Thursday, October 23, 2014

A New Home for The People of Azorea (And I don't mean Earth.)

Hi All,

As you have probably guessed, I have a new website and blog location that I will be posting to.  This blog will remain and maybe I'll throw a post on here occasionally, but my new site will be my permanent home.  Please visit us Here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Smallest Pipe Band Ever!

Here we go.  Uh, you guys coming?  Okay, I'll just keep going then?  Uh, ok.  

Hey, you guys aren't pipers.  Where's the band?  Oh it's just me?  Hmmm.

Well at least I can have this flag in my sporran,  heh, heh.  
Band! By the Center, Quick March!  Oh wait, I'm talking to myself again, never mind just keep going.  The sound of the drones and then the beautiful skirl of the pipes.  Hey, wait a minute, my pipes don't Skirl.  You're thinking of those other guys.  That's right,

SKIRL: A shrill, wailing sound, especially that of bagpipes.  Oxford Dictionary

Hmmm, that doesn't sound very pleasant, must have been coined by an Englishman.  Try this:

SKIRL: The soulful music that lifts a person to transcendent heights and provides healing balm for the bereaved soul.   PiperBob Dictionary

Yes, much better.  Anyway, there I was marching down the street with my Jacobite shirt and kilt, sporting a beautiful set of Naill bagpipes, engraved I might add.  Oh the grandeur of it all; the women fainting (not sure why that was, could be my forgetting to shower that morning); the children running in panic, screaming for aid.  The farm animals restlessly pawing the earth desperate for peace (I love it when that happens).  All this as I strut forth plying my trade and filling the air with the melodious strains of "Scotland the Brave", "Green Hills of Tyrol", "Rocking the Baby", okay that last one wasn't as traditional but it still rocks.  

I marched and marched at a grueling pace for almost a quarter mile.  What a sight, what a rock of Gibraltar.  The manliness, the sheer grit, and that was just the asphalt.  With every step, the crowd undulating and screaming their acclamation, "Give it a rest", "Get a job", "Is that a kilt or a dress?".   Ah yes, they loved it.  Seldom does one receive such useful counsel from strangers.  Their wishes and heartfelt suggestions touched me.  I could feel the emotion welling up, much like a well digested round of curry.  

I cast a loving glance to my ardent admirers only to see most were absent.  That's right, there were only a few brave souls huddled in the fetal position with their fingers in their ears, obviously so overcome by the beauty of my music that it rendered them helpless to their pent up emotions.  Where were the crowds?  

Then the thought came to me, 

"Your's is a solitary life.  Few can appreciate the symphony that you present.  Let the swine feast on their tripe of mediocrity, you're strains are meant for loftier patrons."  

Maybe That's why Pipers play in the cemetery.   No matter, it was an honor to serve these poor teaming masses.  I was again reminded why I do it all: it's for them.  Viva la Pipe!

Friday, April 25, 2014

     On the advice of a local publisher, I took a hard look at the finished manuscript for The Piper of the Glen. I found some startling errors. The writing process has been a difficult learning path. It's hard for me to cut portions of the book that may appeal to me but do not add value to the story. I had to take the book into the operating room and surgically remove things that held the reader back.

Unreadable Dialog 

      For example, Though I love the ethnic dialect of Scotland, trying to reproduce it via the written word was a huge mistake. Misspelling words to try to duplicate the Scottish inflections merely slowed the reader down. I found myself struggling as I reread the text. I came to the realization that I could still convey the feel and flavor of the Scottish brogue without making it sound like Rabbie Burns himself had written the story. By simply interjecting a word like "no'" in place of "not", the same purposes were achieved. For example:
 "Ach, keep yer heed doon lad, I'll no' tell ye agin".

      It's a distraction trying to sort out the words of this sentence. The same feel can be achieved in a simpler form, as follows.
 "Ach, keep your head down, I'll no' tell you again." 

     The sentence structure itself helps to provide the feel and rhythm of the highlands. Anyway, after learning this lesson I corrected all the dialog in my manuscript and the flow was greatly improved, but there were still other log jams to clear.

Useless Information 

     There were a lot of useless things cluttering up the body of the manuscript, for example, I spent a great deal of time talking about the political struggles and bureaucracy of the Azorean culture. Why they were at war, what their power infrastructure entailed, etc... Unfortunately, no one gave a rat's behind about any of that and it did nothing to further the story. I axed all of it.

