Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Matinee - Pick Me

I'm not really that big of a football fan, but these are good.  I used to have it without that annoying timer on the top corner, but can't find it anymore.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mythology Monday - Treasure # 2

In Future King, there is a race to see who can get the Thirteen Treasures of Britain.  This is the story of the second treasure and it is a story about love and food and the love of food.

Apparently, a young man by the name of Culhwch, fell in love. He fell in love with the daughter of a giant named Ysbaddadan, who was not interested in his daughter marring such a cocky young man (that and the fact that if she gets married, it was told that he would die) and tried to convince his daughter otherwise. Young love, however, is not easily deterred (awww!) and Culhwch accepts a challenge to prove his worthiness by collecting the 39 wonders of Britain (click here to see those 39 things).  All these things are virtually impossible to find and, when found, belong to people who are not willing to give them up or are unable to get rid of them. Does that stop our young lover?  No! And off he went in search of the treasures. One of the treasures is also the second treasure of Britain.

The Hamper of Gwyddno Long-Shank, or as he is otherwise known, Mwys Gwyddno Garanir. It is said that if you put food for one man in it, you'll open it up and find food for a hundred men. Not exactly feeding five thousand with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, but still pretty impressive

It seems this Long-Shanks fellow was lord of a place in Wales named Catref y Gwaelod, but don't break out your handy dandy map to find it just yet. The whole place was flooded and is wiped from the face of the earth to join the sea forever.

Culhwch eventually got all the items, but not without help. King Arthur and his knights joined the hunt and helped him out. When Culhwch gets back to him, you might would think that Ysbaddadan tried to back out of the deal, but he doesn't.   He takes some time to put down Culhwch down for not finding all the items himself. But then, he tells Culhwvch that a deal is a deal, and that even though the prophecy says that this would cost him his life, Culhwvch can indeed marry his daughter.  As soon as he does, some other warrior who evidently was just sitting around waiting for this opportunity, leaps up and decapitates the giant in one blow!

Now I'm hungry!

As far as Future King is concerned, this treasure is still waiting to be found.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Preditors & Editors

This is for all you aspiring writers out there.  You are ready to look for an agent or publishing house, but you do not know which way to turn.  You find the Writer's Market or the Guide to Literary Agents, but how do you know that this is a trustworthy person that you are dealing with?  You've got to be careful, there are sharks in these waters.

Well, never fear, dear writer!  That is here Preditors and Editors come in.  This web site has a listing of most everybody out there and they will tell you if that agency or agent has sold any works lately, if recommended, or someone with shifty practices.  You'll want to avoid those guys.

They've been providing this service to writers since 1997. Not only do they help out here, but they also have lists of writer chatboards and forums so you can network with others.  If you have not been there and are ready to look for an agent or publishing company, this is a must stop site for you.

Think of it as Bat Shark Repellent.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Wednesday - What Would Your Main Character Say on Behalf of Your Work?

I submitted Future King to Nancy Gallt Literary Agency the other day and they had an interesting question on their online form that I have not seen anywhere else.  It was - what would your main character say to us on behalf of your work?  

Since Zane is a bit of a slacker, I figured he would try to work the angle in his favor by saying:

Even though it is his fault that my freshman year didn't up the way I wanted (he could have chosen someone else to write about), I'd say give him a chance. I'd hate to think that I went through all of that (especially all those pushups and that stupid field trip to the Other World) for nothing. Did I mention all the pushups? Maybe you could edit those out for me? Plus maybe make him write in a date with Katlyn and some cool fighting powers. He didn't give me any of those.

This turns out to be a great characterization exercise.  So the assignment today is, "What would your main character say about you or your work?"  Try to keep it brief and post your character's response in the comment section below.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mythology Monday - The First Treasure

Last week I introduced a series of mythology related posts for Mondays on the Thirteen Treasures of England. So, here is the first treasure:

The Sword of Rhydderch the Generous

Rhydderch Heal was King of Strathclyde from 540 AD to 614 AD.  It was said that he would offer White Hilt (the sword) to anyone, which earned him the title "The Generous".  This title is not as much deserved as you may think.  First, when he offered you the sword, he did not mean you could keep it.  He meant that you could draw it from it's scabbard.  Wow, huh?  He wanted you to draw his sword so that he could learn a bit about you.

