Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WIP Wednesday - Netherworld III: Once Bitten, Twice Dead

Zombies, anyone?

     I asked Dan, “So what will happen if he’s a zombie?  I take it that will be hard to fix or everyone wouldn’t look so freaked out.”
     Dan started to reach for me again and stopped himself.  It’s tough remembering the restrictions a physical body puts on you when you’re used to being a ghost.  He had to settle for giving me his most comforting yet concerned look.  “If he’s a zombie, then his soul is gone.  He can’t be fixed.”
     “You mean … he’ll stay like that?  Just an empty body?”  I looked over Dan’s shoulder at the the man, my stomach doing a slow, sick drop.  Oh, this couldn’t be happening. 
     Dan spoke carefully, as if to a child.  Normally I get ruffled if I’m condescended to, but in this case, I knew it was because I was not only clueless but ready to be upset.  It turned out I had plenty more to get upset about.
     “Zombies are dangerous creatures, sweetheart.  If his soul is gone, he’ll have to be – his body will have to be destroyed.”
     I tore my gaze from the too-still body.  Gerald was starting to shake as he stood next to his friend, and I was reminded of how good shifter hearing was.  Though Gerald wouldn't catch my end of the conversation, he could probably hear Dan speaking through Jason.
     “Destroyed?  As in killed?  What the heck, Dan?”  My voice was rising.
     Dan swallowed.  “A zombie is like an automaton.  All it knows is what its body tells it.  If it’s tired, it stops where it is and goes to sleep.  If it’s hungry, it grabs the nearest thing and eats.  And I’m not talking a cheeseburger and fries from the nearest drive thru, baby girl.”
     A shudder ran through me and I went colder than cold.  “People.  You’re saying he will eat people.” 
     “Zombies prefer fresh meat.  So fresh it’s still breathing.”
     I felt ill.  Again my mind insisted, this can’t be happening.  But apparently, it was. 
     “I guess he’s not hungry then,” I said weakly.
     “Not yet.”
     “Who’s going to kill him if he’s a zombie?”  My gaze went to Gerald.  The werepanther was tough and bad to the bone, but no way the big man would be able to kill his best bud.  I looked at Tristan and Patricia next, who stood to one side, their predator faces as sad as vampires could get.  I really wanted to think my sweetie and his sister would find it too difficult to destroy someone who was ready to take a stake for them. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tutorial Tuesday – Show Vs. Tell, Part 1

Yes, we’ve all heard it.  Show, don’t tell.  It seems to be the Golden Rule of writing   The moment one embarks on a writing career this saying is pounded into our brains.  And yes, it is excellent advice to ‘show, don’t tell’.  But what exactly does that mean?  How does one successfully execute this command?

Let’s start this series by looking at how we’re hobbled at the gate by what we’ve been taught in the real world and why it doesn’t apply to our fiction.

A Lack of Feeling

It all starts in school.  In their drive to educate us, teachers emphasize telling.  “Tell me why Country Mouse didn’t like visiting City Mouse even though there was all that yummy food on the table,” small children are invited at the close of story time.  During our entire formal education, we’re prodded to tell.  “Write an essay on why the Battle of Gettysburg was such a turning point in the Civil War.”  “I want an oral presentation on the Doppler Effect.”  “Turn in a book report on Fahrenheit 481 in two weeks.”

We tell our instructors the facts in a logical, ordered, and objective review of the various subjects.  We regurgitate information on command.  Very seldom are we encouraged to elicit feeling or emotion from our readers in these school assignments.

The trend continues into adulthood.  Jobs require data and hard information in the form of memos and reports that are designed to pass along facts in short bullet bursts.  And this is fine.  This is what is required to keep business humming along.

But when it comes to fiction, you can’t rely on telling.  Telling doesn’t bring tears to your readers’ eyes or laughter from their lips.  You can’t captivate anyone by opening a story with bald statements that simply report what’s happening in your story.  You can’t give them objective data and expect them to be drawn in.  You can’t tell them what to feel.  You have to make them experience what the characters are going through, convince them they have a stake in this narrative, and put them through the wringer via showing.