     One of the main things I had a hard time resolving was how could an advanced civilization like the Azoreans, arrive on Earth and be using rudimentary swords, bows and arrows. Initially I tried a lengthy explanation about how their civilization was science oriented and that they were a peaceful society with that had not known war. I explained that with the destruction of their planet they were caught off guard and could not develop modern weaponry fast enough. It took pages and pages to explain and the reader was forced to wade through this diatribe before continuing the story. Like being at an exciting movie and having some narrator provide a boring explanation just as the heroin was about to vanquish her foe. It took the readers out of the story. I still had to resolve the problem, but I realized I had to find a brief, non intrusive way to do it. The final solution was deceptively simple. I just destroyed their weapons bay when the transports were hit with the planet's final explosion. The blast destroyed their propulsion systems, why couldn't it get rid of their weapons at the same time? Too Convenient? Perhaps, but at least the reader can be on with the story, and it's believable... well as believable as any of this can be.

     So, on it went. I continued my surgery on the story and when I was done, almost ten full chapters lay strewn on the floor. I had a leaner and more manageable version of the story. And so Azorea, The Piper of the Glen, fourth Edition was born. I felt bad for all those who had purchased my earlier versions, but I suppose that is all part of the creative process.

   Where to from here? 

      I have replaced all versions available on line and am now moving on. I have made excellent progress on the second installment of the series. I actually changed the name in an effort to get away from the "Piping" emphasis. The second installment will be called "Azorea, The Maid of Braemore" and will recount the tragic true historical account of Helen Gunn the only daughter of Lachlan Gunn Who on her wedding eve was kidnapped and her fiance brutally murdered by Dugald Kieth of clan Kieth. This event sparked a 500 year feud between the Kieths and the Gunns which ended as recently as 1998. I obviously take quite a bit of literary licence here, because I interject my Azoreans into key roles in the story, thus changing the flavor and slant of the event. I have also used fictitious clan names to avoid any possible offences. It continues to be quite an exciting adventure to lay down on paper. I hope to have this book completed in the next few months. I will update the blog with more as the time draws closer. Til then, happy writing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Casting for Azorea, The Piper o' the Glen

I would have to cast Liam Neeson as Griegor, without a doubt. He would be a natural. In the

In the role of Cormack it would have to go to the creepy yet cool Billy Drago. You will maybe remember him as the thug that shoots Sean Connery in the Untouchables. The one waiting in the alley with the machine gun.

In the part of Neala I would go with Kim Cattrail She fits the part perfectly, but I am not sure she could pull off the nurturing mother bit. And finally, in the role of Dagan I think Phillip Seymore Hoffman would be my choice. Ya, that will work.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How I got the Idea for The Azorea Trilogy

I must tell you, it is just an outgrowth of my twisted and demented mind. I was playing the pipes at a local cemetery one evening, (Sounds a little goth, but actually pipers love to play in cemetaries because no one complains about the noise. Unless, of course, you happen to wake the dead.)
As I was driving home, I began thinking of ideas I could write about. I had wanted to write a book for a long time. I love writing and enjoy manipulating and being creative with the English language. I had many ideas but nothing seemed to jump out at me. Suddenly, I began to think of all the Science Fiction shows and books I had read. They often dealt with humans venturing forth into the great unknown of space. Often they would become marooned on some distant planet, or just become "Lost in Space".
The more I thought about this, I began to realize something. I have never read about an alien race of people becoming marooned on planet earth. Oh, there was the Coneheads I suppose. But what if a race of people were forced to leave their home world due to it's imminent destruction. Then suppose half of them were horribly disfigured in some accident associated with that planet's demise.
I kept thinking about the what ifs and asking myself various questions. I thought, "What if half of their brain was destroyed and turned into useless rubbery cartilege. And What if that part of the brain is where the emotions of love, concern, and compassion originated. They would become ruthless barbarians.
That is how I got the idea for the LeathMairbh (Lee-ache-Mah-rahv) The name actually means, "Half-Dead" in the Gaelic tongue. So now I had a race of people, half of whom desired to kill the other half, both now plummeting out of control through space, toward planet earth. They both became marooned in the highlands of Scotland in the 16th century.
Why the 16th century? Well I wanted to incorporate the interesting historical battles and clan conflicts of that period into my tale. There is so much fascinating history to avail myself of. I wanted to portray this history in a different light by asking the question, "What if all those horrific events were the work of an evil race of people from another world?"
Why Scotland?, you ask. Uh, hello. I am obsessed with the Celtic culture. I also wanted to incorporate the Bagpipes into my tale. I began thinking how to do that. I thought, "What if the tones of the drones and chanter caused the evil ones damaged brain material to vibrate. And what if the vibrations would then render them helpless zombie like puppets, controlled by the one playing the pipes. Brilliant! I thought to myself. Well the rest, as they say, is literature. I invite you to get a copy of Azorea, The Piper o' the Glen, and see for yourself how the saga plays out.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Some Thoughts from the Author

