A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Interview With Leah E Good


Here’s someone you probably know but may not have heard from in a while. Christian dystopian author Leah E Good was good enough to was generous enough to let me interview her. I know Leah’s been an inspiration to many Christian readers and aspiring authors alike. If you have not read Counted Worthy…why?

Personally, I have my doubts as to whether I would be writing Christian dystopia is it hadn’t been for Counted Worthy. It was very formative for me. But without further delay, please welcome Leah E Good to Stardrift Nights.

  What were some elements that were radically different in early stages of writing Counted Worthy?

Honestly, it’s been so long, I don’t remember! I know I cut about 10,000 words (around 40 pages) out of the first draft. They ended up getting scrapped because I thought they were boring. Since I don’t remember what they contained, I must have been right!

  Heather Stone writes poetry, and that features strongly in the book. So, obviously, you also write poetry. What’s a poem that you find particularly inspiring?

My favorite of the poems I’ve written is titled Changing Seasons. Like Heather, I often write poetry as a way to process what I’m feeling. Changes stress me out, so Changing Seasons continues to be a blessing for me. Some of my favorite poems (not necessarily inspirational, just well-loved) are Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and Lewis and Clark by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. As a general rule, I prefer poetry to have strong rhythm or meter or both!

  What was your exposure to the dystopian genre prior to writing Counted Worthy?

The Shadow Children series by Mergaret Peterson Haddix was a long-standing favorite of mine by the time I wrote Counted Worthy. I’d also recently read The Hunger Games series, which Counted Worthy is often compared to as a Christian alternative. I had also enjoyed Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands series.

What’s your favorite scene in Counted Worthy?

Oh, that’s a tough one! The final exchange between Heather and her father is definitely the most emotional for me (and everyone else, I expect). As such, it’s probably my favorite. I’m also partial to when Bryce comes to find Heather right after the police have broken in and arrested Mr. Stone.

  What was the hardest scene to write, and why?

Probably the scene where she goes to the police station to try to rescue her father. I rewrote that one many times. It easily edged too close to being unrealistic or melodramatic. Honestly, it’s still borderline melodramatic. Oh well.

  Talk to us about the significance of the antiquated printing press in the book. What made you think to include it? Does it have any symbolic meaning?

The press has a lot more meaning to Heather than it does to me! She’s deeply attached to it because it reminds her of her mother. For me, it was just a tool for accomplishing the printing of the flyers. And the backstory was woven to make its presence logical and connected to the story. Plus, old stuff is cool!

  And Finally, do you have any writing plans for the near future?

Yes! I’m still working on the sequel to Counted Worthy. The journey with the sequel has sonsistently felt like one step forward and two or three steps backwards. However, I have a feeling it’s going to be even better than Counted Worthy if I can ever get through with it. The sequel will be told from Bryce’s point of view. I often post writing updates on Instagram on Fridays. You can Find me at @LeahEGood.



Thank you so much for joining us. God’s blessing and best of luck to you on the sequel! We can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dronefall Now Available on Amazon!



I thought Dronefall would be published by the end of Janduary of ’17.

When January passed, I thought it would be February, then March…then April.

Sixteen months later, or World Book Day, Dronefall went live on Amazon. A lot happened in all that waiting time. In retrospect, I’m glad for it. I got a lot of very positive work done on the manuscript, and I’m satisfied with what I can finally present. It seemed like at every opportunity, there was some kind of a hurdle, but the good thing is, I’m getting good at hurdles.

And now, DRONEFALL! I really hope you enjoy this series. I’ve put a crazy amount of thought into it already, and it gets more fun with every development. But honestly, the whole time I’ve been preparing it, and even as I write now, I have no idea what kind of a weirdo is going to get hooked on this series.

Christian dystopia is a small enough genre right now that every book I come across is drastically different. We haven’t built up a lot of repeats yet. But for that reason, I wonder if the Christian dystopian readership has trouble finding what they appreciate. I can’t recommend Dronefall to you based on any other Christian dystopia I’ve read or heard about, because none of them are in the same category. It’s a good thing, but it’s also a strange place to be.