If I was to tell rather than show the beginning of my novel Alien Slave, it might have looked something like this:

Dani Watson, a sex slave in a brothel on the planet Dantovon, was in a swing having sex with an Isetacian midway through her shift.  She liked the alien, who she called Reggie because she couldn’t pronounce his real name.  She liked him because he sang to her, and the song put her in a restful trance.  He wasn’t much to look at in her opinion.  He had two rows of eyes that circled his entire head, six limbs that might have been either arms or legs, and his spine and joints weren’t covered by his purple skin.  It was best she kept her eyes closed as he had sex with her, she decided, so that’s what she did.

I hated writing that, even as an example.  Contrast it with the actual story beginning:

Reggie’s hypnotic trill lulled Dani as he slipped his penis into her.  The swing that held her suspended in the air creaked as it moved back and forth in the middle of one of the brothel’s playrooms.
            Dani barely felt the thin appendage as she floated in a calm sea of contentment.  Sex with the Isetacian, one of her regulars since coming to Dantovon five months ago, was always pleasant.  Reggie wasn’t much to look at, but that sweet warbling song that indicated his arousal made up for his lack of physical attractiveness.  For all she knew, he was the handsomest man on Isetac.  She’d found rating manly charm a futile exercise given the strange bodies and faces of the aliens who visited Dantovon.
            Her large brown eyes half-lidded in trance, Dani traced the hard ridge of bone along Reggie’s back.  It broke through his gray skin, a purplish-black lumpy crest.  The first time she’d seen an Isetacian, she’d thought the creature had been horrifically injured, its skin flayed to expose the skeleton along the spine and joints.  When she’d discovered that was the norm for the six-legged race (or six-armed … with Isetacians, it was impossible to tell), she’d been both fascinated and repulsed.
            Becoming a sex slave to get off the ruined hulk of Earth had been rife with surprises, good and bad alike. 
            For now, Dani was content to let Reggie sing to her while he plunged in and out, her long, lanky body suspended in the black straps of the swing.  She’d gotten almost halfway through tonight’s shift at the brothel, and this was as good an intermission as she could hope to get.  Isetacians didn’t require much from the sex slaves.  Stroke their spines and the crowns of their bulbous heads, let them do their thing, and they were happy. 
            She let herself drift, Reggie’s trill taking her deeper still until her eyes closed, shutting out his face with its toothless mouth.  She felt better not looking into the deep pits from which his tiny eyes peered.  They circled his head in sets of two. 

So what made this work so much better?  One key ingredient, which is what the next few tutorials will be all about:  viewpoint.

Get in Their Heads

When you write a scene, pick a character.  Climb in that character’s head.  Stay there and write your story from their point of view.

When you live the story through your characters, they will do most of your work for you.  They aren’t being told about the world, they are experiencing it.  They feel it.  Through them, the story is shown to the reader, not told.  And excess details, stuff the characters don’t care about, will not make an appearance to clutter your story with useless drivel.

Think about it.  Your character who is walking down the street can’t see what’s around the corner.  She can’t form an opinion on what she’s about to see beforehand.  When she rounds that corner, she will be hit with impressions as they happen, and they will be vivid and in real time.  Because you’re in her head, you won’t write, ‘she walked into a very tall man’.  That’s objective.  That’s report writing.  That’s telling. 

Instead you will write, ‘She blew around the corner, her heels beating a rapid click-clack on the sidewalk.  Instead of seeing the deli before her and the long line determined to keep her from the reuben sandwich she could already taste, she saw a striped silk tie, shining gray with black paisley designs.  It was surrounded by a crisp white shirt, which in turn was bordered by a suit jacket that hadn’t come off any discount rack.  She had only a split second to register these things stretched over the broad canvas of a man’s chest before her hurried momentum rammed her face into them.’

