with thin blue highways
and squiggled yellow highlighter
and fat red interstates.

Do I take the easy ways,
the broad, straight roads
with bright green signs
and regular mile markers
that tick off the time
and make me feel safe?

How can I get lost
with so many things to guide me?

But what if I don’t want to be safe?
What if something tugs me
toward the dust
and the rolling curves
and the green isolation
of the backroads,
toward the towns travelers never see
except when they take the wrong exits

and are lost?

KB, June 2003

Read This!

Head on over to Eagle's Roost, and check out this short story. It's a quick read, and it's some good writing.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Action and Emotion

Yesterday, I raked more leaves fallen last autumn (from the neighbors 'trees) and filled eleven--eleven--trash bags. And that's just from one side of the house. Some people rake yards during the fall; here, with so many trees that sometimes hold their leaves for a long time, such an exercise is futile. I tend to rake during late winter/early spring.

Meantime, despite all that exercise, which often leads to more creativity in the writing process, I've hit a wall. How do I convey great emotion and intense inner conflict without explaining it? Without being over the top and melodramatic and all the things I hate about lazy writing? Actions should speak for themselves, should reveal the subtext, no explanation necessary.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fiction Arts & Crafts, the Continuing Saga

As promised, here's a page from the cut-and-paste project--which, if all goes well, should be completed this weekend. If you look closely, you can see text printed on the opposite side of the page; the scrap paper contains a previous incarnation of this manuscript.

* * *

I've taken full advantage of this being Saturday, and have slept half the day away. After a week like this last one has been, I fell asleep at my desk here in the home office, woke, stumbled out to the living room to turn off the television (I listen to TV more than I watch it), and fell asleep on the couch--and this was around 9:30-ish last night. I'm a night owl; falling asleep before midnight has to be a violation of the night owl's code. There might even be some sort of fine.

It's almost 12:30 pm on Saturday, and I'm about to get to work on the manuscript again. I should be mowing the yard, thwacking at the tall purple clover and wild onions, but that would mean buying gas for the mower, and that in turn would mean spending a small fortune.

I need to get one of those old-fashioned push mowers, no fuel required.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crazy Busy

Brought home some work last night, because I didn't want to stay at the office to finish it. Sometimes, there's less stress if I can bring "busy work" (a/k/a paperwork) home where I can at least watch television and be distracted a little from the boringness of it all.

Unfortunately, the reason there was any work to bring home is the amount of work still waiting on my desk. Too many little fires to put out during the day, not enough time to get to the mountain of tasks looming ever higher.

So, not much writing getting done. No cutting and pasting the Dragon novel for the last two nights. That's okay, though, because I've still been writing: I've been dreaming and daydreaming a crucial scene, reworking events, choosing which character's POV will work best, and so on.

I've been getting requests from my 12-year-old reader at the Club; he wants to know if there's anything on the Emerson & Uncle Eban story. Weeeellll, yes and no. About three pages of scribbled material in the little spiral notebook, but not enough for an avid reader like him to become immersed in the story again.

So many stories, so much interruption.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fiction Arts & Crafts

Wish I had a picture to share of my cut-and-paste project: the result of literally cutting apart the manuscript and putting it back together, with scissors and tape and pieces of scrap paper for the backing.

Maybe I'll take a photo later and post it. There's a lot of scribbled writing in between the portions of neat type, most of it just the roughest outline of what I will later type in that space.

Much of the pasted material is from old stuff that I cut from the original manuscript and saved in various files for use later, such as now. Unless you know it's utter crap, never, never, never throw anything away. You never know when you'll need it again.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Opening Lines

I've been working, off and on, toward the completion of the Dragon novels for the past ten years. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear ya: only one book complete, the second almost finished, and the third existing only in notes -- I should have finished the series by now.

Yet, through the years, the opening line of the prologue (which has moved from the first book to the second) refuses to be changed. I've been told to never include prologues--personally, I like 'em--or to never include difficult words in the opening sentence or paragraph. However, much as I have tried, this line remains the same:
In the darkness of the Prymmiddion Age, when clan fought clan and chaos ruled, Dragons broke their bond with Men.
It is adamant. It will not change.

Other opening lines are not so indomitable:
“Cargo aboard, sir. Freight lockers secure.”
Or this one:
“Advocate Temm. ISC Wyoming in two minutes.”
Or this one:
The old man, a little hunched at the shoulders but otherwise straight, set an old-fashioned medical bag on the table and opened it.

