Monday, December 19, 2011

K [phantasmagoria] is live today

It's been two years in the making. Finally, I've come to the point where I can release the work of my heart and hands to you, my great fan base, my crowdsourced patrons of the arts. K [phantasmagoria] is my interpretation of what a novel can be. It has many layers. There are things that are said that are important, but there are things that are not said, that I leave to you the reader, that are just as important. I know there are people who will disagree with me on its merits, but I'm quite proud of it. The work in its entirety is designed to provoke thought, so be ready, and be advised: this one is not for kids.

There's more to come, and I promise: there's at least one twist coming in the K series that no one will see coming. I'll reveal it in book two, which, for now, has the working title K [parousia].  I'll introduce some new characters, change the setting quite a lot, and tie the plot up in knots. I know you'll like that. But that will have to wait. For now, Enjoy K [phantasmagoria]. I sure enjoyed writing it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Indie Bookstores, by Allan Leverone

An Open Letter to Indie Bookstores

Dear store owner,

I know things are tough right now. Being an Independent Bookseller was never easy, even in the good old days of four or five years ago, when practically everyone purchased their reading material the same way—by getting in their cars and driving to your store or to one of the big chain bookstores. Oh, sure, some people ordered their books online, but they were the strange ones, the shut-ins or those techno-nerds everyone made fun of in high school who are now running the world.

Then came the revolution. Steady yourself, because I’m going to say it out loud and I don’t want to catch you by surprise. Are you ready? Okay, here we go: Ereaders. Are you alright? Because you’re looking a little green around the gills. Let’s try it again. Ereaders. Ereaders, ereaders, ereaders.

Okay, I’ll stop. Sorry about that, I just couldn’t help myself.

Anyway, here came ereaders, and their popularity gave rise to a new form of book-buying practically overnight: Staying home and browsing online, where not only could the reader save time, gas and money, she could begin reading her selection seconds after making it!

What started out as a fad, a niche, a way for those techno-nerds to download their science manuals and their Penthouse magazine subscriptions soon became a full-fledged trend, then almost immediately an accepted practice, meaning now not only do you face competition from the Barnes and Nobles of the world, you face even stiffer competition from the Innerwebs. (Amazon. Amazon, Amazon, Amazon. Dammit, I did it again. Are you sure you’re okay?)

I know, I know, it sucks to be you. And I apologize for bringing up a sore subject.

But that’s the thing about revolutions: They change the status quo forever—hopefully more for the good than the bad—but always forever. If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that the entities who are best able to adapt to changing circumstances are the ones who survive and sometimes even—gasp!—thrive.

And here, at last, is the point of this letter: Instead of whining about the digital publishing revolution and the whole new class of true “Indie” authors epublishing has given rise to, maybe it’s time for you to figure out a way to include some of the best of them in your survival strategy.

It’s interesting that bookstores which are so fiercely protective of their identity as “independent,” seem so dismissive, as a whole, toward independent authors. Case in point: Me. After selling my debut thriller to an “Indie” publisher, Medallion Press, I chose to go a different route—StoneHouse Ink—with my followup thriller, The Lonely Mile.

Stonehouse/StoneGate Ink is one of the new breed of publishers sprouting up all over the place, like mushrooms in the forest after a cleansing rain. They’re less traditional than traditional publishing, but more traditional than self-publishing.

The Lonely Mile was released in July by StoneHouse as an ebook, and sales have been steady ever since. And while I’m not in any danger of knocking Connelly, Cornwell or Grisham off the Bestseller Lists in Mysteries and Thrillers, the folks at StoneHouse saw enough promise in The Lonely Mile to convince them to release a paperback version of the book in October.

Guess what I did when I found out, store owner? I contacted virtually every Indie bookseller within about a one hundred fifty mile radius of my home (Londonderry, New Hampshire), offering a complimentary copy of The Lonely Mile to each store owner or manager, for them to read to see if they might consider it appropriate to carry in their stores.

I contacted exactly four dozen Indie bookstores in the New England area. I wanted to support the Indies while taking advantage of the opportunity to expand my readership at the same time. I viewed it as a wonderful opportunity. Would you care to guess how many bothered to respond?

No? I’m going to tell you anyway: Two. Two!

I realize you’re busy. I realize The Lonely Mile may not be a book you wish to carry. I don’t understand it—it’s a damned good book—but I accept it. I’m a writer, I got used to rejection years ago; it quite literally does not bother me. My career is progressing nicely, anyway.

But what I don’t understand is your utter disinterest in even taking a few minutes to respond to someone inquiring about you and your business! As a portion of your business strategy, you might want to rethink that one. In fact, you might want to rethink your entire strategy, because the revolution is well under way, and things ain’t going back to the way they used to be, regardless of how much you might like them to.

Think about partnering with Indie authors, instead of dismissing them. Sure, there’s some putrid crap being published by Indies, I’m not about to try to convince you otherwise. But there’s some damned good stuff being written too, by some damned talented and dedicated authors. Who knows, maybe there’s a way to engage some of those people in a symbiotic relationship.

Or you could continue the way you’re going, and when you’re out of business six months or a year or two years down the road, your building can get taken over by an auto parts store or a craft shop. I’m sure your town can always use another one of those.

Thanks for reading,
Allan Leverone

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Only Begotten, Not Created, Christ

Author’s note: all definitions in this article have been taken from the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (1890) unless otherwise cited.

I recently attended the Ambrose School Christmas program, and heard some of the most amazing exhortations from the students. In between musical performances, during the set changes, individuals take turns delivering memorized speeches to the gathered assembly. We usually greet them with loud applause; it’s really amazing what these kids can do. One of them spoke a phrase that caused me to stop and think, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. She said that “Christ was begotten, not created.”

So what’s the difference?

I decided to look into it, starting with my treasured five hundred pound Webster’s Unabridged dictionary from 1890. I started with the two most obvious words:

Beget v.t. [be and get] 1. To procreate, as a father or sire; to generate; to get. 2. To produce as an effect; to cause.

Create v.t. [Lat. creare, creatum, to create] 1. To bring into being; to form out of nothing; to cause to exist. 2. To effect by agency and under the laws of causation; to be the occasion of; to produce. 3. To invest with a new form, office, or character; to constitute; to appoint; to make. a. Begotten; composed; created.