Big difference, right?  And it’s one your readers are going to feel rather than simply read because they are experiencing it along with the character.  That’s showing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Netherworld: Drop Dead Sexy Now At Amazon

Brandilynn and her boys are now at Amazon and Amazon UK.

Six Sentence Sunday - Alien Slave (Clans of Kalquor 4)

Damn it, they were all law enforcement.  And cops just loved to take down those in higher authority when they could.  Except Dani wasn’t higher authority any more.  She was no one.  As a prostitute, she was lower than no one.  These officers wouldn’t care too much about her.

Now available from New Concepts Publishing

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Create a Couple of Kalquorians - It's All About Those Bods

This week's polls are about the always delightful Kalquorian physique.  You made Conyod average height with well-defined but not bulky muscles.  His best feature was his chest and abs.  So what are the favorite features for your dream Dramok and Nobek?

Results from last week's polls:  We were talking hair, hair you can dig your fingers in and grab handfuls of while these big men visit naughty delights upon you.  For our chopped-locks Nobek, you went with straight hair.  For Erybet you chose to give him straight, midback length hair, worn loose. 

History of Kalquor, Part 2

(For Part 1, please click here)

Post-Cataclysmic Era:  Survival of the Fittest

After the double devastation of almost simultaneous planet-changing events; the crash of a meteor and eruption of a super volcano; the Kalquorians were nearly wiped out.  It took over seven hundred years for the atmosphere to clear and another five hundred for the remnants of the race to thrive once more.

The Kalquorians that emerged from the threat of near extinction were markedly different from their ancestors.  Physically, they had lost some of their stature, as the first Kalquorians had been about nine feet in height.  According to the records that began to be kept around that time, the average height for a Kalquorian male was about eight and a half feet, the females eight feet, two inches.  The downward trend continued for the next 50,000 years, bottoming out at around five feet, eight inches for men and five feet three inches for women.  After that time, body size began to grow again, increasing greatly through the generations.  The current average height for the Kalquorian male is now six and a half feet and females around six feet, three inches.  The tallest Kalquorian on record in the post-Cataclysmic Era was measured at eight feet, eleven inches.  The genetic predisposition for heightened muscularity also became the norm following the Cataclysmic Era.

In the millennia following Kalquorian re-emergence as a civilization, another evolutionary difference has been the re-shaping of the skull.  Once elongated and ovoid shaped, current Kalquorians have much more rounded craniums, much like Earthers.   Artwork through the ages shows a fascinating timeline for these gradual changes. 

The reason for these changes is thought to stem from the stresses of the Cataclysmic Era.  Forced to live in a hostile atmosphere, cut off from the technology they had grown reliant on, Kalquorian brains changed to accommodate a more physical versus an intellectual existence.  Their cerebrums have shrunk, giving way to the more primitive survival mechanisms of the cerebellum and limbic system.  The ability to hunt and forage helped the more physically robust survive, but intelligence was needed in those harsh centuries as well.  This is why present-day Kalquorians possess such an interesting dichotomy of overachieving brilliance in technology while demonstrating primitive instincts when it comes to intimate relationships and tasks like hunting and tracking.  As Alsoos, the premiere poet of Plasius, referred to the archetypical Kalquorian, he is “a beast of hungry mind, soul, and libido/The most remarkably astute of savage intellects”.

The Four Breeds

By the time the Kalquorians began keeping records again, they had already established the separation of four breeds:  Dramok, Nobek, Imdiko, and Matara.  Kalquorians found it necessary to categorize their people because they found different personalities demanded specialized schooling and discipline, especially among the naturally ferocious Nobeks, who without proper conditioning and training tend towards violence.