What can you learn about someone just by watching them draw a sword from a scabbard?  Not much, unless that sword just happens to the first of the the Thirteen Treasures.  White Hilt will burst into flames (a la Thundarr the Barbarian) if the drawer was "well born."  Nobody, for fear that it would not burst into flame for them, ever took Rhydderch the Generous up on his, well, generous offer (just imagine the embarrassment). 

This idea of the treasure only working for someone who is noble or worthy is a common trait in the Thirteen Treasures.  well, a common trait in mythology as well.  Thor's hammer can only be picked up by one who is worthy to be Thor (although in one comic book, the Hulk was so angry that he managed to lift it from sheer power and heft it back at Thor) and Excalibur can only be drawn by the rightful king of England.

This treasure is also known as Dyrnwyn, gleddyf Rhydderch Hael. Don't ask me how to pronounce it!

In A Future King, Zane and Team Camelot are searching for this treasure for two reasons:

  1. they are trying to find the treasures before Morgana does and
  2. in this book, this treasure is more than what it seems.
Next Week:

The Hamper of Gwyddno Long-Shank

Flaming sword image from:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Matinee - Dumb Ways to Die

This has got to be the most creative train safety message I've ever run across.  Well, it's the only train safety message I've run across, but I bet there are others out there and not nearly as creative as this one.  Watch the whole thing.  It's rather catchy.

As an added bonus, there is an app you can get so that you can play the Dumb Ways to Die phone game!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Quotable Quotes - Part 1

Here's what great writers say to new authors about writing:

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon."    -Robert Cormier

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."   -Richard Bach

"Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet."   -Anonymous

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader."   -Robert Frost

"I have never thought of myself as a good writer.  Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts.  But I'm one of the world's greatest rewriters."   -James A. Michener

"If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin.  I always write my last line, my last paragraph, my last page first."   - Katherine Anne Porter

"It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."   - Robert Charles Benchley

"My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine.  Everybody drinks water."   -Mark Twain

"Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer.  But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."   -Colette

"I have tried simply to write the best I can; sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can."   -Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

SOS - Save Often, Stupid

Zane Anderson almost died before the first four chapters were finished.  Since he is not only the protagonist of Future King, he is also the narrator, so this would have been very bad for the future of this series.  The death didn't come from the fictional world, it came from our own physical reality. in the form of the dreaded and feared BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH followed by a HARD DRIVE CRASH.

Now I had been saving often and have been doing so ever since my senior year in high school.  Back then computers didn't have automatic save functions and I had been working so hard on my term paper that I forgot to save the last two pages while working.  The my foot hit the plug of the power strip just enough to make it blink.  I watched in horror as the computer restarted and I knew that my whole evening's work was completely gone.  Since then I saved every ten minutes.

But that won't happen now.  Computers save regularly and if you use Google Drive, it saves every few seconds automatically (a pain if you are on slow Internet connection).  My problem was that I had only saved my book on that particular laptop and when it died, it was gone.

Luckily for me, I had done all my research and book planning in an old fashion paper notebook and was able to restart the process fairly easily.  This is my first novel and it is a daunting task to write a novel for the first time.  If I had not had all those notes, I'm not sure if I would have been able to bring Zane back from cyberdeath.  I might have had to start all over with a new premise.

