Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Catching Up

Can one really catch up with what has already been lost?

Does everyone write in the month of February and March? Perhaps its the faint scent of spring that's bringing on the new wave of stories. I'm excited to see them all, but overwhelmed at the same time.

Every week I find myself scrambling to catch up on crits that I owe to other writers in my critique group, but I can't. I have a lot of critters, but I don't just write a simple critique - It usually takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to do a good critique on a chapter. Some stories I enjoy reading, others are little more painstaking - but I think has great potential.... so I plug away.

However, critting while editing while working isn't really working out. I think I'll just have to let my list of those I owe grow, until I'm through with the manuscript I'm currently working on - then spend a month or so just doing crits to pay them back. As much as I try to go forward - I fall even farther behind.

So, to those critters who I owe - I haven't forgotten about you. You're listed on my 'Tit-for-tat' , and I will get to you eventually. But, I need to focus on getting this manuscript done - and then take a little break.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Comprehending What You Read

I was reading a scripture last night that I don't think I comprehended anything that it truly said. I stopped and re-read it, and still don't have any idea what it truly means. I understand the basics of what it said, but it's just a head knowledge. I can probably quote it, but that's about it.

I know that I'm somewhat intelligent, so it isn't a matter of my brain not being able to rationalize what I'm reading. I think the problem that I'm having is, I don't have the foundational information to use in my understanding. It's like someone trying to explain to me how a carburetor works, when I don't know what parts make up one or for what function it holds.

This has me thinking - Isn't this the foundation of ignorance? Ignorance isn't that the brain's inability to process information - it's that it doesn't have enough initial programming to organize the information into a final conclusion. Without the foundational information - the rest is just illegible, incomprehensible, unrecognizable gibberish.

There's a lot of gibberish I struggle to understand. In my writing, in my relationships, in my spiritual walk, etc. When I come across it - I start to recognize that there's something missing in the foundation of what I think I already know. I'm led back to the beginning.

I've got to learn how to spell, type, write, learn the rules of punctuation, grammar and language, learn how to plot, outline and flesh out characters - before I can manipulate all that information and transform it into something new. I don't create anything - which is to make something from nothing. None of us has creative power. But, if I learn the basic elements of something, I can form it into something else. Just like an old joke indicates, I've got to get my own dirt. (If you don't know the joke (the foundational teaching), you won't get the pun.)

So, while I try to comprehend exactly what happened on the mountain of transfiguration, I'm beginning to see the difficulty in comprehending what I read. It's not about my ability (or lack thereof) to read - but to have the necessary information already stored to help me understand.

If I don't understand 'who' was on the mountain, 'why' they were there, 'what' actually happened and the cause and effect of the act, how will I comprehend what it's trying to tell me?
I'm a curious person by nature, a modern-day Nancy Drew. I want to understand the physical world around me - and the spiritual world within and beyond that. I won't be able to do that unless I can understand, divide or process the information I receive. Reading it - isn't good enough. I must comprehend it.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Passive Vs. Active

This past year has really brought a lot of new changes to my writing style. I've learned a lot from many of the new author friends I've made in my critique group.

One of the biggest changes I've made, thanks in part to editors Browne and King, authors of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers", is that I've changed from writing in passive to active voice.

There are many benefits from writing in this style. I use most of them in my arguments to other writers when I'm critiquing their work.
  • Passive voice separates the reader from the character, while active voice pulls you right into the action.
  • Passive voice 'tells' the reader what 'was', instead of actively 'showing' them what 'is'.
  • Active voice allows you to get right into the character's head, see their thoughts and feel their emotions.
  • Active voice makes the difference between reading a story and taking an adventure.

Here are some examples of passive vs. active paragraphs from the novel I'm currently working on, Orientation - the first book of my Necromancer Series:

Original Passive/Telling Version:

Staring at Azrael for a few moments, with a look of befuddlement on her face, Sibyl-Claire tried to contemplate the meaning behind his statement. Was he implying that games were for the immature, or was he truly sad that he had never experienced them? Sibyl-Claire turned her attention toward Magus and asked, “Well, then what about you? Are you up for a little competition?”

New Active/Showing Version:

Staring at Azrael, Sibyl-Claire narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. Is he implying that games are only for the immature, or sad he's never experienced them? She shrugged and turned toward Magus and asked, "Well, what about you? Are you up for a little competition?"