There are very rare instances of Kalquorian male personalities that are evenly divided between two breeds, and there has never been one thought to be an equal mix of all three of the masculine categories.  The rarest mix of two breeds is the Imdiko/Nobek, as the gentler nature of the Imdiko does not usually meld well with the warrior mentality of the Nobek.  One notable exception to this is the present Nobek Emperor Bevau, who successfully balanced his two disparate proclivities into a harmonious whole.

Nobek (Warrior, Clan Protector)

This is the most numerous of the four breeds.  The ability to physically overcome the Cataclysmic Era meant that the strongest in body and mind were the ones who survived.  It was the ruthless hunter and fighter who would live to struggle through a new day in that harsh landscape.  This is why Nobek genes predominate to this day. 

All Kalquorians are tested in their fifth year to determine where their strengths lie, but parents usually note Nobek characteristics earlier than this.  Children who fit the Nobek spectrum are usually easily frustrated when events are not to their liking.  They deal with disappointment with shows of temper and violence and show great physical prowess early on.  They are usually the more intelligent of the species, though until they have been through behavior modification, anything besides hands-on learning is impossible for them to sit still for.

Soon after a child is classified as a Nobek, he is sent to live with other Nobeks his age in a boarding school environment.  This is because a young Nobek only becomes wilder and harder to manage as he grows older and stronger, eventually becoming a danger to his family and community.  Under the watchful eyes of stern instructors who allow no disrespect or disobedience, young Nobeks are taught fighting skills, survival techniques, and meditative states which will allow for calmer minds with which to harness their intellects and rein in primal instincts. Loyalty to Kalquor and to their eventual clans is also highlighted early on, exposing a Nobek to a near-constant mantra during his entire residence at the training facility.

Catching Nobeks in their formative years and training their minds to not react immediately to stimuli also provides them with a firm base for hormone-charged adolescence, when the ability to recognize long-term consequences for actions is sorely tested.  While Nobeks regularly go home to visit their parents during their childhood, the halcyon years of puberty, which can spur more violence than any other time, cuts those holidays off.  Parents must journey to the boarding facilities to see their sons, with chaperoning school representatives in attendance at all times.  It’s agreed that in the majority of cases, this is overprotective and alarmist, but enough tragedies have occurred to keep the law in place.

An adult Nobek, fully trained in controlling his impulses and channeling primitive instincts into productive endeavors, can still face uphill battles.  When one of this breed is focused on being a positive force for his people, no one can match him for good works.  Unfortunately the uncertain Nobek who doesn’t possess a clear path is in danger of finding trouble.  Being more numerous than Dramoks and Imdikos, Nobeks are not guaranteed to find clanmates.  If one of these fierce warriors has no purpose in life, no clan to protect, he is in danger of falling into the worst trap he can imagine:  having no worth.

An overriding percentage of Kalquorian felons are unclanned Nobeks.  These are also the men most likely to fall into drug use or commit suicide.  The psychiatric community is working hard to find a solution to this breed’s problems, especially those who fall into the ‘lone wolf’ category.  Tests are underway to try and catch this subcategory of Nobeks early on so that intensive behavior modification can be employed.

Dramok (Leader)

Dramoks are the hardest breed to categorize initially, because they can be fierce as Nobeks in stressful situations.  It is not unheard of that a Dramok is initially misclassified as a member of that category.

The overriding characteristic of Dramoks is their ability to lead. With powerful personalities, they are quick to make decisions once they have all the details of whatever enterprise is before them.  One can usually find a young Dramok spearheading community events, organizing other youths in his sphere of influence, or establishing his own small business.  A self-starter, the Dramok is more about paving his own way rather than following set paths.

That’s not to say the Dramok doesn’t listen to others.  He looks to leaders of his chosen field for guidance and is not afraid to emulate his heroes up to a point.  Eventually, the Dramok will put his spin and personality on whatever profession he chooses to make his own.  In clan situations, the successful Dramok makes no major decisions for the clan until he gets each member’s input.  Ultimately the final verdict belongs to the clan leader, but if he’s truly responsible he weighs his clanmates’ opinions with great seriousness.