Thinking about writing a book is a daunting task. As is so often the case, the would be author is plagued with doubts and questions. Will anyone want to read my material? What if I can't think of an ending? What about writer's block? I experienced the same thoughts as I prepared for the writing of Azorea.
At some point, the writer simply must dive in and give it a try. I would like to offer a few hints that I found very helpful as I began my first writing endeavor. First, develop a plan of attack. When someone sets out to build a home, they draw up a detailed set of plans. Imagine if you just started hammering boards together without knowing what your house would end up looking like. It would be a disaster. Your plan of attack must include a detailed outline.
If you are like me, you probably said to yourself, "This is such a waste of time. Why don't I spend the time actually writing instead of this silly outline." All I can say is that I followed the advice given my by my older brother and mentor. He admonished me to stick to the outline and I would not go wrong. He was right.
Make your outline detailed but try to avoid wordiness. Remember, this is just the road map, not the actual journey. You want to include important plot twists, key relationship points, and a clear idea of where the story is going. Don't get hung up on chapter numbers and titles at this point. That will come naturally as you write the story.
One thing that helped me was to visualize my story, in my mind; kind of like watching a movie. As I wrote Azorea, I would put the soundtrack to Braveheart on in the background. If I closed my eyes, I could see my characters interacting in the highlands of Scotland. I could feel the cool breeze wafting from the North and smell the fresh purple heather blooming in the warm sunlight. See what I mean? If you can see the story it will be much easier to write about it.
Finally, don't limit yourself as you write. By this I mean, don't tell yourself an idea is stupid or that it won't work. Allow free reign to your creativity. There will be a time for editing, but not in the initial creative process. No idea is stupid, no thought is to far fetched. By applying this one principle, you will bring your own unique character to your writing. After all, who can say what is good or bad. Writing is merely an extension of who you are. You are unique and your writing will be as well. Don't stifle your creativity by applying premature judgments of your work.
The second tip is to find a collaborator. While writing Azorea, I relied heavily on my daughter as a sounding board for ideas, as well as a second pair of eyes to make the editing process easier. Your collaborator must be a person who is not interested in directing your ideas, instead they must simply help you to apply a critical eye to the validity of your writing.
Hand in hand with this, is the requirement to be open minded. Do not allow yourself to think that your way is the only way. This may seem contradictory to the first suggestion of not allowing your collaborator to direct your ideas, but it really is not. You must have the confidence to accept valuable input, but then be able to weigh that information in the scales of what you are trying to achieve in your work. The result will be the best of both worlds. Having a second set of eyes to view your work is an essential tool.
There are many, many, more ideas that will help you in your journey to become a writer and I will post more at a later time. Remember, be confident, be diligent and most of all, be patient. As I was on the path of writing the book I would often find myself feeling impatient. As I struggled with how to word a particular phrase or paragraph, the feeling was "Just write the darn thing. Get this done."
At times like these, I would close my computer and do something else. That is my recommendation to you. Don't force creativity. If you are feeling the need to rush on, take a breath and take a break. Come back when you are ready to fully enjoy the writing experience. Trust me, it makes a world of difference.
I hope these tips have been helpful. I am constantly learning as I go. In my next post, I will discuss some do's and don'ts that I have learned in the process. Till next time, happy creating!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Azorea Book Teaser. Effective? (yes/no)

Griegor stared into the vast array of stars advancing toward him, wondering how it had come to this. Once the leader of the mighty Azorean nation, now he was merely a helpless captive to fate’s fickle whim, careening through space in a rudderless ship. With him were the last of his once noble civilization, those lucky enough to escape their planet’s fiery demise.
Elsewhere, another gazes into the same cold expanse. His name is Cormack. Being Griegor’s younger brother meant living in his shadow. Cormack wanted more. His desire for power, fame, and control, resulted in the destruction of Azorea and the horrific mutation of over a third of his people, as well as himself; these were the very same with whom he now shared his desperate voyage. The mutation left them little more than ruthless barbarians, devoid of the ability to love, to care, or show compassion. They were the half-dead; they were the LeathMairbh. Both men now traveled in crippled ships toward an unknown destiny, hoping to find a new home.
Marooned castaways, they now found themselves on a strange planet. Earth would be their new home. The period is the mid 16th century, the place is the rugged highlands of Scotland. Like a loathsome plague, Cormack and those with him set out to conquer this new world. Only Greigor and his people can stop them. Only they can end the deadly scourge that is the LeathMairbh. Will they prevail and thwart Cormack’s attempt at global domination? The answer lies within the pages of this Celtic trilogy. The historical events of the 16th century will be seen in a new light as they unfold in this alternate reality. This novel will change how you view the classic history of the medieval period.