So, you’ve read the description. You’ve seen the cover. Maybe you’ve even been diligent enough to seek out some of my other writing to see what it’s like. But you still don’t know for certain if you want to invest time and money in jumping into this new world. Will you enjoy it? If enough of the following statements are true for you, there’s a good chance that you might.

·         I’m strongly Christian and I know, though Christians aren’t openly persecuted in my culture, that it’s not always easy.

·         I kind of need a break from insta-love and love-triangles and main characters who all the other characters fall in love with. Maybe a story where romance isn’t the point?

·         I like stories that make me think and have an eye for detail. I love trying to predict plot-twists and hunting for Easter-eggs.

·         I find it more satisfying when things build up slowly. I don’t need constant drama to keep my attention. Subtle suspense is underrated.

·         I don’t mind a little wordiness if it creates atmosphere. Being able to picture settings and characters in my mind is important to me.

·         I love quirky characters who are sarcastic and imperfect. I like characters I can look up to, but who tend to do the right thing in ways that surprise me.

·         I like surprises in general. And explosions. 

I imagined my audience was probably older teens through college-age Christians of both genders, but who knows?
Give it a try if the above list doesn’t totally turn you off. It’s currently only available in paperback on Amazon. It’s only $10.99 here at the beginning. The eBook is on the way, so stay tuned.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

First Draft of Dronefall II, Lightwaste—Complete!


I won’t pretend it doesn’t feel a little weird, finishing the second book before the first is out. But progress is progress, and it probably won’t hurt me (or readers) to shorten that gap between the publication of the first and second books.

  Nine days ago, I was spinning my wheels a bit and decided to set a ten-day deadline for myself. It worked, since I ended up finishing last night at the eight-day mark. It took a lot of tea, but the first draft is now weighing in at 89,000 words exactly. And though I’m already starting a list of things I need to fix and change, I’m fairly happy right now.

  I’ve restrained myself fairly well, I think from talking about Dronefall here on this blog ad nauseum. I like to think that there might be some readers who are curious about it by now. Don’t worry, I’ll be interviewing my own characters and overloading you with obscure facts once things get going after publication day.

  What you need to know right now is that I’m getting closer with Dronefall—you know. Closer every day. Always uh, moving forward. Just now publication date on the calendar yet. I’ll get there, I promise! There’s no way you’re as desperate as I am about it right now.

  The last book I published came out when I was nineteen. Now I’m twenty-three and there were five whole unpublished manuscripts between. This has been a while building up. I can’t wait to officially invite you into the world of Dronefall.

  Just hang tight. I’ve got a bit of editing to do first.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

White Wolf and Ash Princess Blog Tour, Day Seven!





Well, I’m excited to be taking part in my first blog-tour. I’ve never done this before, but I made a resolution this year to start promoting other authors, and this is a great way to start. It’s also a great book to start with.

But first things first, I must add a quick confession. When I volunteered, I had no idea this book was not fantasy. I thought it was fantasy for the first I don’t know how many chapters. Then I looked on Goodreads and saw people calling it historical fiction. Oops.

The dreamy cover.
So, this is not a genre I typically read. Keep that in mind. If you’re an avid historical fiction reader, you’ll probably have different tastes and different opinions about this book. But maybe it’s valuable, or at least interesting to see it through the eyes of somebody who’s more of a speculative junkie. So here we go.
But first, the synopsis
Eighteen year old Izzy's limited world begins to feel cramped after she completes her self-appointed book dare. After reading two-hundred and fifty books, a thought that had been once tucked away as tightly as the books on her library shelves becomes too irresistible to ignore...Who am I?
Memory loss prohibits Izzy from remembering her life before age seven when she was suffered a terrible trauma that left her with intense physical scars. Jonathan Gudwyne and his head housekeeper rescued Izzy and took her in as their own, but who did she belong to before they took her in?
Crippling panic keeps Izzy from wandering beyond the stables but Tubs, the Gudwyne's young stable boy, encourages Izzy to go beyond the property's rock wall into a world that promises possible answers but also great danger. A scorched castle in the woods and its mysterious cellar filled with secrets sets Izzy on a path to the New World, where she will not only have to face her own terror but face the people responsible for her scars.
It is here, in the untamed wilds of the seventeenth century that she finds love and a home in the most of unexpected of places.