I then started on my hunt, looking up the words that were used to define the original words. I came up with the following:

Procreate (the Latin roots are pro, forward, and creare, to create) means to beget, to generate and produce. Generate means to produce a being similar to the parent, or to originate, especially by a vital or chemical process; to produce; to cause. Get (both the Icelandic geta and the German getan mean to obtain) means to procure, to come into possession of, to persuade or to carry. The Wordnet Dictionary defines Create as “to bring into existence, to cause to be or to become, or to create by artistic means.”

How about some Latin for ya? Fully fifty percent of the English language finds its roots in Latin (hence the importance of the study of this “dead” language). Turning to original meanings is usually highly instructive for me, so I trawled around on the Web looking for some insight: gives us this information on the Latin roots of the word create (pronounced cray AH tay): “as a noun, create is the vocative masculine singular of creatus, the past participle of the same verb creare. As such, creatus is an adjective meaning ‘created,’ ‘elected’ or ‘begotten,’ and can be used as a noun meaning “offspring.” The vocative form is the form of direct address, so the translation of the noun would be (addressed to one male person) ‘O offspring,’ ‘O elected one!’”

Let’s add to the mixture here, shall we, because there’s more to the picture of Christ than what we’ve yet laid out. Take the word temporary, for instance. A quick perusal of Roget’s Thesaurus gives us more to look into: interim, transient, substitute, conditional. Have a look at a derivative word like temporal, and its synonyms include unsacred, material. All this is again, highly instructive, because it’s serving to throw more light, out to the edges, on the canvas we’re looking at, helping us see the picture better.

But wait a tick. I seem to remember Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of God and the Son of Man. So how about the word son? The Slavonic word for son is synonymous with the Sanskrit word sunu, from su, which means to beget. The word son is also described as meaning a male child, the male issue of a parent, a male descendant, a native or inhabitant of some special place, the produce of any thing [Redwoods might be called the sons of the earth], and, in my old dictionary, Jesus Christ, who is referred to as both the Son of God and as the Son of Man.

Now, I’ve always wondered what these phrases meant; what the difference is between them. The phrase “Son of Man” is used in the book of Ezekiel, for example, 93 times, and The Oxford Companion to the Bible also notes the same (1993). Son of Man is used as a Semitic idiom (a peculiar phrase stamped by the usage of language) and is thought to denote humanity or self (body, life, having one’s own body). The first time the phrase appears in the Bible is Numbers 23.19, where it is used in traditional Hebrew parallel poetic form (where the same idea is expressed twice, often with different words, for clarity and emphasis) where the phrase ben-adam (Son of Man) is used across from ‘iysh (human being or man). Even with this modest scholarship we can safely deduce that the phrase Son of Man is evocative of our concept of humanity. As for upper or lower case treatments of the words, we owe that to the translators taking some degree of license. I’m pretty sure the Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages had no facility for upper or lower case, and indeed no punctuation either. I know that for a fact about Latin because I studied it for two years in high school. I remember at least that much.

As to languages, here’s a quick detour: The Hebrew Torah was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic (the Aramaic reflecting the years of exile in Babylon). That intermixture produced all kinds of dialects, and Jesus may have spoken at least four major languages: Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Latin is important because the first full translation of the Old and New Testaments together into a single language was the Latin Vulgate (completed in late 300-400 AD).

Okay, back to our little study on the Son of Man. The Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993) explains that the Greeks rendered the phrase we read today—Son of Man—effectively as “the son of the man,” a literal translation of a phrase that, to the Hebrews, was instead mostly idiomatic and had metaphorical meaning. So it’s not completely accurate. The Aramaic language at the time included a similar phrase, bar enas, which in the Galilean Aramaic meant “a human being,” or could be used as a modest way to speak of oneself (to say, “I”). “Son of Man” in the New Testament can mean a number of things, and its true meaning can only be inferred from context. It may mean “one,” “a human,” or could be “a self-reference provoked by awe, modesty, or humility…” (ibid). The Biblical New Testament text supports this thesis too, because the phrase is almost exclusively used by Jesus as a self-designation. There are only a handful of occurrences where the translated phrase is used by anyone else.

So how do we compile all these facts? I think that we can make a case for Christ as all in all. In other words, He is precisely and exactly who He says He is. I think the little word study we’ve seen here provides sufficient evidence for Christ the Begotten as He appears in Colossians 1.15; “The image of the invisible God;” and in John 1.1-3 as the “Word” or logos that the Greeks in those days understood philosophically to be the foundation of all that is. So Christ is fully God, but He is also fully man, as evidenced by the very use of the word begotten.

Is there a difference between beget and create? How about this: in some ways they're total opposites, and in others they're identical. This search for enlightenment has at its end a vast portal to dimness of sight; it's an enigma, at least in the realm of the temporal.

Contrary to what some might think is a nail in the coffin of the advocate for Christ, it is not a disaster that beget is sometimes synonymous with create. No, it actually further supports the Christian doctrine of the Triune God, the Trinity, the Father-Son-Spirit Godhead, that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. That’s where the word temporary comes in, because its root is the Latin tempus, or having to do with time. Christ, being fully God since before the foundation of the earth, submitted himself to His creation and inserted Himself into the scope and limits of time, the temporal. He forsook not just the throne and glory, but eternity itself to join us. Contrary to being a kneejerk reaction to our fall from grace in the garden, or even a reactionary search and rescue operation, it was part of His plan from the beginning, as John 1.1 tells us. He took on manhood in order to live the perfection of which we have always been incapable... and that was, from the beginning, prerequisite for true fellowship with our Holy God. That invasion, His begetting, still echoes heroically in these dark places. How can One who was and is and is to come be created, after all? It is not possible.

But what of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man? Let's look at some of the words we've unearthed, in bold. He is both effect and cause, generated to get to us; He is the elected One, the I AM, the only begotten. And not created. Christ was appointed in the flesh to make atonement for us. Christ is the origin and genesis of all creation, our God incarnate, Emmanuel, who walked with us, and His story is singular throughout all cultures and tribes and nations; there is not one pagan god (i.e. a created god, a god created by man) that can boast of anything close: He became sin for us, took the penalty for sin in our place as substitute, chose to become our servant, to become material, unsacred for us. He chose to have a self, having his own body, become a native, an inhabitant of some special place with us here, under temporal influences of corruption, weather, wickedness, time itself. Our Almighty God chose, before Day One, to become ben-adam, 'iysh, the Son of Man, a human, begotten, though He remained fully God, the Son of Man. It is a great and noble mystery, like all scripture, that the Elect of God is revealed by His Spirit in scripture in this interim, this temporary state of being, to those called and elect of God.