During a young Dramok’s schooling, he is tested extensively to pinpoint his aptitudes and hone his abilities.  A misdirected Dramok will only find frustration otherwise, leading to missed opportunities on both a personal level and for the good of Kalquor.  There are cases of low-achieving Dramoks, men who do not amount to even a fraction of their potential despite efforts of mentors, teachers, parents, and clanmates. 

Most insidious is the Dramok whose ambitions become so extreme that he becomes a ruthless tyrant.  Some prove to be dangerous as they pursue their aspirations, as was the now deceased Pwaldur, former Head Councilman.  His determination to seize the power of the Imperial Throne led to the deaths of his entire clan as well as Empress Irdis of Kalquor, mother of current Dramok Emperor Clajak.  Fortunately the system usually keeps close tabs on such ruthless men, and compared to Nobeks, few Dramoks fall between the cracks.

Imdiko (Nurturer, Caregiver)

Until the advent of the virus that killed the majority of Mataras, Imdikos were the rarest Kalquorian breed, numbering slightly less than half of Nobeks.  These men are likely to put the wellbeing of others far ahead of their own.  They have a great deal of empathy and predominate in the medical, service, and spiritual professions.

Imdikos tend to display great affection for their parents early on, though a clinging child can as easily be an overwhelmed Nobek or Dramok.  Imdikos often act older than their years because they’re driven to take care of those surrounding them.  Parents of this breed are often counseled to remind them they are only children and not responsible for the wellbeing of elders.  If a parent, sibling, or friend of a young Imdiko comes to harm in his presence, he may take on unwarranted guilt because he feels he should have done something to safeguard them.  For this reason, adolescent Imdikos, who tend to suffer depression during this tumultuous time of their growth, must be carefully watched if someone close to them comes to harm.

Imdikos are often regarded by unclanned Dramoks and Nobeks as the ‘weak’ breed because they are seen as the most easygoing personality.  However, many an Imdiko has surprised his new clanmates by becoming forceful when it comes to their welfare.  More than one Nobek has been shocked to have his supposedly helpless Imdiko in his face, verbally dressing him down like an irate parent when the Nobek has done something the Imdiko deems as potentially harmful.  In their traditional professions Imdikos are also fiercely competitive for supervisory roles.  It is not unusual for an Imdiko to vie for a leadership role he feels qualified for, going head-to-head with Dramok doctors, priests, and the like.  An example of this is the current psychiatric team for traumatized Earther Mataras, which is led by the Imdiko doctor Govi, who outranks Dramok doctor Kivokan.

In many cases, Imdikos are not trained in anything more violent than self-defense.  However if they encounter a threatening situation, especially one in which they feel they need to shield others (such as an injured clanmate, a Matara, or a child), they are ferocious and will use any means at their disposal to counteract the threat.  They can also turn primal in sexual situations, especially if they sense their partner is weaker or possesses a submissive mindset.  It is a bad idea to dismiss any Imdiko, no matter his size or gentle demeanor, as a non-threat.

Matara (Childbearer)

All Kalquorian women, as well as Earther women nowadays, are referred to as Mataras.  To Kalquorians, nothing is more important than the fertile female.  It is said the source of all life created woman first so that men may be born to honor her perfection.

 It is deemed insulting to women to lessen their importance by dividing them into specific personality types as the men are.  As the Kalquorian philosopher Lozatu wrote when he began the Book of Life, “Every woman caring for her children, lovers, and community is the nurturing Imdiko.  Every woman with her clear eye for the future is the take-charge Dramok.  Every woman with her readiness to defend those she loves to the death is the protective Nobek.  She is all these and so much more.”

Mataras have long been held in high esteem as the life bringers from which every Kalquorian springs.  The virus that devastated their numbers and left many of the survivors infertile only made them more precious to their male counterparts, though many of these strong-willed women chafe under the resulting overprotectiveness. 

