Climbing out of the cellar

March 2015

Ever so slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to wonder if I was fading into my background, becoming unnoticeable by those who once knew me, shrinking from the three dimensional person that I once was into a thin flat shadow of an existence of my former self.  A thin vapor, like a whiff of smoke scattered with the slightest of effort by a quiet breeze, wafted my essence away into eternity, and I longed for the days of my youth where the anticipation of my future danced and glowed in front of me with hope, life and desire.  Was the magic in my life gone? Was this the reason that all of my latest endeavors took so long to be accomplished, if ever? Not only did all of the doors of opportunity seem closed, they appeared to have become increasingly scarce and vanished as I wandered through a maze of halls of my life. I felt so lost and wondered if I would ever find success again.

October 2015

As I reflected upon my life’s path, I realized that my muse is not disingenuous, does not give despair or torment but only goodness.  My stories are not meant solely for my entertainment . They are meant to be shared.  I feel that I’m much like the reluctant dwarf in the movie “Willow” who finds a human baby and is given the task to find and give the baby girl to a responsible person.

I am reminded that no matter how difficult the process or how tedious, I must forge ahead with my children, my stories and deliver them to their proper audience.


My own personal version of Ground Hog Day

I sort of feel like I’m caught in my own personal version of “Ground Hog Day” with a vague notion of what transpired in the past few days and weeks. The projects, repair jobs and tasks during last nine months have taken forever to complete.  Ideas and strategies materialize at a sluggish pace.  As if I was trying to jog in a chest high syrupy Jell-O; slowly I press forward.

So it is with this blog.

I just finished rereading Hemmingway’s THE SUN ALSO RISES and we’ll screen the 1957 adaption with Tyron Power, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn and Eddie Albert in the next few days.  I’ve read that Hemmingway’s ‘Lost Generation’ fellow expatriates were the basis for the characters in this classic story, it would be interesting to research which of his friends were the basis for the different characters in the story.

Conversely I expect that many authors’ inspiration for their character’s traits come from personal introspection.  I can see various parts of myself in most of the characters in my stories.  Such is the case with my main character in The Littlest Dragon and the Princess.  The Littlest Dragon’s strongest trait is his persistence.  Once he has a goal he doesn’t give up.  In retrospect looking back at my life I wonder where the inspirations have come from but it was my persistence that them to reach completion.

The Process of Looking for an Agent

waterfalls+captionIt’s been over two years since I’ve been posting to this blog though I haven’t been as regular as I had hoped.  I now realize that when I began working on this platform that I was unprepared, unknowledgeable and basically in the dark about the process of how to get published.

Writing the story was an exhilarating if not confusing at times but I believed that because of the way in which the story developed especially those times when the story seemed to write itself and the characters began to tell me what they wanted to say that this story was an exception to the usual way that books get published.  That it was meant to be.  When this didn’t happen I was disappointed and frustrated so I went back to the beginning and began searching for clues from other authors for the critical steps that I needed to take to become recognized.

My first set of queries was spread over a three-month period of time.  Not having a positive response I’ve spent the last two years reading KidLit and searching for avenues into the publishing world.  Repeatedly I’ve read that many agents and publishers were looking for something that was fresh, however I suspect that if a story is too different from what’s been published it’s hard to make a comparison and therefore it would be difficult for the story to find success.

I’ve had little success looking for similar books because my story seems so different but while searching for stories that featured animals I came across Richard Adams’ WATERSHIP DOWN.  I found the amount of negativity that Richard had to endure while seeking representation interesting and reassuring but most interesting was his strategy to find an agent.  He searched for an agent that had represented books that were similar to WATERSHIP DOWN.  I’m still looking but feel closer to achieving my goal.


Middle Grade fiction – Writing With a Voice

Navigating though the literary world has been an interesting and at times a frustrating old-keysexperience.  One of the informative parts of this process was spirited by an agent I follow on twitter.  Jen Rofe of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency was discussing how important it is to write with a ‘Voice,’ a term that can be illusive and is often misunderstood.  Fortunately she listed a number of MG (Middle Grade) authors/books who she felt stood out with distinctive voices.  I found Wendy MassJeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life one of the most intriguing.

When Jeremy was eight his father died in an auto accident, the book begins when Jeremy is a month away from turning thirteen.  A mysterious package arrives in the mail about the size of a shoebox with the inscription THE MEANING OF LIFE for Jeremy Fink to be opened on his 13th birthday.  The problem is that there are four different keyholes locking it and it seems that the sender, his father’s lawyer, has not included the keys.  So Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy begin a quest to find the keys that will open the box.  With this platform the author has the kids dive into the world, sending them on an adventure where they encounter different types of experiences and individuals that reflect on the meaning/purpose of life.

While on an errand for a mysterious former pawnshop owner they make a delivery to an elderly gentleman.  As they are leaving while the conversation dances around the topic of the meaning of life the man gives Jeremy an apple and says, “A wise man once remarked that we can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed.”

