I finished the rewrite of The Sureshot. I’m very proud and very satisfied with the story. It is a little longer but a bit more compelling! Can’t wait for you all to read it!

 One last task; final edit. I’m going to try reading the entire thing outloud. It’s a great way to find more errors than normal. 

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Sureshot Excerpt: Training

I drew very literally from my own basic training experience to write the pages about Durbar’s training. They are some of my favorite scenes.

The next morning came quickly for Durbar. He was up with the sun, but noticed little about the spring’s beauty as he prepared to leave his temporary home at the Lone Pine Inn. He thought of very little except what the day would bring as he washed his face and put his clothes on. No one else was up yet, and he knew this, so he dropped some coins on the counter and left. He didn’t look back at the inn, walking toward the garrison. The sun was low in the sky and the mud of the streets was still frozen from the night’s frost. As he approached the garrison, he heard the sound of a horn apparently signaling something. The new recruit would soon learn what every signal meant.
He reached the guards at the entrance where he had entered before. It was the main entrance through the walls that surrounded the garrison, separating it from the rest of the city. The guards halted him and ordered him to identify himself. Durbar answered with his name and his purpose. They knew who he was, and one of them offered to lead him to the training barracks. It was normal for one of the guards to escort a new recruit to the training area. Durbar didn’t realize that there were separate barracks for trainees.
“You mean, I won’t be staying with all the other men?” he asked the guard.
“Nay, not yet anyway. After your training, you will; that is, of course, if you make it. I’m sure you won’t have a problem, if everything I’ve heard is true,” explained the soldier. “Follow me.”
So, Durbar followed the soldier through the main building where there were soldiers everywhere getting dressed and preparing for the day. They paid little heed to Durbar as he walked by them. They were all focused on their morning routine. The soldier led the young woodsman through the building and exited on the far side into the center of the compound. They walked over a small hill and some buildings came into view by the outer wall of the garrison. They were made of logs like most everything else. In the square that the buildings formed, there was a bit of a scramble. About twenty men were running about and appeared to be forming into some kind of an order. There was only one man who wasn’t running. Durbar could hear him at a distance.
“Move it! Faster! Form up!” he commanded.
“That’s Captain Noashk,” Durbar’s escort declared, “the officer in charge of training. He’ll be your new family. Don’t worry. He only yells at you if he likes you. You’ll do fine, trust me.”
“If you say so,” is all Durbar could say as he began to doubt his decision. They continued their approach, and by now all of the other recruits had formed four ranks of about five men each. The two men reached the group.
“Captain Noashk, Sir, here is another recruit, Sir,” shouted the guard in a loud voice.
“Thank you, Sergeant, you’re dismissed,” replied Noashk without turning from his formation. The men in the formation were being as still as they could, but most were fidgeting a little.
“Good luck,” encouraged the soldier that led Durbar there, and with that, he turned and headed back to his post. Durbar was also trying to be still. He held his bow in his left hand. His knapsack was over his left shoulder and his quiver over his right. He was still, as if anticipating an attack. He was poised to spring and run at any moment. Slowly Noashk turned around. He wasn’t a large man, at least not in stature, but he did have strength. He was wearing a black leather tunic with metal studs sewn onto it. He also wore black studded leather pants and heavy leather boots. His tunic did not have any sleeves but around his wrists he wore bracers. A sword was attached to his left hip. His head was bald but his face bore a trimmed dark gray beard. He studied Durbar for a moment, looking at him from head to toe; he noted the bow in Durbar’s hand.
“You’re Sureshot, no?” he asked calmly.
“Yes,” Durbar answered hesitantly. As soon as the word left his mouth Noashk exploded into a rage and charged Durbar stopping just short of the young man’s face. Durbar froze.
“Address me as ‘Sir,’ boy, or I’ll throw you over the wall or maybe I’ll just cut your tongue out!” screamed the man, his face only inches from Durbar’s. “You wouldn’t like that would you?” Durbar didn’t respond out of fear. “Answer me!”
“No,” replied Durbar timidly.
“No what?” yelled the man.
“No, Sir.”
“That’s right. Now I’m just going to say this once so you better listen,” Noashk lowered his deep, scratchy voice. “I don’t care if you think you already can do something. I don’t care if you think you are already fit to serve at this unit. I don’t care if you are the best bowman around or even in all of Dirka. Here you are all the same to me. I call the shots around here. I just want to make that clear. Now that we got that straight, go inside and talk to Sergeant Urlaum. He will get you the things you need. Then we’ll find out if you are good enough to be a part of this garrison,” he paused as if expecting Durbar to do something. “Go!” he shouted. Durbar dashed toward the building, his backpack banging on his back and his bow swinging with his arm. He ran inside the building and quickly assessed the area trying to remember what he was supposed to do when he got there. He saw a man at the far south end of the building. He trotted over to him still feeling some urgency but not as much as he had initially. The man noticed Durbar when he ran in and addressed him as he neared.
“New recruit?” he asked.
“Yes, I mean, yes Sir,” Durbar stammered.