I guess a word study of elect is overdue...

K [phantasmagoria] part one

I first sat down to write this story more than two years ago. It began as a sketch on how horribly depressed I felt as a man having to live within the confines of his own mistakes. Under the thumb of consequence. Having to look myself in the face when the reflection in the mirror was the picture of futility. Heavy stuff, indeed, but I’d argue then as I do now that there are a lot of us out here mired in failure, frustration, and the deep sand of personal responsibility. It’s anything but easy.

As I moved through that desolation, I couldn’t get away from my little sketch. I called my protagonist by a simple letter: K. I didn’t know what else to call him. It was easier anyway, since so much of the story was autobiographical and K can, by extension, denote Chris. Okay maybe I'm reaching. Anyway my sketch was just a simple scene in which a man is awakened by the oppressive sun streaming into his bedroom on an early September day in Meridian, Idaho. It would be hot and bright and washed out. And he knew he would hate it. So he thrashes around with the blankets and the alarm clock until he realizes he cannot avoid responsibility and consequence any longer: if he doesn’t get up and get his butt to work, he might lose his job—all he has left.

I continued to work on it, share it with my friends at the Huckins Writers Guild, get critiqued, and then work on it some more. It began to grow. Before I knew it I had produced about 100,000 words. Somewhere deep within, though, I wasn’t satisfied with it. It was sophomoric. Kind of childish; undeveloped. It lacked grit, intensity. It wasn’t believable, even to me. And that’s when it hit me: I knew what was wrong. Strangely, it had to do with mechanics. Spelling and grammar type stuff. More specifically, tense.

It reminded me of when I was in high school, playing the trumpet, or learning how, more like. The sound I produced in real life wasn’t always equivalent to the sound I heard in my head. When improvising a solo over chord changes, the melody in my head was far different than the one I could wrestle that recalcitrant instrument to produce. It was the same with my new stillborn novel, K. In my head it played like a movie; I could see it all in front of me. But on the page it was stale, impotent, cold, disengaged. So I set about making a few changes as an experiment.

About that time, I was finishing work on another piece; The Marsburg Diary. Since part of it is set in the late Victorian age, I was hitting up old dictionaries apace, looking for period-accurate vocabulary. I came across the word phantasmagoria. And that’s when my working title gave over to the final title: K [phantasmagoria]. I decided then to write three novels in a series, with K [phantasmagoria] the first in the line.

And just a sidebar here: My original idea for the three volume series has grown. K [phantasmagoria] was getting to be so long that I had to break it in half. Yep. So three novels have become six. It's still going to be three main titles, but each title will have two parts, so K [phantasmagoriapart one will be followed by K [phantasmagoriapart two next year. The other two titles are top secret, natch.

I finished Marsburg and shifted to K. My experiment—changing the first chapter’s past to present tense—just flat out worked. While there will be some, like Les Edgerton, who protest against the use of present tense in fiction, as for me I’d found my happy medium. Writing in what I call CenterCode lent the sizzle I required. So I set out to change the entire book.

In that process I found out that I needed more background for K as my protag. It wasn’t quite right, just waking him up and throwing him into a massively explosive precognitive event on his way to work. I needed something more, some background, relationships that made him more human, gave him something to lose. So I introduced new plotlines, like the new first chapter, [Provocation], new characters like Quincey the cuz, and Essie Gray the Harley riding girlfriend, and Dr. Charles Wen, K’s government mandated psychiatrist. All of it gave me more opportunity to ply the conflicts in the story, and really set up the explosive main event that happened originally in my little sketch on the frustrated man.

It’s been said that all fiction is autobiographical. It helps me to know and believe this, because I can make peace with the idea and not hold back in my writing. K is 100% me in the sense of my experience; i.e. my perspectives on things. But as a character he’s an amalgamation of people I’ve met in my life and gotten to know. I suppose, really, that includes me. Those who know me will recognize bits of him as self-portraiture, certainly, but not all of him.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve not held back in this work. I made an executive decision with this book to include profanity, for instance. My rationale for it is that it creates a different environment than could be made otherwise. It makes the characters more believable, more fun to write, and raises the stakes a bit, providing a little more intensity. But that’s not the only area I’ve tried to push things a bit. I don’t, for instance, believe it’s wrong to struggle with life or wrestle with God, and I certainly don’t think it’s apropos to stick Him away in some God Locker, cloistered within the confines of Christian fiction or the subculture du jour. He swaggers front and center on these pages sometimes, and K wrestles him all the way, from start to finish. Some of it may seem irreverent, but keep reading. I think wrestling, in season, is all good, and I’m not afraid of it or what questions it may provoke in people. Questions are meant to be asked; God has all the answers.

This book, K [phantasmagoria] part one, is intensely personal for me but I think there are more out there like me who dare to ask tough questions. There are more out there who are at peace with their decision to ask, even if there is no clear answer forthcoming. This book is about that. It’s also a piece of fiction in which, hopefully, you’re kept guessing until the end about what’s really going on here. Evil has many brands, many faces. You’ll see lots of those in this book. Sometimes what we wrestle has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the light… even if it’s us. I hope you’ll begin the journey of the K series with me; it’ll be quite a satisfying ride, I think.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Babel, Gustav Dore

It’s funny; no matter how hard the prevailing winds of groupthunk deterministic relativism blow, they still can’t get away from morals, from right and wrong, the Christian ethic. All of Western civilization is based on the rule of law, and the foundations of law in America are most accurately described as Biblical. There’s no getting away from it; it’s a fact. And I submit that the current impotence of our politically correct social culture and our newly resurgent desire for some kind of bedrock on which to live our lives is showing up in the strangest of places.

