A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Birth of Dronefall: The Story

I’ve had a lot of dreams like this: Who are they? We don’t know. What do they want? Can’t say. But they’re peeping at the windows, and we’ve got to hide.

I was researching for a project in college when my interest in drones and mass-surveillance solidified. I started to conjure up a future where drones ran the world. They dominated the airspace, delivered the packages, cleaned the chimneys, kept the peace, and few questioned it. This was a world that believed constant surveillance was the only way to protect the public. But in the end, humans still had to call the shots. Someone had to decide who was a threat.

For my main character, I picked out a cynical young woman who believes she’s irrelevant and invisible to society—until someone behind a monitor (or is it just an algorithm?) seems to target her as a threat. So, she takes off and joins her only friend in a neighborhood full of Christians that have their own reasons they wish they were invisible.

I don’t know. A story about a gang of people who hunt surveillance drones just sounded kind of fun to me. There was just enough escapism in the sci-fi concepts to pull me in. I wanted to write a dystopia, but I didn’t really want it to be a non-stop bummer story. The fact that so much of my thematic material was going to hit a lot of readers close to home made me want to make an effort to try to add some contrasting material—explosions, fascinating technology, unusual settings, vibrant characters, and even a decent bit of humor, if I could really pull all that off.

Most importantly, I wanted to give something great to Christian readers. I never meant Dronefall to be an evangelism tool. Life goes on after you get saved. It isn’t easy, either. I wanted to write as a ministry to other Christians, like me, who wanted to step back from the chaos and confusion of life and see life’s spiritual battle from a new vantage-point. I wanted to show them people they could identify with in a world rougher and scarier than their own still standing up for the things we believe in.  

I don’t think the goal of Christian dystopia is to be alarmist or get everyone dreading the future. Instead I want to make Christians aware of the direction the world is headed around us. Because no matter how it looks, it’s a good direction. It’s God’s plotline. You’re a hero in his story and a part of the most thrilling and magnificent epic imaginable. 

If you read the Dronefall series, you’re going to start recognizing elements of it in the world around you. But I hope, beyond the pain the state of history gives you, you’ll discover a sense of exhilaration. Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and shine brightly with the truth of Jesus Christ. This is what you’re on earth for.      

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Birth of Dronefall: The Seeds

Through the heart of my Alma Mater’s main campus runs a railroad. A slow freight drags through a few times a day, typically, covered in weathered graffiti. Whistle wailing and detuned bell chiming, it shakes the library where I lived most of my college days.

As a student, I wore a lot of dark eye-make-up and went around with my backpack slung over one shoulder, which was bad for my back. I was there for academics only and typically sat in the back of the class avoiding participation. I made good grades and no friends, but I didn’t really care. I had an idea for a new book.

The idea was born under vaguely hostile conditions. The vagueness, in fact, was part of the inspiration. As it turns out, mainstream society, even in my small town has some kind of a problem with Christianity. There were a few occasions when this was very obvious, but most of the time it was just subtle enough to make me wonder if I was imagining it. Maybe I just have that “Christian Persecution Complex” they talk about. That weird paranoia that evangelicals have where they suffer from delusions that the world is out to get them. No idea where such absurd thoughts would come from.

And yet, why did so many professors feel the need to use their classes as platforms to spread their anti-Christian beliefs? In Ethics, Christianity was an outmoded faulty guide to right and wrong, in Logic God was impossible and ridiculous, in History we watched a video on the Scopes trial that took up a disproportionate amount of class time and portrayed Christians as truth-hating loonies. I learned that Christianity was an enemy of art, science, progress, personal responsibility and free thought. It promoted racism, sexism, slavery and fear and hatred of other cultures.

And it wasn’t just on campus. I remember one incident in particular on a chat-group on Goodreads. It was one of those groups where sophisticated adults have sophisticated discussions about world events. There was a thread about Islamic terrorism. Almost immediately, the topic was hijacked and changed to a slightly different subject—the increasingly relevant problem of “Christian terrorism.” Someone mentioned the Crusades and how it was probably “in their DNA” by now.