Things I liked

·         Nature. This story places a great deal of value and emphasis on nature, which for me is always a plus. I loved the descriptions of natural settings, especially once we got to the New World. This outdoorsy aspect of the setting also led naturally to some great details on survival and hunting, which I also love. Survival stories always bring out the grit and determination in characters, which is something I find very satisfying, as a reader.

·         The U. P. If I were to move somewhere else in the US, it would very likely be the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My family has vacationed there every Fall for almost all my life. I was delighted to find myself there in a work of fiction. It makes for a beautiful, and to me very familiar backdrop. I definitely share Lash’s passion for that area.

·         Native Americans Yes. I love how she handled the Native American aspect of this story. It was woven in seamlessly and gave the story it’s flavor. The best thing was, the Native American characters were just that—actual characters. They weren’t token bitter sob-story props or faceless savages. They were actual people with actual souls, quirks, aspirations, relationships. I read a few books featuring Native Americans earlier in life, and they always seemed to focus on the differences between them and the White Man, not the humanness of both. This was inspiring. I want to see more of this!

·         Reconciliation I will always take a story about forgiveness and healing. This is a major theme in WWaAP. It’s explored on many levels between characters and between larger groups of people. In the secular world, reconciliation between races is almost a taboo. People shy away from acknowledging that it is the only way scars ever heal. This book doesn’t do that. The people in this story have all been wounded and broken be each other. No, forgiveness doesn’t make the pain or the scars go away instantly, but it is the only hope. The characters are learning to act on that in their broken relationships. 

·         Plot twists/amnesia Okay, so where there is amnesia, there will be plot-twists. This is honestly what attracted me to this book. The story is a series of revelations about the main character’s painful and traumatic past. It deals with how she chooses to handle them as the memories return. This kept me reading, even when I wasn’t otherwise particularly engaged.

·         Non-romantic relationships Guys, this story focused on a lot of different relationship dynamics and guess what? Some of them were not romantic. This is awesome. More like this, please. There are so many different ways people relate to each other and all too often authors neglect them for Friend, Enemy, Love Interest. There’s so much more to work with, and Lash took the time to look deeply at many different pairings of characters and explore their dynamics. Yes.

Things I didn’t like

·         Pacing issues The first half seems a little slow. There were a few chapters that didn’t seem all that important to the story. Sometimes I got a little bogged down in descriptions of clothes and flowers and biscuits. But then again, like I said, historical romance is not my genre by any means, so my expectations are likely a bit off.

·         Emotional monotony Okay, so this is something that really gets me, though other people might not notice. I have trouble getting into a book that is basically dead serious the whole time. There is a lot of crying in this book. It makes sense, situations are very serious and often painful. But for me, it actually makes it so I care a lot less about the characters’ pain when I rarely see them laughing, joking and just generally on top of their game. It’s harder to connect for me when characters are in emotional turmoil most of the time.

·         Characters a bit predictable You’ve got your motherly housekeeper who is, of course rather stout, and fond of flowers, you’ve got your handsome protective love interest what love interest what are you talking about? With his secret scars. Then there’s the adorable little boy with freckles and bouncing red curls who somehow doesn’t seem all of thirteen at all. Oh, and the competition—the stiff pale lady who wants to marry the love interest what love interest for his money. There was a lot of very strong characterization in this book, don’t get me wrong, it was done quite well. I just wished I hadn’t seen them so many times before.