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Writing tip: Outline

As soon as people heard that I was a published writer (for whatever that’s worth) I had a number of people tell me they too had an idea for a story and wanted to be a writer. First of all, that makes me very happy. The human heart loves stories. Its how our ancestors learned about their culture, their religion, their world. Its how we continue to communicate and seek connection and meaning. But that’s for another post. Many of the people who were interested in being writers asked me for advice. Well, ten years later I think I have some decent things to share. For this post I’ll focus on the outlining.

I admit, when I was a teenager and began writing for the first time I hated outlining, editing, rewriting and the entire writing process. I regret it a bit as I’m confident I could have done much better early on if I had embraced the writing process, but alas, I was young. When I set about writing The Sureshot for the first time I did no outlining. I just started writing with absolutely no idea where I was going. This was obviously a huge mistake. With no real direction the story just sort of meandered about. Each sentence lead to another and each paragraph inspired the next but it was not planned. The result? I got stuck many times and then had to go back and rewrite. Eventually however, I figured out I needed a map that lead to the end of a logical story; an outline.

After that experience, as I set about to become an actual writer, I did plenty of reading and research on the proper steps for completing a story. Everything I read made it plain that an outline was key. Apparently there are several writers who outline a hundred pages or more before writing; essentially creating a near first draft. Others, write simple bullet outlines of their story creating a path for the essential elements. I’m one of the latter. I like to have a logical outline that leads me to the desired completion of the story but I don’t like to create too many details because, for me, those tend to develop once I’ve begun drafting. It works.

So, if you have a story in your heart that you want to tell, my first piece of advice is to outline it. How does your story start? What conflicts arise? How are they resolved? How does the story end? The outline is your map to complete the story, without it you will be writing blindly, like a ship with no compass floating aimlessly. You may finally arrive at the desired destination but by luck more than design. You will be a much more efficient writer using outlines as tools. I’ve come upon a fantastic resource that helped me take outlining to the next level where I can use it to evaluate my story, but I’ll write about that later. For now…outline.

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Writing tip: He said she said

In my classroom whenever I assign writing I see “said” used a lot and some poor writing habits that I may spend some time addressing in this blog. But I’ve made them all when I was growing as a writer so no worries. Plus, I am not a best selling author so take my advice or leave it. I’m just a teacher and a man passionate about writing.

One of the things I noticed when I was going through The Sureshot is that I used “said” far too much in my early writing. Nowadays I’ve outgrown that problem and even make it a point to never use the word “said” so that I don’t fall into a pattern of using it all the time. Back over ten years ago I was still doing it.

Be aware when you’re writing to avoid it if at all possible. It’s boring. It really is only stating the obvious. If you’re using quotations, we already understand that a character is talking so help the reader out and use a different verb so that we can see how the character is talking.

One verb I use a bit is “began.” It is still pretty much lame, but if there is going to be a lengthy dialogue then “began” is a good one to use, well, first. Like this:

“Son, I have something to share with you,” father began.

It’s smooth and even gives the reader the idea that there is going to be a bit of a conversation.

I use “replied” a lot as well. Again it is an easy and versatile verb to use that isn’t “said.” Like this:

“Son, I have something to share with you,” father began.

“Sure dad, what is it?” he replied.

Both are natural and yet not as boring as “he said she said.”

Beyond that I like to use verbs to help the reader sense what sort of mood the speaker is in. “Yelled, shouted, boomed” to show someone is angry our animated. “Whispered, mumbled, groaned, moaned,” can show a character is timid or uneasy. There are tons of verbs that help the reader know far more than the fact that the character is speaking.

Another trick is to describe the speakers voice rather then use a verb. We still know they are speaking, but now we get a sense of their feeling while they are speaking. In this case it is appropriate to use “said” though I don’t always include it. Like this:

“I might be going to prison,” he said, voice shaky.

Here’s what it can look like. Note that I won’t use “said” and hopefully the words I use help you get far more from the scene than the mere words they are using.

“Son, I have something to share with you,” father began.

“Sure dad, what is it?” he replied.

“Something has happened,” the older man stammered. “Something bad. I don’t know what the consequences are going to be but I want you to be prepared.”

The boy gasped, “What are you talking about?”