Everywhere I looked, I could see the true face of Christianity being hidden from the world and a grotesque caricature replacing it. Christians are told to keep their religion to themselves or else they’ll be discriminating against those with other beliefs. But Christianity isn’t going to be forgotten. If God’s people keep their heads down the rest of the world will have no problem building a hideous strawman in the void.

How long will society emphatically deny that they have a problem with Jesus Christ, his truth, and his followers? How long will the post-Christian world insist Christians are delusional for noticing the world is hostile to them and their God?

That's what I wondered in that train-rattled library during my college days.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Birth of Dronefall: The Gap

I think I was thirteen years old when I dropped Return to Harmony on the floor and didn’t bother to pick it back up. I told my mom I didn’t like books that were about quote, “people’s lives and how they feel about them.” I really wasn’t that into the fluffy inner struggles of young ladies and how their bland love interest’s hair smelled.

When I was thirteen, I liked stealth military aircraft and meteor showers and those little kits where you can hatch things. Honestly, I still prefer those things over reading stories about people’s lives and how they feel about them. I actually have a kit for triops on my desk as I write this. I can’t wait to get it started. Hope it works.

So, I noticed fairly early that the Christian fiction market was a little lacking. There are quite a few sweet romances out there starring heroines with rather obvious problems who learn rather obvious lessons and get the guy who was rather obviously designed for them. Apparently, this appeals to Christian women. I have no idea what male readers are supposed to pick up. Maybe Christian men don’t read fiction.

I started writing fiction of my own when I was about that [author name]-dropping age. There was a frolicking joy in the process of invention that I found addictive. Naturally, I leaned toward science-fiction. At last, my inner worlds took shape as real places—planets, alien landscapes full of fantastic geography, bizarre life-forms and near-magic technology.  My teenage adventures in The Stardrift Trilogy saw the first manifestations of my writer’s voice, and on that journey, I learned the dark art of finishing novels.

I didn’t stop writing after The Stardrift Trilogy. I had a mission—a gap to fill. I wanted to write thrilling imaginative stories that took Christian fiction far outside its stale narrow box. The truth of Jesus Christ isn’t restricted to the tidy easy messages and quick prayers of light inspirational women’s fiction. It’s vast and wild—reaching through all time and space, deeper and wider than any of us could ever imagine. So much unexplored potential was tantalizing to me.

As I grew up, new facts of life came into my broadening horizon of awareness. The world around me was changing—faster and faster. The future was coming. It was right at the door. It was a strange exotic future, full of horror and hope. I began to realize something about the future. Much of it can be seen in the present. In fact, the closer you look, the harder it is to see the line between the two. 

I graduated from high school not really knowing what my personal future was going to look like. All I knew for sure was that I was going to keep writing, and keep following God. Eventually, I chose what seemed to be the path of least resistance to me. I was going to study music at the university in my hometown.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The 2020's Begin

Hey, what in the world? It’s 2020! This is the dawn of a new decade, you realize that? New year, new decade, leap year, election year, start of solar cycle 25. (Actually, solar cycle 25 began on Christmas Eve, 2019, when two reversed-polarity sunspots broke the deep solar minimum we’ve had for the second cycle in a row, but anyway.)

It all sounds kind of momentous to me. I’m excited about it. I’ve got some plans of my own laid out for this year. Hopefully you’ll get at least two more Dronefall books before we come back around. It’s bound to be an interesting year for US and world affairs, which might get some of you in the mood to read some futuristic dystopian stuff, and is sure to get me in the mood to write it. We’ll be advancing toward the climax of the series which I promise will be a good solid payoff. Actually, there are plenty of twists and turns even in book four, Nightstare, which is already getting along quite well.

In a different vein, I have plans for a standalone novel that I want to release in the fall. I don’t know about you, but I know fall is my favorite season. I’ve always wanted to write a book that really captured the essence and atmosphere of Autumn. I’ll tell you more about it later.

I’m also going to get to work on writing poetry and some short-stories again. We’ll see what of that I end up releasing. I want to let you guys read some of my short works, whether they be published individually on Kindle, or in a collection. I’ll keep you updated on that.