·         Certain situations and subjects One thing I don’t understand is why some authors have to write about throwing up multiple times within a book. I mean, this is your story, you can decide weather you want to include things like that. Even if it isn’t at all graphic (it wasn’t in this case) I honestly start skimming when people start getting sick. There was even a story in the authors note at the end. She for some reason felt the need to tell us about the only time she remembers throwing up. Which naturally makes me resentful, since I can remember approximately fifty times myself…. Everything makes me sick, man. I also prefer to avoid the subject of cannibalism, if possible. (Again, not graphic, but it’s lingered on for a bit too long for my uh…taste.)



And Kind of a Pro/Con

·         Very personal I’m kind of intimidated by stories that are closely linked to an author’s own deep pain and past trials. I want to see a story objectively and going into it with a lot of the authors’ backstory makes me a bit uncomfortable doing that. I tend to sort of freak out when I find a biographical author’s note in the back of a novel.

But on the other hand, this is going to be different for other people. For some I imagine this will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the story. Writing a novel can be a great way to heal and a great way to share the healing with many others who have faced similar battles.

 

It’s a story worth reading, aside from my issues with it. It definitely deserves an audience of avid historical readers who love stories of faith, forgiveness, and healing. It’s an honest look at the secrets we keep and the things we carry alone that we were meant to carry together. If you love a story that’s a mix of inspiration, romance, legend, and a splash of adventure, try White Wolf and Ash Princess.


About the Author
Tammy lives in Lower Michigan with her husband and her three children. Izzy's home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Munising) is where she and her family enjoy exploring. Tammy enjoys hiking, kayaking, beach wandering, "hunting" for birch bark and hopes to someday find a porcupine quill. White Wolf and the Ash Princess is her first novel. She is published in Keys for Kids and has been in children's ministry for over twenty years.







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Friday, February 2, 2018

Strange Ways I Fight Writer's Block


Writer’s block does happen. I have heard people rant about how it’s just your imagination and how “real” writers don’t get writer’s block. “Just keep writing,” they say. “It’s an excuse for laziness,” they say. Oh, okay, if that’s your philosophy, fine, be a snob about it. But for the rest of us, something’s got to be done to get out of the rut.



  I know the feeling. Your mind gets all clouded and dull and drifty. You can’t look at the screen. You can’t remember how anything is spelled. Your vocabulary is down to like, five words. If you start writing, sawdust and dead moths start piling up inside your word document somehow. Maybe it comes from physical exhaustion, maybe it’s lowkey depression, maybe you feel harried by all life’s other demands on your mental energy.



   These are real problems that are going to affect your creative output. It’s only natural. If you know there are practical things you need to fix before you can write—hey, do them. If you don’t know what needs fixed…try doing it my way.



·         Read really bad writing. I know, this is not something most author blogs encourage aspiring authors to do, but it can fire me up. I suggest hitting a fanfiction site and finding a story from a fandom you care about with some really sloppy writing in which the author makes some decisions you really hate. Be angry, be very angry. Then crack your knuckles and open your manuscript. Show ‘em what real writing looks like.

·         Start writing your scenes as dialogue only. Writing dialogue fills up a page fast, and it’s encouraging. It also narrows your focus to one element of your writing so that you’re not grappling with so much at once. Writing fiction involves balancing so many skills at once, it’s no wonder it gets overwhelming. Just focus on making the dialogue work. Come back and write the narrative in later, and feel free to alter it then.

·         Use really weird words and expressions. Don’t worry about your readers. You can edit all you want later. The idea here is to loosen up and get your brain into play mode. One thing that’s sure to cause writer’s block is taking yourself and your work way too seriously. There’s a very fine line between genius and crazy—forget it until you make yourself laugh. Laughing is good for your artist’s mind.

·         Move to a completely different project. Don’t get tunnel-vision on your main project. Always have several other ideas on standby to stimulate your creative circulation. These can be writing projects (probably at least a few should be), visual art or a craft, if that’s your thing, writing a song, building a model, remodeling a room, teaching your cat to sing the entire Ring Cycle—whatever. Just try channeling some serious energy into some other interesting activity.