In our movies, for instance. How many remakes of old stories are we going to lap up until we tire of the same-old same-old? Superheroes, fantasy epics—it kind of started way back in the seventies with Star Wars and Superman, and it really hasn’t quit. Have a look at the Lord of the Rings movies, Captain America, on and on. And how about design in consumer goods? The retro fad is more than a fad by now. It started with Radio Flyer’s reissue of the ubiquitous Little Red Wagon some years back, gained momentum with VW’s New Beetle, Kitchenaid’s art deco toasters at Williams Sonoma, and now everyone with skin in the game has something that harks of ye oldene dayes, like the Fiat 500. The Ford Mustang, the Dodge Charger, the Chevy Camaro—all are alive and well, vicious rumors of their demise notwithstanding.

Why is it, I wonder? Could it be that post-postmodern society has nothing left to give? Could it be that if anything good ever happened on the anti-hero's watch it was because of those heroes who refused to cow to their demands? The anti-heroes insisted they were smarter than us, and in threatening language they hissed at us lies. They said that art exists in a vacuum, can only be art if it is ars gratia artis, art for its own sake, that in order to be art it must be declared to be so by some puffed up pretentious jackass from some ridiculous and absurd ivory tower on the east coast. Well they were wrong before they ever started. For the greater part of one hundred fifty years, they have been wrong. Art is simply this: an act of worship to the only wise God, eternally worthy.

The disease of our thinking—though it is a huge contradiction in terms to call it thinking—began with Hegel, Marx, Kant, Darwin. It birthed socialism, communism, Nazism, progressivism, scientism, relativism, eugenics, the myth of evolution, the survival of the fittest, the U.S. Department of Education, the lobbyist, The hijacking of capitalism, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Khrushchev, Ahmadinejad, and Obama; and it has spilled more innocent blood than any other crisis humanity has ever faced. It was, and is, the Grand Experiment… and We the People are the lab rats.

And that brings us round to dignity. It is a positively Christian concept. If we turn to sources that predate most of the sickness of our thinking, we may begin to find an answer. Noah Webster’s Unabridged (1890) defines dignity as follows:

Dignity n. [Lat. Dignitas, from dignus, worthy] 1. The state of being worthy or honorable; elevation of mind or character; honorableness; nobility of sentiment and action; true worth. 2. Elevation of rank; honorable station; degree of excellence, either in estimation or in the order of nature; honor; preferment; high office, whether political or ecclesiastical. 3. Quality suited to inspire respect or reverence. 4. One holding high rank; a dignitary. 5. Fundamental principle, axiom or postulate.

I find it beyond absurd as I recall that I attended college and took a class on ethics in which we were not allowed to discuss any stance on right or wrong as defined by the Bible. Well! I understand that it may offend those among us who protest, all the same, that they are more tolerant than we. Therefore in the magnanimousness of their tolerance for us we are to shut up. We are to stop trying to wrestle everyone back to the stone age. Perhaps there will be no need for that—the anti-hero has already dragged us back there (just read the headlines) by denying the very essence or possibility of truth, morality, right or wrong… and even of dignity… and the truth is beginning to show, old girl.

The intellectually bankrupt thinkers that have been at the helm of society since the nineteenth century have outlawed reason in the name of progress. And We the People have abandoned all that we are made of in favor of what we have been made from: mere dust. We are an unapologetically material generation. We have the crass audacity to wonder why we are so empty, too. The answer is right in front of us: our thinking is utterly corrupt. We have no dignity. We are not men, but beasts. We serve not God, or even some optimistic concept of good. No. We serve only the Self and its perverse sovereign, the State. I see in it what smacks of antiChrist.

We can’t begin to define dignity if we first can’t begin to understand that such things as right and wrong have meaning and are manifest in our actions. One cannot begin to understand absolutes in a world that protests to the ends of the universe that truth itself is relative. However, I beg to differ that truth, if relative, cannot be truth. No, it is mere opinion. The anti-hero protests that “everything is relative; there are no absolutes,” not realizing that because of the depth of his willingness to be deceived the very statement he just made is an absolute.

Words and phrases that appear in the definition from Webster’s, such as: worthy, honorable, nobility of sentiment and action, character, true worth, the order of nature, inspire respect, reverence… these have all been rendered meaningless under the currently dominant thinking. Why do we adhere to these crusty rules of political correctness that espouse tolerance while being ruthlessly intolerant, protest that they are progressive while being dogmatically regressive, feign righteousness while bearing, for season upon season now, the fruit of wickedness and iniquity? I still wonder that there can be so few of us who see how obviously contradictory it is for people to adhere to progressive thought while simultaneously proclaiming themselves to be Christians. From my point of view it is not possible. But that’s the prostitutionally hideous beauty of relativistic philosophy; literally anything is possible, and pretty much everyone has fallen for it. Good can be redefined as evil at a whim. And of course, at least to a reasonable person, the inverse is also possible. How my Christian friends fail to see the connection between this thinking and the father of all lies is, well, unbelievable.

The hero stands resolute in the face of manifest evil.
When we have utterly abandoned all connection—or indeed positive restraint—with the Biblical Judeo-Christian absolute concept of morality (from which the rule of law springs forth), why should we be surprised to see everything falling to pieces around us? Some of us want to party on through it. Some of us desecrate the truth in other ways, and we slip the needle of denial into our veins day after day because it feels good, and we manage to get through to tomorrow. Still others are purposing to advance the darkness actively, and for whatever perverse reason they can find.

But some of us are awakening. Some of us can see that we have been stripped naked of all human dignity as a people, as a generation, as a nation and tribe, as a culture and as a society. Our arts and thinking have long been dead. From there, over the course of the twentieth century, the contagion spread into the marketplace, into our goods, our production, our values, our schools, our politics, mixing and blending it all into one horrible machine that required the blood sacrifice of millions upon millions in combat, that lusted in a frenzy over the meatgrinder dawning of the atomic age, that even now feeds on the flesh of the collective and defecates their remains on what is left of the individual, the hero. We have become mere slaves who are born to live and die at the good pleasure not of God, but of the State.