Yeah, I tend to open stories with dialogue or action, even if the action is small, such as opening a medical bag. These three examples are all from stories in progress, the first two from futuristic science fiction tales--space pirates and space mystery, respectively--and the third from a modern fantasy-suspense set in the American southwest. Their opening lines are subject to change.

What is it about the Dragon prologue that refuses alteration?

It tells the story. The entire series is wrapped up in that line. And, when spoken aloud, the sentence sounds like it could have come from a bard's mouth. It sounds like oral tradition.

So, despite advice, despite complaints that "no one will know how to say that P-word," the line remains as it is.

(FYI: Prymmiddion = prim-MID-dee-ON)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Reflecting on the Greatest Story

In the days leading up to Easter, I have been reading the entries in the little devotional booklet Our Daily Bread, published monthly by RBC Ministries, and have been challenged by the contents.

Last Sunday, the reading was from Matthew 21:1-11 ("Behold, your King is coming to you," verse 5), and the writer of short text that accompanied it discussed how "Hosanna" became "Crucify Him" in the span of less than a week.

It started to go bad when Jesus told the people what they didn't want to hear. Look at what He did. He threw the money changers out of the temple area (Matt. 21:12). He taught that tax collectors and prostitutes could enter the kingdom of heaven before the religious (21:31). He told the people to pay taxes (22:21). Then He pronounced a series of woes against the religious leaders: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisee" (23:13-31).

But this is Jesus. The righteous One. The only perfect Man. God in the flesh. He was not in town for a popularity contest. His task was to proclaim the truth and provide salvation. And it cost Him His life.

How many times do we know the right thing to do but do not do it, because it might cost more than we are willing to pay?

Monday's reading was in Mark 7:9-23, and discusses hypocrisy, the difference between appearance and reality: "'And He said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries...murders, thefts...deceit...blasphemy, pride, foolishness,'" (verses 20-22).

If we're not careful, we can become absorbed with looking good on the outside and forget what really counts. In fact, when we get to the place where we are keeping all the "right" rules, we may become proud of ourselves and judgmental toward others. But harboring bitterness, clinging to critical attitudes, and thinking too highly of ourselves are the kind of defiling stuff that makes us guilty of Jesus' charge of "hypocrite."
'Nuff said.

Tuesday's entry discussed Romans 9:1-5, and used the Coast Guard rescue swimmers' motto--"So Others May Live"--as an illustration of why one human would risk everything for someone else.

Wednesday concerned holy communion (I Corinthians 11:23-26): "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes," (verse 26). May we never forget what great sacrifice was made on our behalf, and may our lives reflect our gratitude.

Thursday asked hard questions: "Are you being called to taste some bitter cup of pain or loss? Are you temped to push it away? You may be wondering, Is God in this situation? If so, recall the dark and distressing experience of Jesus and His example on the night of His betrayal." The scripture reading was Matthew 26:36-46, the story of how Jesus prayed that night, asking God the Father to take away that cup, but then--in profound trust--accepting the cup of suffering from His Father's own hands, knowing it held redemption for mankind.

How can we trust unless we test the object of our trust? Why do we associate pain with evil? Pain may not be welcome, but how many of us undergo the pain of surgery because we hope the end result will be a cure? Why, then, when we experience pain in life, do we blame God or say He is evil or does not exist?

Luke 23:39-43 on Friday: "'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom,'" (verse 42).

At Golgotha, an unnamed thief...understood that eternal life had nothing to do with what he had done--good or bad. It had to do with what Jesus was doing--giving His own life so that even the undeserving could be welcomed into heaven by God.

Tomorrow is the day we mark the resurrection of Jesus after His death on the cross, the day He "led captivity captive" and thus allowed us to ask, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

What have we to fear?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What a Geek Am I

Just finished rewriting an old scene in which a man faces off with a dragon, with nothing more than a dagger as a defense. Sounds impossible, right? During the first few runs at it, I started thinking it was impossible, too. I wanted the action short, plausible, and exciting. And, in this instance, I needed the guy to win. What I ended up with was a workable scene, but it felt a little too deus ex machina.

This time, however--this time--it more than works. It kicks some big, bad, dragon butt.

Whoo Hoo!