The bad thing is, I knew better.  I am a high school English teacher and we English have big fat research papers that we assign.  I have heard every horror story about saving that there is.  I even had one student who had his computer struck by lightning - with his back up flash drive in the USB port at the time - the night before the paper was due.  I knew to have more places to store my files.  So, here are some ways for paranoid authors to save their work:

  1. Hit CTRL-S every few lines.  This way you know that it is saved and do not have to rely on the computer's autosave function (which, by the way, is not perfect).
  2. Save it onto a flash drive.
  3. E-mail it to yourself - now you have a cyber copy in your in box and your sent box.  Works even better if you have two e-mail accounts as it will be in the sent box for one account and the in box for the other.
  4. Save it from the e-mail onto a different computer.
  5. Save it online in a program like Dropbox*.
  6. Download it often (if you are working on Google Drive)
  7. Print it out regularly - for the electronic paranoid.
  8. Do all of the above - for the super paranoid.
Doing these things will not only keep your work backed up, it will also make sure that your computer does not die on you.  You see, I have a theory that computers only die if they know you need them desperately.  After I started backing up my work in multiple places, I had no more computer problems!

Plus you'll have the added benefit of not having to facepalm when you mess up.

So, did I miss any paranoid backuping tips?  Do you have a story of lost work?  Post them in the comments section!

* Dropbox is a pretty good online file storage website that is free.  You can probably find some free ones that offer more space, but Dropbox has been more than enough to fill my needs and it allows you to add more space without paying for it by doing other little things.  You can get an account here, if you wish: DROPBOX

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mythology Monday - The Thirteen Treasures of Britain

"Now the important thing to for you to learn about is the thirteen treasures.” He stopped at a cabinet that had a lock on it.

“What’s so important about the thirteen treasures?”

Max pulled a key out of his pocket. “By themselves, nothing much except that they were gifts to the people of England by the old gods. Little bits of magic to remind man that he’s not alone in this world.”

“So we have these gods with us?” I asked.

“No. They left. But their gifts remain. Why Morgana wants them, I don’t know. Tanabars, he’s a wizard with the Fianna, can’t figure it out either, or else won’t tell us if he has. He’s a bit odd, that Tanabars.” Max put the key in the lock, but didn’t turn it. The lock opened anyway. “Ah, here we are. The Chessboard of Gwenddolau. One of the treasures.”

Max pulled out a large box. The top was a chess board. “Neat! I like chess. Doesn’t seem like much of a treasure, though,” I added.

“None of them do..."

This little bit from Future King is the first time Zane learns about the Thirteen Treasures of Britain, so I figured that this would be as god a place as any to start the Mythology Monday segment of this blog.  We'll look at the thirteen treasures, one for each Monday, and them branch out into some other myths and legends.  

So, what are the Thirteen Treasures anyway?  Thirteen items that when brought together will bring the gods back to England or will give the humans power to overthrow the intruding gods. However you want to look at it, it is a fascinating idea that gets a bit confusing with the King Arthur tales. If King Arthur is Christian, then you want him going after Christian artifacts like the holy grail. If King Arthur is pagan, well, you want him to go after less Christian things. 

These treasures according to 18th century scholar Lewis Morris, were taken to Bardsey Island and placed in a glass house (which, as we all know, is NOT a good place to throw stones or feed seagulls). Apparently, Morgan, Queen of Avalon, lived in this glass castle/temple.    

The earliest written works about the treasures only mentions their names and that they are treasures "from the North." They are ordinary objects (swords, cloaks, pots, etc.) but each can do something magical.  Nothing mind blowing, mind you, and most only do it their magical thing for "noble" people.  So, if you pick one up in front of others, you risk being revealed as a fraud or coward.  They are almost always associated with the name of the person that they were given too.

An interesting side note is that the treasures are often referred to as hallows, which was most likely the inspiration for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

O.K., next Monday is the first of the treasures... The Sword of Rhydderch the Generous!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Matinee - Mission Marvel

For our first Saturday Matinee, I chose the Phineas and Ferb Mission Marvel Candace promo.  It airs next Friday, so don't miss it!  Spider-Man AND the Beak!  What more could anyone ask?