The first 'passive' version 'tells' you what Sibyl-Claire did and thought, keeping the reader on the outside of the story, looking in. While the second 'active' version, 'showed' you what she did and allowed the reader direct access to her thoughts, pulling them into the story.

All those points are true and I've seen how they work. Writing in active voice is hard, but it's something that I can spot a mile away now, which brings me to the next point I want to make.

After telling and showing you the benefits of writing in this style, which I agree with, I have to admit that I still love the passive/telling story. I've been reading Rowling's series again and though it's written mostly in passive/telling voice, I still find it very good, very entertaining and very adventurous.

So, while I'm changing and writing in a new style, one that I believe will only help to pull the readers into my stories and take them on some of the greatest adventures of their lives, there's also nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned story telling.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Editing - Orientation 02/27/07

I have a lot of edits to do today, which I'm enjoying more than I think I should.

I know you've heard the saying, "When it rains, it pours." Well, that's certainly true for my writing list right now. I have such a storehouse of things to do, I don't know when I'll ever get them done. It's not something you can just clear your schedule to do. It's something that you have to tackle one thing at time, one piece at a time, bit by small bit until it's complete.

Here's just a small portion on my list:
  • Complete my re-write/editing of Orientation.
  • Complete my re-write/editing of The Year of the Unicorn.
  • Write The Year of the Griffin.
  • Write Lost Love
  • Complete my re-write/editing of Bitter Tea.
  • Write The Year of the Triton.
  • Complete my re-write/editing of Mystery Meatball.
  • Write The Year of the Phoenix
  • Complete my re-write/editing of The Heir of Ashford.
  • Write The Year of the Dragon.
  • Complete my re-write/editing of Mena.
  • Write The Year of the Masters.
  • Write Little Girl Lost

None of this includes any 'new stories' that may come up - and I dream them all the time. Nor, does it include the processes for when I become published for books already in submission (Milledgeville Misfit and Magic Island).

As you can see, I plan on being busy for a long, long while - and I think I'm going to enjoy every pain-staking minute of it. Writing is a labor of love. Don't let anybody tell you different. Some think it's easy to tell a story - but telling the story isn't really part of the process. There's so much more that goes into writing, and the biggest part is your heart.

I can't, and won't, complain. It seems to be raining in my life - because my list keeps getting bigger and longer everyday. That's a good thing. This is my vision as I've laid it out for you.

Habakkuk 2:2 - And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.(AMP)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Crazy4Smallville's Weekly Review 6:14 & 15

I didn't post a review last week, mostly because I was disheartened, so I thought I'd combine it with this weeks.

I'm not sure where TPTB are going to go with the Lana story. I actually like this new role she's playing, but I abhor the Clana they keep insisting on shoving down our throats. It really makes me twinge every time it comes on the screen. I've really become disheartened with the story. But, I don't want to get onto another Clana rant.

Just what is Clark Kent supposed to be doing? He didn't join up with the Justice League because he was on a mission to round up the remaining Phantom Freaks, yet I haven't seen mention of any since then. He's been too busy doing the Lana dance. It's like the show has shifted from Clark's mission to Lana's mission and her quest to discover the truth about Clark. She's resorting to manipulations, lying, snooping and being down-right underhanded, but for what purpose? She's pregnant with a child that she hasn't SHOWN any interest or concern with, she's engaged to a man she clearly doesn't trust and she claims to be best friends with someone who doesn't trust her or her fiance and is hiding the one secret she's after. Come on - do they really think we're going to buy that she's even remotely innocent. Lana doesn't act like someone in love and is about to have a baby. She's on a mission - and that mission (to find out Clark's truth) trumps EVERYTHING else in her life. She's no different than Lex, because she's become consumed in her obsession.

I think this story line started a couple of seasons back with the emergence of the crystals, her witnessing the spacecraft and the two Krytponians and then her dealings with Zod and now Lex. She believes Clark is meteor infected, but now KNOWS that he's not - how much longer will it take her to put together that he's an alien? As Chloe said - she's been orbiting this secret for so long - she can't help but soon make a landing. I also think Clark knows this, but his apparent 'fear' of her discovering the truth is starting to dissipate. Is it because he's moving on and it doesn't matter as much as it used to, because he doesn't have as much to lose - or because he believes that it truly wouldn't make a difference and she'd accept him anyway?