A confused Jeremy looks on as the man continues, “Before an apple seed is planted, no one will know how many apples will one day sprout from it.  It’s all about potential, and potential is hidden from all of us until we embrace it, find our purpose, plant ourselves so we can grow,” with that he closes the door leaving Lizzy and Jeremy confused.  Jeremy slowly fades into an existential crisis and in the following days although they have other encounters with more insights I found none were as interesting than the man with the apple.

I found it fascinating how the author, Wendy Mass massaged and altered the original quote, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”  part of a sermon from the evangelist Robert H. Schuller.  I’ve never been to Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Southern California but I respect how dynamic his ministry was and the monument that he built but I find Wendy Mass’ manipulation of the quote so much more interesting, insightful and instructive.

To grow we must allow ourselves to become immersed, to be planted, in the area of our passion and then the evolving mystery of our potential will ever so slowly be revealed.  In a society where we strive for acceptance we often tend to try to fit in by mimicking others at times covering, perhaps erasing our uniqueness.  We blend in rather than stand out.  That the meaning or purpose of life is life and living it, enjoying the essence of being.  Although there will be good times as well as bad, we need to allow the good ones, the positive ones, glow in our heart and stay alive.

The Old Dragon Sage in The Littlest Dragon and the Princess know how important self-image is and the importance of dwelling on the positive. When he first meets The Littlest Dragon the old dragon finds him sad and confused since his classmates have tried to convince him that because he is so small he is a nothing.  His encouragement turns The Littlest Dragon in a direction of positive thinking that eventually saves the Princess and the kingdom from the treacherous Prince Luan.


Enter the Warrior Dragons

Warrior dragonsAs I have previously mentioned Prince Luan was the product of a wealthy family that carelessly indulged his every whim and desire when he was a young boy.  They produced a spoiled self-absorbed young man who had no patience and was quick to throw flaring temper tantrums. To safe guard the innocent that Luan might harm I introduce in this post the last type of characters in my story – the Warrior Dragons.

Luan’s behavior may be commonplace in what we call the civilized part of the world where parents in their misdirection look to wealth and power as the major goals in their life instead of incorporating love and discipline into their family structure.  The people of the Princess’ the kingdom were completely surprised by Luan’s behavior, in fact they were stunned.  Before he made his second visit the Emperor and the High Council turned to the Dragon Council for help since they expected another confrontation from Luan.

You may remember from earlier posts that the dragons of this land took care of the people giving them wise advise and counsel but since they were gentle peace-loving creatures they were no match for heavily armed soldiers.  Fortunately the earliest dragon councils knew of the evil tendencies that humans can exhibit and provided for the possibility of cruelty by creating a group of dragons that could protect the weak.

These Warrior Dragons were trained in the martial arts and carried simple but deadly weapons.  They didn’t belong to any of the regional dragon communities but traveled in groups of three throughout the different areas of this country much like rangers.  At the sign of danger they positioned themselves in a triad attack formation ready to go into action.  Then when they attacked they moved with such blinding speed and violence they created an assault that was so ferocious that no one ever survived.


A positive way to deal with adversity

The emperor and his council were stunned when Prince Luan presented the long lost contract that the emperor’s father had signed seventy-five years ago.  As they realized that they couldn’t repay the loan and Prince Luan would take Princess Leizu as payment they were paralyzed.  When the dragons saw that the emperor and his council couldn’t decide what to do the Dragon Council was assembled to address the situation.  They wanted to see if the legal dragons could find any discrepancy in the contract, unfortunately they couldn’t so they went home leaving The Littlest Dragon by himself.  At this point the Old Dragon Sage reenters the story and gives The Littlest Dragon some of the most important advice of his life.The Old Dragon Sage

It is times like this when all hope seems to vanish that we have the opportunity to learn about our character, our courage and our resolve.  The dilemma is used as an opportunity to reveal and reinforce the value of learning how to lead a positive optimistic approach to life.  To introduce and affirm one of the most important principles that Napoleon Hill ever taught, the insight “That with every failure and defeat comes with that situation a seed of equal or greater importance.”

I find that by taking this approach one can begin the process of stepping back from the tragedy rather than being swept away by the pain, shock and hopeless confusion that it can bring.  It allows us to switch from reacting subjectively to the situation to one where we can begin to evaluate it objectively.  It puts the mind in gear to look for some benefit from the horrific situation, at times there are many.  By looking at the information that we encounter and learning how to filter it by the possibilities that we can take rather than by necessities we begin to see that very rarely is there a situation without hope or benefit.


More trouble and what seems like defeat.

Legal dragons at workThe Emperor and his Council were bewildered and dishearten after Prince Luan stormed out.  They couldn’t fathom how they had gotten into this predicament and the thought of loosing Princess Leizu was devastating.  It was like they were in the worst nightmare that you can imagine and not being able to wakeup, they were paralyzed.  They didn’t know what to do next.  Because the Emperor and Council could not seem to resolve the situation, the dragon community felt that they must intervene and the Grand Dragon Council was called to assemble.