Mataras are allowed more freedom to explore their professional options than the men.  While they may take tests to determine what paths lend themselves best to their potential, Mataras in the end make their own determination as to what they wish to do with their studies and interests. 

Clans hoping to gain a fertile Matara go to great lengths to attract the few women available, whether they are Kalquorian or Earther.  Due to the Imperial Clan’s orders, Earther women are no longer to be coerced or forcibly clanned.  A lottery has been put in place, allowing randomly chosen clans to approach up to five Mataras in the hopes of attracting one to join them.  Not surprisingly, the higher ranking clans have had the greatest successes in this endeavor.  A notable exception has been Empress Jessica’s sister Lindsey, who entered into clanship with a very young clan with low rank.

This in-depth explanation of the Kalquorian breeds will help set up the next installment of the History of Kalquor, in which we’ll explore the ancient war of the Nobeks against the Dramoks and Imdikos.  Stay tuned for that to come in a few weeks.

Friday, February 24, 2012

First Four Friday - Netherworld: Drop Dead Sexy

Chapter 17

    Being pulled from one place to another against my will was nothing like the hopping around I do with Dan.  Much like Erica Ford’s earlier attack, this was more akin to being hooked in the belly by a sadistic fisherman and reeled in through a lake of molten lava.  In short, it hurt.  A lot.

Available from New Concepts Publishing

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WIP Wednesday - The Font

I've finished the first draft of this vampire tale. Heriolf, the self-styled lord of southeast Georgia's vampires, has powers beyond those of his subjects.  He uses his enhanced abilities with terrifying results:

     A female vampire moved forward, her bobbed brunette hair and flapper-styled dress suggesting she last drew breath during the Roaring ‘20’s.  Her white kid gloves were spotless.  She took several steps forward, closing the distance to Heriolf.  He smiled at her, but Elisha noticed how sharp his ice-chip eyes became. 
     She offered a curtsey.  “Glorious Master Heriolf, I’m come to you in all humility to—”
     “To murder me and take my place.”  Heriolf laughed into the shocked silence.  “I hear your thoughts, fool.  Have you not been told of my powers?  Of my absolute omnipotence?”
     The vampire didn’t wait to hear more.  She sprang at Heriolf, a silver blade in her gloved hand.  She was fast.  Heriolf was faster.
     The Norseman seized the flapper in mid-air and ripped her in half at the waist as if tearing a sheet of paper before flinging the two parts to the marble floor.  Blood sprayed, and Naya ducked the splatter by crouching behind Heriolf’s chair. 
     His massive bare chest covered in the twitching corpse’s blood, Heriolf roared at the assembled.  “I am not only your master, I am your god!  Who else will challenge me?”
     No one spoke.  No one moved.  Elisha caught Sebastian’s gaze with his own.  Moving carefully, he knelt and bowed his head.  Everyone around him immediately followed suit, and less than a second later, every vampire, except the ones standing guard near Heriolf and Naya, had gone to their knees.
     There were a few moments of utter silence as the congregation awaited the tyrant’s next reaction.  Heriolf had been known to go into murderous rages, killing off a dozen vampires at one go just because they were unlucky enough to be at hand when he lost his temper.   
     Nothing can be as still as a vampire.  Even their hair was motionless, refusing to acknowledge the occasional errant breeze.
     Heriolf’s voice rolled through the room like distant thunder.  “Clean this up and resume the ceremony.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tutorial Tuesday – The ‘When’ of being a Writer

Today's blog isn't so much instructional as it is a pep talk.  When you're struggling, sometimes it's not a new technique that you need.  It could be something as simple and monumental as a pat on the back.  If you feel like you're grinding and grinding and getting nowhere with writing, this one's for you.

You want to be a writer.  It's your dream.  So when can one call herself a writer?  Is it when she’s finished her first story?  Submitted to a magazine or publisher?  Has her first article or novel in print or on an e-reader?  Or actually making a living with her stories?