You have to wonder what Clark thinks of Lana now. He still loves her, but his perfect perception of her isn't the same. She's fallen off that pedestal and perhaps that is what makes all the difference. I'm hoping that he's letting down his guard, because he's becoming more confident and secure in who he is - and isn't ashamed of it. Either way, he has to realize that Lana isn't the same sweet girl-next-door. He doesn't believe she loves Lex, yet he knows she's with him.

BTW - don't you notice that every time Lex and Lana lie to each other, they always follow it up with a kiss on the cheek and delivered with a smile? I'm starting to pick up on the tell-tell signs.

Now, onto Clark and Chloe. I nearly choked up when Clark told Chloe that she should consider him her personal bomb protection. That's LOVE. That's the Superman I know. That's the kind of relationship I love to see. It was a touching moment. Probably one of the sweetest moments I've seen yet. It showed the true heart of Clark Kent.

Now, what is Chloe's ability??? I've always suspected that she was somehow infected, but always hoped it was just who she was - the way Bart is just fast, Oliver is just good, Aqua is just ... a fish? I hope she doesn't turn out to be meteor affected, because what I've noticed over the past six years (and she has too) is that meteor freaks are a mutated version of greatness. While it gives the wielder an ability, its one that they can't handle and instead is the very thing that destroys them. They change - transform into the extreme - and like Chloe said - most end up either dead, on level 33.1 or in Belle Reve. Not a good outcome for Chloe, especially since she already fears the asylum due to her mother's mental history. BTW - has Chloe been visiting her mother? After that one episode, we haven't heard anything else about it.

There is a lot that's happened over these past couple of episodes. My biggest problem isn't what's happened, but trying to determine which path TPTB are leading us down. I just hope it's the right one. If Smallville can't do right by Chloe, then the CW should create a spin-off series centered around her - The Chloe Chronicles. I'd watch it! But, I'm really hoping they get back to the story of Clark Kent and him embracing his destiny.

Till next time,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Orientation - Chapter One - Snippet

He made his way to the back of the store to the small coffee shop, surrounded by big oversized couches and chairs and a long counter with several barstools in front. Magus plopped down at the first stool and smiled at the jovial man sitting a few spaces down. “Hey, Mr. Wilson, what’s up?”

The old man swiveled around, folded his newspaper and wiped his hands on a small apron tied around his robust waist. He smiled at Magus and then reached up to tip the plaid hat that matched his plaid sweater. “That’s Master Wilson to you, young Magus. How many times must I tell you that?” Master Wilson picked up the newspaper and opened it back and resumed reading.

Magus smiled. “Until you tell me why they call you Master instead of Mister.”

The old man didn’t look back at Magus. He reached up with one hand and scratched his salt-and-pepper head, just behind his right ear. “You know, they say that an egg can stand on its end by itself today…” Master Wilson said, not looking up from his paper. “…How do you suppose that works?”

Magus drummed his fingers on the countertop. “I think it has something to do with the equinox, but I’m not sure. What I am sure about…” Magus said as he wiped his hand across his forehead, “… is that I hate this horrible heat. It seems to be one of the hottest days so far.” He wiped his hand on his blue jeans. “I’ve been sweating all day. What does your newspaper say about that?”

Master Wilson slid a small plate containing a bagel and two peanut butter cookies toward him. “I don’t put too much stock into what the papers say about the weather, but I have a feeling that the heat is just beginning for you today. Have you read the new comic that just came in?” Master Wilson glanced up from his paper.

With a mouthful of peanut butter cookie, Magus replied, “Nope, but give me a few minutes and I will… the usual place?”

“Yes,” replied Master Wilson, as he slid a cup of mocha caramel latte across the counter.
Magus took a sip to wash down his cookie. “Thanks,” he mumbled as small crumbs fell from his lips.

“By the way,” Master Wilson said as he dropped his newspaper and peered directly into Magus’ eyes, “Happy Birthday.”

Magus nearly choked on his cookies and coffee. “How did you know it was my birthday?” Magus asked curiously, as he wiped the frothy foam of the latte from his upper lip on the sleeve of his tee shirt.