I think I'll reward myself by going to bed before 4:00 a.m.; the earliest I've been all week is 3-ish. Four hours or less of sleep per night is not conducive to creativity.

On the other hand, in times like this when I'm feeling the high, I can write all night and well past sunup. If only this wasn't Thursday....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Water World and Horticultural Romance

Due to heavy rains over the past two days, my town is surrounded by water, with many of the roads only just passable. The creek that runs through town is flooded past its high banks and has joined the lake formed in the cattle pastures that run alongside it; the water is lapping the bottom of the bridge. The Arkansas River is enormous, too, its muddy waters rising and swift.

My town was flooded two or three years ago, but my neighborhood was spared, thank God. Though a branch of the creek wanders through some of our yards, other branches did not behave so well, sluicing businesses and homes with several inches--and sometimes feet--of muddy, smelly water.

This house was built on a slope, so that the front is near the ground, but the rear foundation is taller to accommodate the decline toward the aforementioned creek branch. Being near all that water is why the lowest portion of my backyard is so lush each summer; it's boggy, too. Even after several days of dry weather and sunshine, the grass can still be too thick and damp to cut without killing the lawnmower.

Reveling in the torrents, the wild onions and the clover are having their way with my yard. Sounds like a tawdry paperback, doesn't it? Maybe one with a muscular young tree bending low over a fainting blousy rose,and with a gleaming trowel nearby in grass so thick and green it can only be growing over a septic tank. Perhaps there is a melodramatic title in florid script--something like The Ravished Rose--or a clinical title like The Joy of Gardening.

What I can promise is something more savage, along the lines of the Mongol hordes sweeping across the steppes and cutting down the opposition. I can see the book cover now: black work gloves across a bright red lawnmower, like the device on a knight's shield, and over it the title in strong letters with a hint of medieval flourish--The Song of Lawn, this tale otherwise being known as the Hand of Brand.

Look on me, weeds, and fear.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Re-Weaving, Skipping, Treading

This re-weaving business is making my eyes cross. I've almost reached the end of the original novel material, but there's still a little left that doesn't quite fit with the new direction the story has taken; however, among the old is important information that directly affects the new, so I still have to pick out the threads that I need and discard the rest.

One simplifying idea came to mind as I lay in bed this morning, in that hazy time between waking and actually getting up. I can skip a lot of words and effort--and avoid boring the reader--by simply letting characters arrive where I need them to be. "Duh," right? There's so much action going on that making a simple statement--"they arrived"--seems simple and perfect. After all, the reader knows this particular group of characters is on the road and will meet soon with the main party; why not skip the rest of the trip and just have them show up? Someone ought to have an uneventful journey.

(Reminds me of the wedding in The Princess Bride, when an anxious Prince Humperdinck tells the speech-impaired Venerable Clergyman, "Skip to the end.")

To give my brain a rest, I worked on the pirate story last night--not creating the fiction but compiling a collection of lists: the pirate crew and passengers; the constable freighter and its crew; planets and places; food, drink, and drugs (how plants can be used, not a list of chemicals); clothing and culture; and miscellaneous characters. I'll need a list for currencies in use among the planets, another list for government officials, and still another list of historical events, places, and people that affect the story's present.

And soon, to boost the brain further, I'm going to go plug in the treadmill and pump some blood up to the grey cells. The treadmill is borrowed from a friend, who has borrowed four movies and one book. Fair trade, eh?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Around the Yard

I took almost one hundred photos last Saturday afternoon, just wandering around the back yard. Here are only four--not necessarily the cleverest or the best, but a few I like.

Here's where I hung the camera bag when it became a nuisance.

For some reason, I like the look of bare branches against a blue sky.

Here's little snow and a little spring, a little out of focus.

On my way back inside, I saw this in the neighbor's yard, so I poached a photo of it.

Persnickety Perfectionist

Can't post any photos; I keep getting a disconnect or error message. Hmmm.

Finished the magnificent death scene for the ancient villain. Pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself. There are still several more paragraphs to create, though--another baddie hasn't yet entered the room to survey the damage.

For the musically inclined, the phrase "pitch perfect" needs no explanation, and it describes what I'm seeking: dialogue so true that it sounds natural to the speakers, and action that fits the characters like their own skins. Unfortunately, perfectionism makes for slow writing. (There are two current projects that I'm pretty much writing by the seat of my pants, so to speak, no perfectionism in sight.)