And now there are but two ways forward: 

  1. Death, either slow and tortured or quick; or
  2. Resurrection and renaissance. 

My fervent prayer is that we choose, by our actions, the latter, and usher in a return to the heroic. To dignity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yes, Dear

Releasing December 1st: Yes, Dear 
When I sat down to write this one it was pretty simple. I threw down the gauntlet to myself and said, "Self, you're going to write something that's one hundred percent dialogue. And there shall be no narrative." Sufficiently slapped about a bit, I opened Word and began pecking at the keys beginning with this: "

And I believe the result is good. If you're thinking along the lines of an old radio show when you read this, I think you'll get the picture nicely. I hate to try to tell people how to read my stuff, but if you allow for some breathing room in between paragraphs, you know, let the dialogue breathe, let it steep in your mind, the flavor of the story will intensify. You'll like it. Enjoy the subtleties, savor the striations of subplot as they come across in the conversation.

This one will be available as a free audio download next year, exclusively on the C.P. White Media Blog, so stay tuned for details. For a sample of the dramatic renderings of C.P. White, click on the video channel on the sidebar to the right.

Synopsis: A man and woman arrive finally at the country house after journeying all day from London. She tells him to get the kettle on and stoke the fire; it’s cold and the snow is deep. She’s accustomed to bossing him. She’s used to his response to everything: “Yes, Dear.” But what destiny has pent up comes swiftly, without warning…and the works of a life produce consequence.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post: Becky Carey Lyles

In the aftermath of submitting the final version of my novel “Winds of Wyoming” to the publisher a week ago, I’ve been thinking about the individuals I credited in the acknowledgements. As all writers know, we cannot recognize everyone who helped us on our journey to publication (even if we could remember all their names!). The list of supporters would probably begin with the person who taught us to mouth our first words and the one who helped our stubby fingers scrawl our first alphabet letters with a crayon. We could even add God, who made those little digits and the muscles and synapses that connect them to our brains. On through our development the list would march, including mention of the junior-high, high-school and college English teachers who gave us “As”—and the ones who gave us “Ds” (and predicted manual labor would be our lifetime occupation).

But certain people stand out as do significant events that shape who we become. I am deeply grateful to those who focused my vision and kept me on the path to reach my objective, whether it was a writing friend, a critique partner, a career coach, my husband, my agent, my editor, a workshop leader, a writing class or a book about writing. I honestly could not have done it without them.

The key ingredient to growing through the input others offer, I believe, is a receptive, humble heart. Few of us find it easy to accept correction, or even advice, at times. Yet, writers who live and work in the myopic world inside their heads are writing to an audience outside of those noggins. Whether that audience is one person or one-million people, the only way readers will get the message is if the message is conveyed in an understandable fashion. That’s where our supporters play into the picture. They encourage clarity in our writing and teach us how to achieve writing that truly communicates.

To grow and learn as a writer, one has to not only be open to suggestion and correction but to find places and ways to receive instruction and encouragement. Join a local or online critique group or find a critique partner who’s courageous enough to tell you the truth. Join local and national writer clubs and organizations. Take writing classes. Read, read, read, READ! Anything and everything (well, within limits …). Read books and magazines and newspapers. Read poetry and short stories. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read within your interest area and outside of it. Read online and offline. In addition, read books that show you how to improve your writing, at least one a month.

You may have been told you’re a gifted writer, but as Dan Miller of, says, that’s just raw material. “Every one of you has special gifts – singing, writing, gardening, art, computer skills, selling abilities, teaching others, encouraging others – but whatever our gift is – it’s a raw product.  It has limited value until we apply the discipline necessary to make it useful to ourselves and others.”

Probably the most important advice I can offer is to write, write, write, WRITE! Write every day, at least a few sentences. Do a brain dump onto your paper or computer without making changes. Wait a couple days before returning to the first draft. You’ll be able to see needed “fixes” if you lay the writing aside for a time. When you’re satisfied that what you’ve produced is the best you can do (I have to go through my work several times to reach that stage), give it to a loved one to read. But don’t stop there. Hand your story, poem, essay, chapter or article to your writers group or your critique partner and ask them for an honest, critical evaluation. I’ve found that, though positive responses stroke the ego, such input doesn’t always improve my prose or provide learning opportunities. Also, in case you haven’t entered writing contests, those competitions are great places to receive unbiased input from anonymous but knowledgeable judges.

Keep on, keep on, keep on, KEEP ON WRITING! Diana Gabaldon, author of Outlander, summarized the writing life in a recent Writer’s Digest interview. “It really, really is read, write, and don’t stop. Write every day, even if you only eke out a few sentences. It’s true—practice makes perfect, or at least improves the final product. I’ve heard more than once that a true writer cannot not write. So open a blank page in your notebook or on your computer and write. Don’t stifle your muse a moment longer.

Lastly, don’t give up. By now, you’ve heard how Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, spent years not only writing and editing the book but approaching agents—sixty (60!) of them. It was agent No. 61 who made the magic happen for her. I don’t know Ms. Stockett, but I know from reading her book that she’s a good writer. And I don’t know her motive for writing The Help, but if it was for fame and fortune, I think she would have dropped the project at about agent No. 5 and written about vampires.

Believe in yourself, believe in your work. Never stop growing your gift and sharing it with others. Tenaciously pursue and perfect your passion.
Coming soon from StoneHouse Ink: Winds of Wyoming — A Kate Neilson Novel

Fresh out of a Pennsylvania penitentiary armed with a marketing degree, Kate Neilson heads to Wyoming anticipating an anonymous new beginning as a guest-ranch employee. A typical twenty-five-year-old woman might be looking to lasso a cowboy, but her only desire is to get on with life on the outside—despite her growing interest in the ranch owner. When she discovers a violent ex-lover followed her west, she fears the past she hoped to hide will imprison her once again.

Debut novelist Rebecca Carey Lyles grew up in Wyoming. Currently, she and her husband, Steve, live in the neighboring state of Idaho. She enjoys the creativity and beauty that abound throughout her adopted state as well as opportunities to hike, camp and cross-country ski in the midst of God’s grandeur. Check out her website and find links to her blogs at

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Guest Post: Heather Hildenbrand

Excerpt from Cold Blood:

I arrived at the door at the same time as my mother. She stepped in front of me and eyed the peephole before pulling it open. She frowned, which didn’t give away all that much since she'd been doing a lot of that lately, but then she stepped back, and I saw who it was.

“Hey,” Wes said. His eyes locked on to mine.

“Hey,” I answered, staring back.

