Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writing update

I just finished my last read through and edit list yesterday afternoon on The Dragon War Relic. Now the book will go to print on October 1 and should hit stores in November. It's been a busy few weeks, where I've been putting in around 6 hours a day working on this (in addition to my teaching time). So, you'd think that I'd be burned out. Instead, I can't wait until tomorrow when I can start writing creatively again. The last couple months have been focused entirely on editing, which I have decided is not fun. The creative artist in me has been dying to get out. So, tomorrow, I'll let my muse loose and see what happens.

Of course, there have been some other things of import that have happened this last week. For one, my son got his mission call to the Texas Dallas Mission, Spanish speaking. I also went to a writing conference at Utah Valley University on the 24th which I'll write more about later. And, my daughter went to homecoming last night after she and my other daughter did a marching band competition in Payson. I'm hoping this next week will be a little more calm.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I know a few weeks ago I said I would do a jazz article and a writing article each week. Well, I haven't kept up with that goal, but I think I have a good excuse. This last week, I was making the final edits to my book. That took a lot of time and I had a deadline. That's done now, but this next week I'll be trying to get my other stuff caught up that I let fall behind while I was making edits. I still hope to have two new articles next weekend, but no promises.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Writing Discoveries #3: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

This weekend provided a shock. I was just curious to see if my book was listed on Amazon, so I checked. It was there. I felt a strange mixture of elation and dreadful fear. Sure, it's exciting to have something you've worked so hard and so long on finally see the light of day. But then, people will start reading it, and giving opinions. What if it flops?

I know. It's a sign of my insecurities. I still feel like a novice when it comes to writing. I've grown by leaps and bounds, but I know so little about how to truly craft a good book. What I do have, I believe, are interesting characters and an interesting setting. I hope the plot, which has seen several major overhauls, will also be interesting. When you put something like this out, it is a major investment of self, and it can leave you open for emotional injury. I think that's why I'm scared.

At the same time, I could have gone the safe route, just leave the manuscript, unsubmitted, on my hard drive where no one could read it. That way, I wouldn't open myself up to the emotional risk. And I'd always wonder what it would have been like to publish a book. Sure, the book could flop, but it could succeed, too, and if I had never taken this risk, I would never have had a chance to find out.

The one thing I know for sure, though, is that I could not have done this without the guiding hand of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Press date

I found out yesterday that The Dragon War Relic goes to press on October 1. I'm excited about it, but also nervous. This process of getting a book ready for publication has been a tremendous learning experience. For one thing, writing a book is a lot more work than I thought. I don't even know if I'll pull in minimum wage. But at the same time, it is so rewarding to be able to express myself creatively. That's one of the reasons I enjoy doing jazz improv so much.

Also, I've started a Dragon War Relic fan page on Facebook. Anybody who wants to join is welcome to.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Writing Discoveries #2

Plot happens. Or at least, that's what they say. And I guess they're right. The question is, how good of a plot?

Now, I am by no means an expert at plot, but since I feel it is a major weakness for me, I've been studying it quite a bit. I've read a few books about it to help me understand it better. Now, whenever I read a book, watch a TV show, or a movie, I analyze the plot and look for what worked and what didn't work.

The thing I've been focusing on in my own writing is making sure things happen for a reason. For instance, when I was working on my sixth draft, I realized that an important chase scene didn't have a purpose. When I asked myself, "Why are the bad guys chasing the good guys?" The answer came back, "Because I want an action scene here." Wrong answer. I had to go back into the scene and give the baddies a reason to be chasing, and now there is more suspense because of it.

In Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell, he mentions finding the three O's in each chapter: Objective, Obstacle, and Outcome. By keeping track of these three elements, I've also been able to improve the quality of my plot by making it more exciting.

The biggest challenge is trying to think of a plot that people can't predict, but at the same time is set up well. That's a delicate balancing act which I will not claim to have solved.

Jazz Improv Masterclass #2

[Last week, I talked briefly about the five elements of a good jazz solo. This week, I'm discussing an important concept that underlies all five of them, especially tone and style. I'll get more into detail on each of the five elements starting next week.]

Listen, listen, listen. That's what we hear when we go to jazz clinics. Did you ever wonder why jazz instructors pound that point in every time? Do you think it might be important?

It is. When I started, I was like most students. I liked to play jazz, but I didn't like to listen to it. I preferred the popular music of the time (and I'm going to date myself here) like The Cars, Duran Duran, and Oingo Boingo. When my teacher suggested I start transcribing, I did the tenor solo on Duran Duran's Rio. I missed the point.

Several years ago I went to a clinic with jazz trombone legend Carl Fontana. At the time, I was frustrated with how difficult it was to get my students to listen and transcribe. I asked him if he knew of a way to get them to do it. He answered in his cantankerous way, "You force them!"

I have had several students move on to become fantastic jazz players and improvisers; some even have gone professional. Part of the formula, of course, is hard work and practice. Another element, though, was that they all listened to jazz. A lot. And I didn't have to force them. I have NEVER seen someone who became good at jazz who was not a fantastic listener. No one.

So, the moral of the story: if you really want to be a good jazz player, you must listen. There is no other way. Now, I really can't force you to listen, though. YOU must decide to do it. YOU must take control of your education and development. Until you do, you will just be another one of the many mediocre players in the world.

Stand out. Listen. Learn. And besides, once you get into it, the music IS pretty darn good.

Assignment: Find some jazz to listen to. Ask your teacher for some suggestions, or contact me. There is plenty of jazz on the radio (like KUER 90.1 in the evening in Utah). Also, a lot of libraries have jazz CDs that can be checked out.