I suppose it’s a subjective thing.  Being a writer means different things to different people.  Some won’t accept you have access to that label until you have published and made sales to the public.  Some will even goes as far as to tell you you’re not truly an author until you have risen to award-winning bestseller status.  Otherwise, you’re just a hack, a wannabe.

 I take the opposite viewpoint.  Have you scribbled a few lines of dialogue?  Jotted down an idea for a story?  Do you read writing magazines?  Studied your favorite novelists for clues as to how they have mastered description?  Are you reading this regular tutorial and others like it because you hope to find inspiration?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then allow me to congratulate you.  In my view, you’re a writer.

Okay, so maybe you’re not a PUBLISHED writer.  Not all authors are.  I was a writer for 25 years before I got to add the ‘P’ word to my status.  But if you are consistently trying to put a story together, working to educate yourself on producing the best possible prose, and you continue to study the craft even when it feels like you’ll never get anywhere with it, I feel you’ve earned the right to say, “Hello.  I’m a writer.”

I believe this because writing, done right, is hard and often thankless work.  People tend not to respect it that much, especially if you write certain genres.  Other writers might even sneer at your efforts.  Before I wrote erotica, I wrote horror novels.  At my very first writers conference when an elder attendee learned I leaned towards the macabre, his lips curled and he actually recoiled from me.  “Why would you write that?” he said.  It was as if I’d told him I sacrifice newborn puppies to Satan.

Even your friends and family might not take you seriously.  They’ll think nothing of interrupting you as you battle to get that elusive perfect word on the computer screen.  They may kick and scream when you spend money on a decent printer or run off for a week to a conference. 

That’s why I’m willing to give you all the credit in the world for your efforts.  There is one catch to this title of ‘writer’ however:  you have to keep at it.  You can’t quit writing and continue to call yourself a writer.  You have to be bold and brave and dare all to move forward in your efforts.

I will now share with you my harsh assessment of someone who was once a writer.  Harper Lee wrote the masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird.  In the neverending argument as to what is the greatest novel of all time, this one will always be a top contender.  It is simply amazing, and I can only gape at the sheer genius of the story and its execution and feel infinitely small in relation to it.

It is also the only book Ms. Lee ever wrote.  After its publication and the rave reviews it received, she refused to produce any further stories.  She said it was because she would never repeat the success of To Kill a Mockingbird.  In short, she was a coward.  She gave up out of fear, a most detestable action if there ever was one.  Perhaps she never would have matched her first novel for brilliance, but she might still have continued to gift the world with great stories, stories that would have opened our eyes and spoke to our hearts.  Where would literature be if writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway, or Mark Twain gave up after their initial successes for fear of turning out something a little less stellar?

Harper Lee is not a writer.  She was for a very brief shining moment, but she chickened out on us and has been thrown out of the club. 

Those who churn out stories just to make a buck are just as questionable to me.  If they don’t have their hearts in it and do nothing to enhance their storytelling skills, then they aren’t really writers any more than the girl who puts the basket of fries in boiling grease at Burger King is a chef.  To this day I read the magazines, pick apart the styles of my writing heroes, and submit to the critiques of my proofreaders in the hopes that my writing will improve.  The addition of ‘published’ to my title of ‘writer’ is no excuse to rest.  If I don’t keep at it, then I have no right to call myself an author.

If you are reading this tutorial with an eye towards becoming a writer, then right now you ARE a writer, my friend.  Every moment you strive to tell your story, you have climbed that mountain.  You who continue to dare, who face down the critics, who fight for a few minutes to write just one little paragraph; you are a hero of authorship.  When you stick your neck out by submitting your work to publishers, you are a fearless and mighty god/goddess of prose.  Shout it from the rooftops with gusto.  To anyone who asks what you do, add it to your conversational resume: “I’m the proud mom of three children, a nurse, and a writer.” 

Because you absolutely, positively are one of us.  Three cheers for you, my brave friend.  Now go write.