“Dinner’s in an hour.” My mother held onto her frown, but she wandered back towards the kitchen, leaving us alone.

Sam and Angela slipped past me, knowing smiles pasted on their faces.

“We’d better get going,” said Angela.

She stepped forward and hugged me tightly. When she pulled away, Sam threw an arm around my neck and squeezed. “Yum,” she whispered.

“Call us when you get settled in,” Angela reminded me.

Sam turned and winked. “Don’t do anything I would.”

I rolled my eyes and waved goodbye. When they were gone, Wes stepped inside and shoved his hands into his jean pockets. He looked wound up, rolling back and forth from his heels to his toes.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Can we take a walk?” he asked, glancing towards the kitchen–and the sound of a spray bottle at work.

“Um, how about the backyard?” A knot of anxiety pinched my gut.

He nodded, and I led him through the sunroom and out the sliding door. The sun was bright and cheery; hinting at warmer days to come but with enough of a chill in the air to remind you it was still technically winter.

The branches were still bare, dead leaves covering the ground. It had rained during the night and the smell of wet grass and mud covered everything, permeating every breath until you could taste spring trying to emerge. Somewhere deep in the trees, a single bird called intermittently. It all felt entirely too lonely.

I wrapped my sweatshirt around myself and crossed my arms. We walked to the edge of the yard and stepped into the covered gazebo, sitting on the small bench that faced the woods.

The silence ran on, and I felt my stomach tighten. Was this him being reluctant to say goodbye, or was it something more?

“How’s Jack?” I finally asked.

“He’s better, I guess. Still in bed, though. Fee won’t let him up and he’s going a little crazy.” A ghost of a smile appeared and then faded again. “You can hear them picking at each other in every room of the house. I was glad for the chance to get away.”

“At least you can go home at night,” I said.

He shook his head. “I’ve moved some stuff over. I’m going to stay with them for a while. With Jack out of commission and Miles still out there, I don’t want to leave Fee.”

“That makes sense.” I tried to read into his responses and figure out what he wasn’t saying. He seemed tense, fidgeting with his pants, and shoes, and whatever else was close. “Wes. What’s wrong?”

Wes’ eyes flickered to mine and away again, never really settling on any particular spot. A nervous pang went through my gut. “Wes?”

“Jack pulled me aside yesterday. He said he knows he can’t handle things himself with The Cause.” He paused. “He wants me to step up, help run things.” He finally looked up and met my eyes. “He wants me to lead.”

*Visit the author's website to find out where you can read the next installment of Cold Blood*

Wood Point Academy is not at all what I expected. For one thing, it looks like a cross between military school and Buckingham Palace. Everyone stares, the floors shine so bright you can see your reflection in them from a mile away, and no one smiles. Unless they're kicking your butt in the process.
At least I've got plenty to take my mind off the fact that my psycho cousin, Miles De'Luca, keeps calling and declaring his love and promising to come for me just as soon as he's destroyed anyone standing in our way. Wes isn't going to like that idea. So between Miles, Wood Point's evil welcoming committee, and the drill sergeant hottie trainer from hell, I just keep asking myself, how did I end up here?

Cold Blood is Book 2 in the Dirty Blood series. It is available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as e-book and coming soon to paperback. To read more about the Dirty Blood series, visit

Friday, November 25, 2011

Jack Ranis and the Book of the Labi, by Ryan Collings

For a debut novel, Jack Ranis is well put together. I have to admit right up front that fantasy is not my cup of tea. Well, not usually. Unless of course it’s Tolkein or Lewis. And yes of course I see the irony (or fatuousness) of a man saying he’s not into fantasy when that same man writes the stuff (cf. the Airel saga). But mercifully this ain’t about me, it’s about Mr. Collings. And he’s got a good book on his hands.

In the interest of full disclosure, I first came across Jack Ranis in the course of my duties as the StoneHouse Ink Acquisitions Editor. I have two rules: 

1. No wizards
2. No unicorns

It’s pretty simple; I just don’t like fantasy in general. There’s just too much completely made up stuff: gobbledygook place names, character names that could just as well come from some back forty sweat shop selling ad slogans, and lots of impossible stuff in the plot as well. In that sense, most fantasy genre novels are no different than most attempts at sci fi. There are a few really great ones. Most of the rest are… well… someone should have said something. You know? It’s like being a Steelers fan. You know? Somebody should have said something.

My approach to finding good material weeds out the amateurs, let me tell you. I have this closely held conviction that fantasy was created by Tolkein and that it mostly died with him. He simply did it so well. His place names and character names were not arbitrary and senseless phonetic constructions. He built entire languages, civilizations, mythologies, and then wrote a story for the ages on the strength of all of that. I think that anyone who steps up to the Tolkein and Lewis bar is asking for heaps and bags of criticism that they might not get if they had simply chosen to write a good and simple story.

All of this brings us to the main event. Collings has written a good and simple story. I, the jaded and prejudiced hater of fantasy, found myself pleasantly surprised by him. Jack Ranis is a lot like an old book I found on the dusty back shelves of the second story of an out-of-the-way Oregon used book shop not too long ago—The Burnished Blade, by George Schoonover. Jack Ranis is high adventure, in other words.

It starts off at a snowed-in orphanage in Stallshire, with our boy hero Jack. He’s a little stubborn, like me. Perhaps that’s one reason I find him endearing. Sometimes stubbornness can be confused, by user and observer alike, for courage. It’s not long until Jack finds himself in over his head, quite literally, and in need of rescue from beneath the ice in the freezing waters of the lake in the woods. Old Mr. Gudder—the local hermit, of whom all the children are much afraid, rescues him. And that’s when everything takes on all kinds of new meaning.

It’s not long until Jack learns quite a lot of mysterious detail about how he came to be orphaned, who he really is, and where he’s headed. I don’t want to spoil anything for you. This book is every bit worth the time you’ll take to read it, so I want to be sure to give you just a taste. Port Darling, the land of Brighton, await you. Get ready for an adventure.

Jack Ranis is a fifteen year old orphan who feels out of place in the only home he has ever known. When an accident nearly takes his life, he discovers a stranger from his past that takes him into a world he never imagined, a world where a magical land holds all the answers to his life story and reveals his true destiny.