Chinese dragons are very organized and methodical creatures.  They have an unwavering respect for history, fairness, and tradition.  The law was the law but, at times, agreements could be open to interpretation, so the best legal-minded dragons brought their books and records and began their review.  Groups were formed to analyze every sentence of the agreement.  Great debates ensued.  After what seemed like days of deliberations, they concluded that the agreement was, in fact, legal and must be obeyed.  They concluded their meeting and went home in dismay.

The Littlest Dragon was stunned.  He had such respect for his elders especially the Grand Dragon Council and when they concluded their meeting without a solution he didn’t know what to do, then he remembered the insights of the wise Old Dragon Sage.  He left immediately to search the mountains to find him.

The action spins in a different direction


Luan's HSIt’s interesting the way my stories seem to evolve and morph as I write and go through revision.  When I first wrote The Littlest Dragon and the Princess I knew that there was a neighboring Prince who had come to collect a debt from a loan that was made to the Princess’ grandfather.   The scene was rather dry, unemotional and woody.  As I rewrote Prince Luan’s arrival the scene exploded; much more was revealed about the prince’s character.  The original appearance of a couple of messengers turned into a showy procession of drummers and mounted soldiers followed by the Prince on a very large horse.  It became a grand gaudy procession; Luan had grown into a very arrogant and bossy character.

After being lead to the council’s chambers by the Princess and the Littlest Dragon he became rude, disrespectful and demanding.  When the council had verified the loan document was authentic they were devastated; they asked for more time to repay the money.  At this point to my amazement Luan’s character came alive and took over the scene from me; I could barely write fast enough to keep up with the action.  I was amazed as the scene continued to build.  Refusing their plea for more time Luan’s rant grew as he shouted at the Emperor and the Council but I was flabbergasted as he ended his demands he spat on the floor in front of the Emperor.  Finishing his tirade he turned and marched out of the council chamber.  As he reached the door he stopped, turned around and glared at the Emperor and the Council; again he spat on the floor.  What a pig!

Prince Luan is more than a condescending bully.  What makes his character so interesting is that he is so spoiled and self-absorbed; he hasn’t a drop of compassion or human decency.  The neat aspect of his change in character is that as we continue with the story we begin to hate him and long for the predicament to be turned around.  Fortunately later in the story the Princess takes control, turns the tables on Prince Luan and he is humiliated.

Hope and Faith essentials for the human spirit

Recently I watched the 2005 movie  “Just Like Heaven” staring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo.  This charming sort of Sleeping Beauty story was loosely adapted from French author Marc Levy’s first novel If Only It Were True.  Set against the backdrop of San Francisco, fate crosses the paths of Elizabeth Masterson, a dedicated young doctor and landscape architect David Abbott.

At the crux of this romantic tale is the fact that Elizabeth was in a serious auto accident and has spent months in a coma in the hospital where she used to work.  Her sister puts her furnished apartment up for rent to cover the cost of her hospital expenses.

David, suffering the pains of the death of his bride two years ago searches for a new place to live in an attempt to escape his past.  He ends up renting Elizabeth’s apartment.  Soon after he moves in Elizabeth wakes to an awareness outside of her body but doesn’t know who she is, who her family is or what type of work she did, all she remembers is where she lived.

Her spirit returns to the apartment where she finds David fighting the depression from his past.  An interesting aspect of the story is that he is the only one who can see or hear her.  At first there is a great deal of conflict and discord between them since each feels that they live there alone.  Eventually they end their battle with each other and band together to find out whom she is and why it is that only he can see or hear her.  Ultimately they fall in love and it is this bond that saves her life and allows David to face the pain and sorrow of his past.

The story is about the importance of hope for the human soul.   When the difficulties of life make the ‘going get tough’ there are times when the platitude “the tough get going” plainly isn’t enough.  It doesn’t matter if the difficulties are from loss of love, of family, pending financial ruin or the apparent death of a dream, the fading and dematerializing of hope can begin a slow spiraling decent into the depths of despair.

We need to have hope to be able to weather life’s difficulties and faith that what we hope for will become a reality.  In The Littlest Dragon and the Princess, Leizu has lost hope that she will be able to counter the demands of Prince Luan and solemnly prepares for a dreadful future.  It is only because of the persistence and dedication of the Littlest Dragon that a solution to their dilemma is discovered and the princess finds hope, faith and happiness again.

Prince Luan’s arrival

All interesting stories need conflict and in the middle of my story a young prince from a neighboring kingdom enters the meager but peaceful lives of the Littlest Dragon and the Princess.  Prince Luan is the product of a wealthy family that has carelessly indulged the whims and desires of their young son thereby producing a spoiled self-centered character who is short on patience and quick to exhibit flaring temper tantrums.

His behavior may be commonplace in what we call the civilized part of the world where parents in their misdirection look to wealth and power as the major goals in their life instead of incorporating love and discipline into their family structure.  For the people of the Princess’ the kingdom Prince Luan’s behavior takes them completely by surprise.