Friday, August 9, 2013


If you are not a Divergent fan, it is probably because you have not read it yet.  I've heard great things about it and plan on getting my copy soon.  They tell me that if you are a fan of Hunger Games, this is the next series to read.

Here's what it is about:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Since the movie is coming out next summer, you are going to want to get ahead of the rush and read it now.

If you are a Divergent fan already, then you need to know about the Lexicon.

This site has everything you would ever wish to know about Divergent and the world around it.  Characters, places, forums, shops - you name it.  It even has a comprehensive site on Detergent, which, of course, every true Divergent fan would need to know about.  Make sure you visit it at:

Leave a comment if you have already read the book and let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Wednesday - The Random Dialogue

On some Wednesdays, we'll have some creative writing assignments.  Today's assignment will be a Random Dialogue.  Here is how we will do it:

First, on your paper or computer, write down four numbers between 1 - 10.  They can be the same numbers. 

Got them?  Now, scroll down below the picture and you will find that your first number will be the first character.  The second number will be the second character.  The third will be the setting and the fourth will be the subject of the dialogue.

First Number - Character number one
  1. a mom
  2. a kid
  3. an alien
  4. a dog
  5. a rich man
  6. a grocery store owner
  7. a soldier
  8. a baby
  9. a superhero
  10. a vampire
Second Number - Character number two
  1. a dad
  2. a teenager
  3. the President of the United States
  4. a cat
  5. a poor woman
  6. a cowboy
  7. a spy
  8. a wizard
  9. a super villain
  10. a werewolf
Third Number - Setting
  1. morning at the beach
  2. in a grocery store
  3. in the White House
  4. on a city building rooftop
  5. nighttime in a graveyard
  6. on a golf course
  7. by the pool in winter
  8. in a school classroom
  9. in a fast food restaurant
  10. Christmastime in a house
Fourth Number - Dialogue Subject

  1. how much something costs
  2. the latest video game
  3. deciding on where to go for a date (not necessarily with each other)
  4. politics
  5. a dream the first character had last night
  6. what to have for the next meal
  7. character two is not happy about something character one did
  8. character one is excited about something that just happened
  9. a sporting event
  10. a movie they just watched

Now, you decide if they are arguing, being silly, serious, discussing, fighting, happy, etc.  Oh, and you had ten minutes, so no time to think ready...  GO!

O.K., was it any good? awful? just plain silly?  If you typed it, feel free to cut and paste it into the comments section.  You can always do this, no matter when it is you find this blog post.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Well, I got my first reply back from an agent about  Future King and it was a rejection.  However, it was a very nicely worded rejection and I was happy to get something back.  They were the first agency I sent a query to and the two agents I sent to after that have a policy of not responding at all if they are not interested.  They give you a window of time and tell you that if you haven't heard from them by that time, they are not interested.  I understand this practice. You figure that if they get around 100 queries a day (I don't know exact figures, but I heard this number listed on one web site), it would take close to an hour just to send the automatic rejection e-mail (assuming 30 seconds to do so for each). Still, it was nice to have confirmation that my query was received, read, and considered by someone out there.

I was expecting this.  Everything you read about submitting work tells you to get ready for rejection.  Literary agent Janet Reid says that rejection may mean a lot of different things (paraphrasing):
  1. your book idea is no good
  2. your book idea is O.K., but there were several other ones that were better on the week you submitted them
  3. your book idea is good, but not for that particular agent
  4. your book idea may or may not be good, but your query letter is bad and so your book will not be considered (her blog is all about how to write that query letter)
So, I'll continue to plug along and submit to some more agents.  Heck, J.K. Rowling supposedly got rejected 12 times for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone before it got accepted (and even then, only because the publisher's eight year old daughter insisted on it), so I figure I've got a few more tries in me!  Plus, I have two more Snoopy cartoons, and it would be a shame to waste them!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stephen King's First Five Novels

As you may know, Stephen King publish several books under the pen name Richard Bachman.  Just like J. K. Rowling, he was eventually found out and the sell of Bachman books skyrocketed.  I picked up an old copy at a 25 cent book sale recently and was reading the introduction by King and ran across these words:

I wrote five novels before Carrie.  Two of them were bad, one was indifferent, and I thought two of them were pretty good.