Due to less-than-ideal circumstances yesterday, I didn't get to bed till about 5 a.m.; looks like I'm going to be awake till crazy hours again. Maybe the missing paragraphs will come to me in lieu of dreams.

* * *

Update: Whoo Hoo! The entire chapter is finished, the ending totally unexpected--at least by the author. I'm feeling good about this part of the manuscript, and have moved on to the next chapter, which I am going to leave incomplete for now, since the time is a few minutes past 5 a.m., and I do need a few hours of sleep before work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oh, Brother!

God bless brothers.

Around 11-something Sunday night, the phone rang.

"I suppose this is my little brother."

"Nope." (muffled laughter)

He had read the entry about killing my villains, and immediately guessed which one I meant. We spent an hour or so discussing the story in general and the villain's death in particular, especially the mode of his death.

The weapon is small and ordinarily not an object associated with murder, but that's not a problem. The villain is such a strong character that his actual moments of dying have to be spectacular. I spent much of Sunday night (and now Monday morning) pacing back and forth before the computer, contemplating the scene, uncertain how to pull it off.

The Wonder Boy calls, and in short order has a fantastic series of ideas for a memorable death.

That's why the first book will be dedicated to him and his wife: all those phone calls or long nights where we worked out sword fights, the special properties of a certain substance, the behavior and growth patterns of a particular mythical creature when it is young, and other such details required of a sprawling fantasy.

Dad will get a mention, too, for his help regarding metals and smithing; Mom and a few friends, for reading all or part of the manuscripts. This has truly been a group effort.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Killing the Villains

Today, I think, one of the villains dies.

But I'm not sure.

After all, he really is a baddie, and he's been around for millenia. Doesn't seem fair to kill him off with so simple a weapon (nope, not gonna tell ya!) and in so casual a fashion.

On the other hand, he's a leech, feeding off another villain's life and mind and spirit, controlling him in order to have power, and it seems fitting that the host kill the parasite.

After all, it's not as if there aren't more baddies out there--including the host's wife, who's a real nasty. I'm having fun writing her; does that mean I'm twisted?

I've never written so many villains who are so bad as this bunch.

The irony? (evil laugh and a twirl of my invisible mustache) The host's wife is a parasite herself; he kills off one terrible bloodsucker only to clear the way for a worse one. MWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!

Friday, March 7, 2008


I've been tagged. The task? My memoir in 6 words.

Texican tagged me, and you can read his memoir here. He was tagged by his cousin Beth, whose memoir is here.

I warned him that this might take a while, since I'm a split personality: novelist and poet. One requires a lot of words; the other, the condensation of words.

"Walking, falling, getting up--stubborn optimist."

Hmmm...Not sure who to tag, but I'll think on it.

* * *

Here are the meme rules:

1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Puzzle Pieces

The only thing resembling writing this week--aside from updating this blog--has been the rearranging of scenes for the third part of the current novel. 

I want to continue the momentum, but I also have a timeline to keep and several groups of characters (seven groups, to be precise, with an eighth in pursuit and a ninth advancing to attack the eighth) to move toward the same place geographically. 

There are two significant places left for characters to gather, and I've decided that the first of those places--the foothills between a rugged mountain range and a dense forest--will open Part Three. The second place--a ruined fortress--will end Part Four.

Place and time together provide an organic outline for the story. A decision and demi-climax will occur in the foothills; as a result, pursuit ensues, and the big finish occur in the ruins.

Needless to say, I've done a lot of thinking and played a lot of solitaire, moving cards around like moving scenes, pieces of a puzzle.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Had to "be the boss" today at work by reminding a teenage employee that she answers to me, not the other way around. I hate doing that sort of thing, but it has to be done, or else business would not function as it should, smelly attitudes would continue to stink, and the inmates would run the asylum.

Anyway, I plan on going home in a few minutes and doing some writing--after fortifying myself with food and drink and perhaps a few rounds of Addiction Solitaire.

Monday, March 3, 2008


No, this isn't astronomically weak coffee; it's the hot water to mix with cocoa or packets of powdery "cider" for sale in the Club's concession stand.

I occasionally get out the camera and just take pictures of stuff--all sorts of stuff--for no particular reason.

So, one day in January, during basketball games, I decided to document the kitchen. (shrug) This has nothing to do with "Adventures in Fiction," except that little details might find their way into a story. Who knows?