After many years of war, the land of Brighton is finally at peace, but it is a peace that was never meant to last. Following in the footsteps of his father, Jack, with the aid of his friends, will risk everything to destroy the Book of the Labi and save the lives of all those he holds dear.

Visit for more information on Ryan Collings and his creations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Post: Joshua Graham

The Road to Authorship

My desire to become an author can be traced back as far as my first grade class.  I always had an active imagination so when the assignment was to take an oak tag panel, a set of crayons and an idea and create an illustration with a story stapled to it, I took to it like a fly to…well, perhaps that’s not the best analogy. I quickly got lost in the story and by the time I was done, the teacher was already collecting our stories. 

Sometime later in the semester during a PTA meeting, Ms. Ratner, my teacher took out my story and began talking in hushed tones with my parents. As a rambunctious first grader, you can just imagine the thoughts that went through my mind.  I thought I was in trouble for something…again!  It turned out that Ms. Ratner was quite impressed with my story, which was that of a family on a cruise ship, whose little child fell overboard and the suspenseful rescue that ensued.

I remember feeling quite relieved when I found out that I was not, in fact, in trouble, but that my teacher thought I had an exceptional talent for someone of my age.  I never paid that much thought because all I cared about was the fact that I was not going to be grounded for anything…this time.

As school progressed over the years, I always enjoyed writing “spelling stories” (the ones you write with your weekly spelling words), the scripts for class plays, and even in my college years, scripts for homemade movies for my church youth group.  These were just fun projects I did on the side, while I spent most of my time on playing baseball, football, doing the magnifying glass/ant activity that most boys do, and generally trying to stay out of trouble.

By the time I got to college, I knew that music was my passion in life.  So much so that I spent 12 years in college and amassed all the student loan debt that comes from getting a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Juilliard, and a Doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.

After college and a nice stint with classical music which took me across the USA, Canada, Israel, Egypt, South Africa and Jordan as a cello soloist and principal cellist in several professional orchestras, I got married and soon learned that in order to have the family life and stability I valued more than anything, I needed to find a steady job.  So for the next 12 years I worked in the I.T. (Information technology field.)

This turned out to be a great career move as I began around the height of the internet boom of the late 1990s.  I missed my life as a professional musician, but the birth of my son far eclipsed anything else.  So I traded one life for another.  Happy to be home every evening to see my family (as opposed to working evenings playing concerts), I contented myself in the path The Good Lord had paved for me.

During these 12 years, I found myself returning to my love of story.  I remember once seeing a movie and wondering why the ending hadn’t been written differently.  Thanks to the internet, one is able to share their thoughts with many other strangers and even make friends with them.  So as I proposed my own alternate endings, some of my new online friends encouraged me to write for this universe (Hint:  It was a well-established SciFi franchise.)

To make a long story short, my stories sold to three anthologies published by Pocket Books and led me to the professional workshops run by the editor.  It was there that I realized where my true passion was.  It had always been there since the first grade.  And it was there that I decided that writing was what I wanted to ultimately do with my life.

So I immersed myself in it.  I spent all my spare money on books, books on writing, workshops, conferences, and wrote like crazy.  For one of the Pocket Books anthologies, I submitted 23 stories in less than one year.  These were new stories.  I wrote about 1-2 stories per week and gave myself soft deadlines.  Learning to write no matter how you feel was one of the best skills I’ve acquired as a professional writer.

By 2008, I learned that my entire I.T. department at FICO was going to be laid off.  The job market was really suffering at that time, and my mother-in-law had just passed away with cancer.  After losing my job, I spent all my time between looking for a new job praying, studying the Bible, and connecting with wonderful, positive people.  Most importantly, I took advantage of this time to write, write, write.  During this time, I completed another novel called Darkroom.
It was around this time that I realized a calling on my life.  To write books that will entertain as well as any of the bestselling authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, but at the same time, leave a memorable impression and provide people with a chance to challenge their thinking and to find hope.

My wife and I discussed it, and decided to make the sacrifices needed to allow me the opportunity to become a full-time writer.  In faith, we sold our big, beautiful house and downsized into a rental property.

In 2010, my book Beyond Justice debuted and hit several bestseller lists, won several accolades including the International Book Awards.  During that year, I submitted Darkroom to several major publishers.  I had learned that rejection was par for the course and not to take it personally.  After all, Dean Koontz’s first novel had been rejected about 75 times before it sold, so until I reached that many rejections on Darkroom or any other novel, I would not even begin to think anything strange or negative about it.   It was probably around rejection #43 that something finally happened.

I can remember it well.  There I was in my office praying after some time of reading the Bible.  I usually don’t even have my computer on during this time, but for some reason, that day I did.

I heard the email notification chime and would have ignored it, since I was praying, but something inside me told me to go ahead, finish praying and check the email.

That email was my offer letter from Simon & Schuster/Howard Books for Darkroom.

While the road to my writing career seems long (8 years at the least, over 30 years at the most, depending on how you count) it’s really just beginning.  If you were to ask me how I did it, I could list a few small ideas without being able to guarantee similar results.  But one thing I know:  All of my success, anything of any worth came not as a result of my own abilities but by divine providence and unmerited grace.  The opportunities, the people who “just happened” to appear in my life and guide me, the publications, the ability to write books and stories people actually like?  All by God’s grace.

I believe we each have a calling and path that has been designed for us.  But we also have the freedom to choose or ignore whatever path we wish.  Some of the paths I’ve mistakenly chosen were not nearly as bad as some have.  And not all the paths I’ve chosen have yielded the greatest results.  I believe the best path we can take is the one that has been written by the Author of the Universe, the One who declares the end from the beginning.  Happy is he/she who discovers this path, this calling, and walks in it.

I know I have found mine.

And for that, I’m truly grateful.

Follow and Subscribe to Joshua Graham:

Joshua Graham's debut novel, Beyond Justice, won the 2011 International Book Awards and was a bestseller on and Graham grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he lived for the better part of thirty years. He holds a Bachelor and Master's Degree from Juilliard and a Doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He has performed as a soloist and principal cellist domestically and internationally. During his tenure in Maryland, he taught as a professor at Shepherd College (WV), Western Maryland College, and Columbia Union College (MD). Today he lives with his beautiful wife and children in Southern California. Under different pen names, his short fiction works have been published by Pocket Books and Dawn Treader Press.