That's right.  King wrote five novels before he was published.  WOW!  I started wondering if I would do the same if Future King doesn't work out.  I think I would, but how does someone keep his ego intact long enought to write five novels.  It took me quite a while to write one.  My wife said, "Doesn't it make you feel good to know that even Stephen King had been turned down before?"  In some ways, I guess it does.  In other ways my mind says, "It took King five novels before he got someone to pay attention.  How many times will it take me?"

By the way, if you get a chance to pick up this book, do so.  Those two "pretty good" novels are in there - Rage and The Long Walk.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


I guess to start the process of chronicling the process of getting this book published, I should start at what inspired it to begin with. It pretty much is the result of making an off hand remark to my wife and this TV show:

I'm a sucker for anything mythology related, so I sat down with my wife to watch it.  It was pretty good.  I didn't mind the way they interpreted Merlin, Arthur, Pendragon, and such.  Every King Arthur story out there pretty much reinvents what they want to anyway (sometimes Mordred is a villain, others a hero - Guinever cheats on Arthur in some with Lancelot, but not in others).  However, I didn't recognize some of the other characters, usually the bad guy or monster of the week.  So I pick up a King Arthur encyclopedia I had acquired at a Barnes and Noble bargain shelf years ago and started looking for them.  They didn't exist.  I Googled them.  They didn't exist.  I like the show, but i was disappointed in this.  When I told my wife, "Why didn't they use villains and monsters from the myths?  That's crazy.  If I wrote a King Arthur story, I would use references from the original," which prompted her to reply, "well, why don't you?"

That was a good question.  Since I couldn't come up with a good reason for not doing it, I started doing some research.  The research led to Zane Anderson, the reincarnation of King Arthur, to be born.  Zane led to a few chapters written while waiting at the park for my son to finish baseball practice.  The chapters, however, were lost on a crashed hard drive.  At that point, I thought about just giving up on the idea, but I felt as if it would be a personal failure not to see it through.  Now, many revisions later, I'm sending Future King off to agents who might  be interested.

So - what was your inspiration to write your book (finished, unfinished, or not yet started)?

Friday, August 2, 2013


This blog is for anyone who is an aspiring author, likes to read young adult novels, or who likes to write creatively.

Aspiring Authors - I'm currently in the process of trying to get my first novel, Future King, published.  Every time I turn a corner, it seems like there is something else to learn - query letters, agent roles, how to write a synopsis, etc.  So I thought I would share my experiences to the benefit of other would be authors out there.  I also would like to use this blog to set up some ways that other authors (no matter their genre) can share their blogs, sites, first pages, and anything else that new authors need to show off.

Young Adult Novel Readers - since Future King is a YA novel, I figured I would use this blog to look at other YA novels.  I plan on giving reviews, letting blog readers vote on best books, and look at news for upcoming YA novels and movies.  Post titles of books that you would like reviewed in the comments section and I'll get them up on the blog.

Creative Writers - during summers, I work at Duke Young Writers Camp.  This is a fantastic place to be for young creative writers.  While nothing I can do online can replace the amazing experience this is, I can share a few exercises for creative writers to work on or for teachers to use in their classrooms.  I plan on doing this mostly on Wednesdays.  I can't promise a new creative writing exercise every Wednesday, but that is the day that I plan on trying to post these.  Young writers - the best thing you can do for your writing is to write every chance you get.

Other Stuff - anything else that strikes my interest will end up here, from movie clips (I'm thinking a Saturday Matinee where I post a movie clip every Saturday (or so), to interesting news articles.

So join me in this ride and let's see where it goes!  You can always post comments no matter how old a post is.  Let me know what you think!  Or just post your name and where you are from in the comment section below so that I'll know who is sharing the blog with me.