·         Start a notebooking challenge. I’ll probably end up doing a whole post on this in the near future. I don’t know if this is a thing, or if I invented it, but it involves making a list of prompts for yourself in a notebook. (I know how many creatives are obsessed with notebooks.) The prompts I write typically involve a combination of writing and drawing. Some examples I’ve done are: Draw islands that represent emotions, find random words in the dictionary and write new definitions for them, draw a creature that looks the way you feel…things like that. It’s a great exercise if your creative muscles are stiff.

·         Talk to somebody about your project. If you can find a friend or family member sympathetic to your cause, it can be very helpful to have someone to talk to about what might be stalling your progress. If you have someone in your life who has read some of your work, all the better, you’ll have less to explain. They may have some interesting insights about your project that you yourself were blind to. Other people can be very helpful, even if they have no advice. It’s just good to let somebody else in your creative world now and then.

·         Do something completely out of the norm. Adventure is a great cure-all. Just get up and go somewhere strange, do something unique. The rhythms of everyday life can make you feel trapped sometimes. You have freewill. Go ahead and break them. Remind yourself you’re not a robot from time to time. Robots rarely write great stories.



  So, there’s my advice to those suffering with writer’s block. I like to think I’m a pretty good example of a hyperactive idea-generating dynamo, but I won’t pretend even I don’t get burned-out on occasion. I definitely do. But I’m doing better now. I can feel the change writing this post has made to my brain chemistry. I’ll get some novel-writing done today.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Seven Plans for Twenty-Eighteen


NEW YEAR! 2018

Welcome to 2018 everyone. I don’t know quite when it happened, but sometime within the past decade I transitioned from pronouncing the first two digits “Two-Thousand” and started saying “Twenty.” So, I will say again, welcome to Twenty-Eighteen.

  I have, of course, as always, a lot of ambitious plans and unrealistic dreams for this year. Honestly though, I gave up making New Year’s resolutions long ago. I have more of a bucket-list now. Fairly low-pressure. Just a list of things I would like to get done this time around the sun.

  I’m not going to tell you everything, because that would get boring. But here’s a little of what I’m looking forward to doing with 2018.

1.    Publish Dronefall

Yeah. About time to launch the Dronefall Series, I would think. I literally passed all 2017 saying to myself “It’s gonna be out next month,” and believing it. I’m still honestly pretty uncertain about what exactly my plan is for getting it out there. I want to do it in the best possible way. But you will see it soon, if I have anything to do with it.

2.    Explore a new genre

I’ve been thinking about trying mystery for a long time. I love working out details and setting up plot-twists. (I’ve gotten in a lot of practice with Dronefall, so far.) I doubt I’ll be the next Agatha Christie, but time you spend experimenting is never wasted, in writing.

3.    Read what I want to read

Okay, so bear with me. 2018 will be my first year without any form of formal education controlling half my conscious mind. I might be struggling to adjust, but I found that I feel obligated to read a lot of stuff I don’t actually enjoy, just because—well, won’t my brain rot out, or something, if I don’t? No. It’s not going to hurt me to take a year and read only what I’m actually motivated to read. Hello, 2018!

4.    Get some short material out there

I’m not strictly a novelist. I’ve been writing poetry for longer than novels have even been a thought for me. My mom seems to think people might actually read my poetry, too. It’s kind of crazy how many people won’t even touch a novel because of attention-span issues. But a fifteen-line poem? Why not? I’ve also got some weird short-stories….

5.    Go to a writer’s conference or retreat

My face-to-face, in-person networking is…completely non-existent. I’m kinda-sorta acquainted with a few authors online, but if I could actually see some of my own kind IRL that would be more than awesome. I’m going to have to be on the lookout for events near me. I’ve got my eye on one already. I’m not sure where to start, but I think I had better start.  

6.    Give back to the indie author community

I don’t have a ton to give at this point, because I’m still a dark-horse and haven’t got a massive throng of followers on…anything. But want an interview? Can I review a book for you? Do you know of a Christian indie author I might be interested in? Hey, contact me. I’m especially interested in interviews on specific points of author’s work—not just the generic “what inspired you?” “When did you become a writer?” type of questions. I’d like to dive deeper with other indies, and show their hungry readerships a more colorful picture of their worlds. That’s something I think I can give.