Pre-Order Darkroom today!

Monday, November 14, 2011


It’s an interesting thing. I enjoy cooking, but I used to be intimidated by bread. Something about it was mysterious and unattainable. But recently I bought some yeast packets and decided to have a go. My first attempt was rather dense and lumpy, not attractive to the eye or the palate, you know, like the crust of a cobbler or something. I resolved to learn and make a better bread. I figure why not. I have tons of flour left over from a semi-crazed, mildly alarmist trip to Costco with tax refund money earlier this year. But that’s a story for another blog.

So I set to work. The next loaf I made was far too sweet. I used a recipe that called for risky amounts of white sugar, and I was right to be afraid. It was no good.

The next loaf needed more salt. Mainly this was because I totally ran out of salt while making it. Plus I was out of money to actually go and buy salt, coincidentally, so there it is. The result was a nicely shaped but bland tasting loaf of bread.

The thing about bread is that it’s equal parts art and science. There’s a lot of mysterious action going on in there with the salt and the sugars and the yeast and the wheat and the water. The yeast needs moisture and warmth and sugar and starch (the endosperm of the wheat grain) in order to come alive and make bread possible. The balancing act that holds it together is the vital wheat gluten, which makes everything stretchy. I think I heard somewhere that the wheat genome is six times longer than the human genome, and though it’s been the world’s staple food for all recorded history, we’re still learning and being surprised by it. Adding to this mystery, bread’s final beauty and structure depend greatly on how the bread maker crafts it, the time he takes to allow all that science and art to intermingle. It can be a danse macabre at times, especially if you’re just learning like me.

I’ve taken to using equal parts (speaking of equal parts) yeast, salt, and dark brown cane sugar. I then add purified water at 120 degrees F with a little of my secret ingredient stirred in and dissolved in the warm water. I use quick rise yeast, but I allow the yeast twice the normal time to proof, to mature, to live, to make a nice foamy liquid. The sugars that I use are not highly refined, so it needs this extra time, I think.

Then when I mix in the flour (I’m not using bread flour, but all-purpose flour), I leave the dough a little wet and sticky, and this too is on purpose. I think it makes for a more moist loaf of bread at the finish that’s not quite as dense as some of my earlier attempts. It’s still hearty though, trust me. It’s not like that storebought crap.

I’ve found one of the key steps in bread making is the penultimate stage, where the dough has had a chance to rise into a ball and the bread maker pounds it down and flattens it. I lightly flour a cookie sheet and turn the ball of dough onto it, flouring the top of the dough as well. Then with my fists, I gently flatten it out into a rectangle roughly the shape of the cookie sheet. The shorter side of the rectangular shape is almost the exact same dimension as the length of my glass bread pans, so when I roll it into a loaf it fits in there perfectly. I use canola oil on the bread pan so that my bread will let go of it when it’s all done.

If anyone wants the specific recipe, post up a comment. I just may publish it if enough people are interested. This bread is really good; it has only six ingredients. Good luck finding anything like that at the store. I’ve found that it doesn’t even need butter. It’s great straight out of the oven, steaming, soft, sturdy, with a light crust and a rich taste that is suitable for savory (eggs on toast, anyone?) or sweet (jelly toast!) applications. But if you store the loaf in the bread pan on the counter and cover it (after it’s cool) it will last for days. I think it’s probably like good marinara, or chili, or soup—it tastes better with every passing day. You’ll be lucky if this lasts to the third day though. It’ll be gone before then.

I’ve also started to work on variations on this bread. I just did a cinnamon-sugar swirl loaf the other day that was ridiculous, but I can make it better. I want to try a garlic cheddar version too. Anyone else have any ideas?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Guest Post: Linna Drehmel, RE Random Challenge #1

Hello Mr. White, thank you for having me on your blog today.
            I am an author of young adult scifi/fantasy stories, but something that most people don’t know about me is that I have a fondness for archaeology. I love to ask people ‘what if’
questions when it comes to subjects in archaeology. Like this one: What if you were given a 1972 Chevy Impala that had a Michael Jackson CD,  a small stuffed hippo on roller blades, and a can of cream cheese frosting on the front seat? What would you think? Would it inspire you to do or write anything of interest? For me the answer would be no. I have been working on a great young adult fantasy series where an 18 year old girl suffers emotional duress from a case of mistaken identity in an alternate reality. So no inspiration there, but what if someone a thousand years from now were to find these items. Now we are talking! It would tell archaeologist so much about our time, but my only worry is would they get it right?
            Let’s change the view for a moment. Imagine that something really big happens like a sudden ice age and Washington DC is covered in ice for a thousand years. After those thousand years a team of archaeologists and anthropologist dig out the Lincoln memorial. What would they think?
            Now let me apply what modern archaeologists have come to surmised from ancient Greece. The team of archaeologists and anthropologists would think that the Lincoln memorial was the temple of a God. Look at the evidence that was left behind. People from all over the world have come to pay homage to him. There are pictures of him everywhere, even in peoples home. His face even appears on money.
            Keeping this scenario in mind, what would those future archaeologist and anthropologist think of the 1972 Chevy Impala with a small stuffed pink hippo on roller blades, the Michael Jacksons Thriller CD, and a can of Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting found inside?
            I know if I were them I would be really confused. The car is from 1972. The CD was made after the year 2000 but the music was released on November 30, 1982. The tag on the fuzzy pink hippo says 1992, and sadly the can of cream cheese frosting went bad about 998 years ago.
            Whew! It is confusing even to this modern day archaeologist, but the writer side of me might just be inspired after all.
            Happy writing everyone let your light so shine.
            From: An enigmatic old hag
            Linna Drehmel
[PS Linna's post is indeed under 500 words. Any other takers?--ed]

Authors bio-
Linna Drehmel was born at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho in 1973 and grew up surrounded by military. Her father served for 22 years in the Air Force, her mother was a military police officer in the Marines, and her older brother served for 10 years in the Navy. She draws inspiration from her family's many years of proud service in the military. She has spent much of her life studying anthropology and has a particular fondness for archaeology. She loves to find ways to intertwine anthropological and archaeological themes into her writing. She also has a strong understanding of what the reader likes, as she herself is an avid reader.