“The same way you sometimes know things about people. I also remembered what it felt like on my thirteenth birthday and thought you might like some help on yours.” Master Wilson rubbed his silver-bearded chin. “It’s an amazing day, but it can be a little scary too.”

“I don’t understand,” Magus said, as he stared at Master Wilson.

“Of course you don’t. Nobody would have told you, that’s my job. I know I haven’t been around as much. But now that I’m here, I’ll help you understand who and what you are. I’ve been waiting for this day all month.”

Magus leaned away from Master Wilson as if he had a contagious disease. “What do you mean?”

“I was sent to befriend you, so I can help you understand the mysterious world of the Necromancer,” Master Wilson said with a huge smile plastered on his face. He took a sip of his black coffee keeping eye contact.

“The world of what?” Magus asked with a furrowed brow.

“Necromancer, it’s the only name we’ve come up with. We’re really not sure of what we are, but we know what we’re not.” Master Wilson looked around the busy bookstore and then leaned a little closer to Magus. “We know we’re not wizards, aliens or mutants, but we are different, yet… we are very similar to one another.” Picking up his newspaper, he whispered. “You’ll learn all about the history of the Necromancers at Avesta, but for now you need to understand the change that’s taking place.”

“The change… what change?” Magus rubbed the back of his neck as the stinging grew in intensity.

“Every Necromancer goes through a change on their thirteenth birthday, and for you, that day is today.” Master Wilson tapped the top of his newspaper that displayed the date in big, bold type in the top right corner. “By the time the sun sets on this day, you will feel vastly different from how you felt yesterday, because you will have come into your power.” He looked around the store again and then turned the page on his newspaper. “It takes a lot of time for the transformation to be complete, and that’s why this day is the longest day of the year.”

“You’re starting to freak me out,” Magus squeaked. I wonder if that’s why I’ve been seeing weird stuff all day.

As he stared at the old man, the noise in the store faded, except for the soft voice of Master Wilson, which amplified. Magus watched as his friend’s eyes glowed with excitement.

“Well, to start off with, you will be hot all day, and that has nothing to do with the weather. A Necromancer could live on the North Pole, but on his thirteenth birthday he’ll be drenched in sweat.”

Magus reached up and wiped another drop of perspiration that slowly trickled down the side of his face. I have been awfully hot today, but so has everyone else.

“That’s part of the physical transformation. Your senses will become keener, sounds will become clearer and it will seem that gravity has lost its hold over you.” Master Wilson leaned in close to Magus. “But the scary part is the voices that will fill your head. If you’re not expecting it, you might think you’ve gone a little insane. But, you’ll soon learn how to turn those voices off until you need them. Understand?”

They both sat in utter silence, staring at one another for several seconds without blinking, which to Magus felt like several minutes. Just as Magus’ eyes started to water, he saw it. Master Wilson’s blue eyes flinched.

A big grin spread across Magus’ face and he busted out laughing. “I think you’re absolutely nuts, but it makes for a great story, and you know how I love a good story.” Magus patted Master Wilson on the back. “You had me going for a minute there, Mister Wilson.

Magus pushed his empty plate, containing only a few crumbs back toward his old friend and slid off his stool. Backing away, he bumped into the square bin of discounted books. “I still can’t figure out how you knew it was my birthday, I must have somehow let it slip. I think I’ll go read the comics now, but good luck with your Necro… whatever you called them,” Magus said as he rounded the corner toward the comic books.

“That’s Master Wilson to you, and it’s Necromancers!” Master Wilson swished his newspaper in the air. “Go, read your comic books, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Orientation - Prologue - Snippet

Gabriel couldn’t stop staring at his mother. He wanted to memorize every little detail he could about her and lock those memories into the far reaches of his mind. He started to tear up again when his mother reached up and stroked his cheek. I’m afraid to close my eyes again, because when I open them, you might be gone.

“It’s alright, Gabriel. I’m not going anywhere just yet. I can’t promise you that I’ll be around for a long time, but I will make this solemn vow… I will finish this story before your thirteenth birthday, which is only eight days away.”

Gabriel narrowed his eyes. Did she just read my mind?

“This means more to me than anything in the world, and I’m not going anywhere until it’s complete. You can count on that.” Clutching a small silver unicorn choker that hung around her neck, Claire began her tale.

“Now… listen very carefully… because our story begins over forty years ago on one of the longest and hottest days of the year…."