7.    Nanowrimo!

Yeah, the Holy Grail of author goals. Believe it or not, I did this once before—during my junior year in college. I passed the finish by a couple thousand words, even. No, that wasn’t a smart time to attempt 50,000 words in 30 days, but I made it work somehow. This year, I’d like to do it again. It was a lot of fun.



So, there are a few of my hopes for this New Year. What does your list look like?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

5 Elements of a Fandom-Enabled Story


 

 
 
 
We all want to be the author of a story that triggers the explosion of a new fandom. We want our readers to be as excited to read our story as we are to write it. We want to inspire fan-artists to bring our scenes to life in their art. We want to inspire fan-fiction writers to use our characters and settings to sharpen their own skills. There’s nothing quite like seeing a truly satisfied fan-base spring up around a great story.
But what makes that happen? Okay, I’m not going to pretend I understand the magic and mystery of fandoms. I have no idea why fangirls and fanboys do what they do-- OTP’s and headcanons and AU’s and all that—but when I look at the stories that spark these great fandoms, there are elements they all have.
I’ve isolated five for the sake of this post. I’m sure there are other things, but let’s look at these five for now:
1. Vivid Characters
Often really vivid. In fact, I would almost recommend pushing it a little. Lean into your characters’ unique qualities. If you find that magnifying your characters makes them feel flat or fake, deepen them rather than mellowing them out.
Your readers want characters that are so clear in their minds that they can survive outside the context of the book. This is the concept behind the alternative universe thing. If a character is self-contained enough, we can imagine what kind of a high-school student they would be. Think about your characters now. What would be constant if you changed up their situation. That’s what you need to emphasize to make them real. Put them in a completely different role. What doesn’t change? That’s who they actually are. Play it up.
2. Humor
I just wrote a whole post about how essential this is. The ability to amuse people with your writing is a super-power. Don’t overlook it. People remember the humorous parts of stories. They’re going to re-read the funny scenes in your book. Your characters’ quips and clever lines might even enter your readers’ repertoire of in-jokes.
Though fiction can accomplish a great deal more than simple entertainment, readers greatly appreciate being entertained. If a story makes me laugh, that’s a solid sign that the author is succeeding in entertaining me in the way many of us crave the most.
3. A “Wow” Element
I couldn’t think of anything more technical to call this. The “Wow” element is something that sparks a reader’s imagination. It can manifest itself in countless ways—a fascinating culture or event in historical fiction, an amazing species of dragon or a magical object in fantasy—a unique alien race or impressive use of technology in sci-fi. Readers want to be captivated by something interesting. I doubt that I’m the only one who is often attracted to stories initially by something about them that is simply cool.
4. Emotions
All of them. If there’s one thing that’s obvious about fandoms it’s that they want “all the feels.” But don’t get hung up on one emotion. Tragedy is great, we love sobbing. But nobody really wants to cry for the entire book—in fact, I doubt that it would be physically possible. We want to feel rage, jealousy, delight, terror, embarrassment, wonder, curiosity, satisfaction…on and on it goes. If we don’t get the whole ride, we feel kind of cheated.
I’m not that great with this one sometimes, I’ll admit. I get pretty caught up in the intricate workings of my plot and sometimes forget that, though a complex sound plot is a good thing, nothing can beat a story that makes you feel things. All these emotional ups and downs connect a reader with a character and make them care about what happens next.
5. Originality
Originality is so sought-after and so elusive. It’s hard to measure and define—and probably impossible to teach. I suppose there’s really nothing original under the sun, and yet everyone knows a rip-off when they see one. Some new authors obsess so much over originality that they paralyze themselves for fear of doing something that’s been done before. Still others seem to make no attempt and cut and paste nearly to the point of plagiarism.
I think the key to originality is a well-exercised imagination. Don’t be afraid to play with an idea in your head. Keep your possibilities open. Try putting that spin or this twist on what you’ve got. Mix, match and crossbreed those wild ideas in your head. After all, isn’t that the fun part?