“I mean,” his father searched for the proper words but none were suitable, “the police might come by soon. They may take me away.”

“I don’t understand!” the boy blurted, “Why would they take you away?”

The scene was building in tension and hopefully you could feel the characters’ emotions though I didn’t say what they were nor did I describe them in any way. Anyways, you get the point. Don’t use “said.” Use dialogue as an opportunity to build a scene and help the reader understand how the characters feel.

Happy writing!

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The Sureshot: Excerpt

Another dream developed as Durbar slumbered. It was not unlike the one he experienced only weeks earlier. This time the image of the arena was clear to him. It was the very place in Harmon where they held melee competitions that day. He could see crowds of people cheering loudly all around. At one end, he saw his mother and father again, both dressed in armor and armed with swords. He found himself in the center of the ring also armed and armored. He called out to his parents, “Father! Mother! What are you doing here?”

His father answered, “We are here to watch you son. We are only here to watch.”

“But why? Why didn’t you tell me you were a soldier? What were you protecting me from? I don’t understand.”

Before his father could explain anything, he exclaimed, “Look out behind you, Son!” Durbar turned around and the knight he fought in his previous dream returned. Again, he wielded a huge axe and flail, and he charged the confused dreamer. Durbar began to flee, but his father called out to him, “Don’t run, Son! Turn and fight. It is the only way you will survive!”

“But I can’t win, Father. He is too strong,” he returned.

“Turn and stand, Son!” Adar advised. So, his son turned around and prepared to defend himself. He held his shield up to protect his left side and pulled his sword arm back, ready to strike. The knight reached him in only a few seconds and swung his axe hard into Durbar who blocked the blow with his shield. The weapon splintered the top of the shield and sent Durbar to the ground. He scrambled to his feet in time to see the ball of the flail coming down on him. This time he rolled to his right to avoid the shot and swung his sword clumsily at the man. His attack was easily parried with the axe and then countered with the same weapon. The mighty axe struck directly into Durbar’s breast, splitting his armor.

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Sureshot Cover Contest

Calling all artists! Along with a rewrite and republish I want a new cover for The Sureshot. Since I’ve met and befriended many artists over the years and I know there are a bunch of you out there who have a lot of talent, I thought it would be a great idea to see who in my circle would like to do a cover.

The old cover was solid and a lot of people liked it. I liked it also even though it wasn’t personalized to my book really. It was relevant enough but wasn’t based on the story of the book necessarily. That said, I like the colors and image a lot and it was catchy. As solid as the old cover was, I can’t wait for a new one!

I cannot compensate the artist at this point but if I make money with this book then I would love to pay my cover artist for future covers so there is a chance that we can become partners. You will for sure have your name in the book as the cover artist at least, and I will make sure everyone knows who did the cover.

If I get multiple submissions I may have a voting “contest” to see which is most popular with my followers and readers.

I would like the art ready in one month, which is when my book is scheduled to be ready for publishing.

Due date: Aug 12th.

While I am open to whatever you would like to do as an artist, some themes and images that are central to the story include:

common images: Forest, trees, bear, hawk, bow, arrows

themes: birth, new identity, coming of age, competition


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Alcohol in Writing

More than ten years ago when The Sureshot was first published there was one main issue the editors had with my story; alcohol. They didn’t catch a hundred spelling and grammar errors, they weren’t interested in improving the story arch, nor character depth nor conflict resolutions. Nope. The biggest issue the chief editor had was that my characters drank alcohol.

I had not even thought about it when I wrote the story. The setting reflected medieval Europe and so when I wrote it I had characters drinking mead or ale. I didn’t do it to promote drinking. In fact, I didn’t even know why I wrote it like that except that in any story I ever heard of about medieval Europe, including most of the Disney stories, they drank alcoholic beverages. I didn’t know why, that’s just what they did. The editor said to take it out (they were Bible belt protestants) so I wrote generic “drink” in place of things like mead or ale.

I always thought the edit was stupid and continue to believe that. I did research on why people drank alcohol and mostly it was because of the lack of clean water, lack of refrigeration and besides, it can get your drunk!

It turns out that even today, many microbes live in water. Bacteria cause millions to get sick and many of those to die every year in the 21st century. In the days before bottled and purified water, only boiled water was safe and who wanted to boil water every time you were thirsty? No one. Alcohol is fermented to the point where the yeast, as well as any bacteria, die. I even saw a video where some people used water from a duck pond to make beer. They measured the level and types of bacteria in the water before the fermentation process and it was essentially deadly. After they made the water to make beer there was zero bacteria in it. So it is simple, beer is much safer to drink.

Needless to say, I wrote alcohol back into the story so cheers!

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