And boy, have I got other plans too, but guess what? They’re secrets! For now. I’ve given myself a bit of a break on my reading challenge this year—pared it down to 25 books I’m going to expect of myself—because I want to give myself plenty of creative space. 

Happy 2020 everybody. A new era of opportunity is opening up for us all. It’s time to revel in possibilities, dream all the dreams and most of all, recognize the future as an adventure with infinite hope for everyone who’s put themselves on the right side of the author of eternity and the giver of all hope. May as well face it fearlessly, because here we go.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Christmas is practically here! I hope your season has been at least as merry and bright as mine, so far. I’m still rejoicing over the release of Dronefall Three, which is now available in paperback as well. Doesn’t look like I’ll be having a white Christmas this year, but I suppose you can win them all, now, can you?

I’ve had a great year here on Stardrift Nights. I’ve broken my record for amount of posts in a year since I started. And I did my first ever series Writing for Christ. I hope to become even more active here come 2020. Watch me break the record again! 

I published three books this year. First my poetry collection Songs from the Small Hours, then Dronefall Two, Lightwaste, and finally Dronefall Three, Rainchill. I can see from my now slightly depressing post at the beginning of the year that I actually intended to finish the Dronefall series in 2019. Oops. But I’m actually glad I’m still working on it. And in January, I thought it was going to be a quintet. Ha! Now there are three more books on the horizon instead of two. And I’m happy about that.

 I didn’t quite make my ambitious reading goals, either, but I did get some good reading done this year. I checked off some of those classics I’ve been wanting to get to for a long time: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Ann Frank, The Great Gatsby…. I also tried some popular YA in the form of the very hyped Hunger Games Trilogy. (Yeah, I actually hadn’t read it until this year.) That wasn’t too bad. I should do a post reviewing that trilogy in the future. 

My favorite fiction of the year was definitely The Hound of the Baskervilles, by A. Conan Doyle. My favorite non-fiction…Creating Character Arcs by K. M. Weiland was great. I also really enjoyed Rocket Men by Craig Nelson which I read in honor of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this summer. 

The thing to remember when looking back on your New Years goals and resolutions is that priorities change over time…sometimes over a very short time, but certainly over the course of a year. I’m actually pretty pleased with how 2019 turned out. And I’m very excited to see what 2020 has in store.

So, have a ridiculously merry Christmas. Stare at your tree while drinking some peppermint hot chocolate with whipped cream as well as marshmallows. Go ahead and get that present you know they’ll be crazy about, even if it’s a little over the top. This is Christmas we’re talking here. Put up all the lights you can get your hands on—if half of them still work, you can still use it. Blast Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or whatever your preference may be and have some fun, because God sent his Son to restore joy to the world. Pass it on.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Rainchill Is Available on Kindle!

News at last! Today I got the email I’ve been anticipating literally since Spring—the email telling me Dronefall Three, Rainchill, is available to the reading public.

Now, it’s still just the ebook right now, the paperback will be fast on its heels. But for those of you who can’t wait you can go get the eBook right now. It’s 99c. And guess what? So are the first two books, so no matter what level you’ve attained in your Dronefall readership adventure, you have no reason not to jump in now and take advantage of the excitement. 

Guys, you have no idea how excited I am to be releasing Rainchill. I completed the first draft last year as my NaNoWriMo project, and I knew, even then that I had something uniquely thrilling to share. I know I keep saying this, but Rainchill is my favorite Dronefall book yet. I’m not saying it has to be yours, but I think you’ll be able to tell I had a great time writing this book, and I hope some of the enjoyment will catch.

Rainchill is a particularly suspenseful addition to the series. The Enclave finds themselves on the trail of their first killer robot—a monstrous mechanical hound with electric jaws. There are some twists and exciting reveals, and all while the tension between the church of 3.5 and the secret criminal underworld that protects them without their knowing continues to grow. I won’t give anything away! Just trust me, this one is worth the first two. When you hit Rainchill, you’re in.

So, run and get it. Give yourself an early Christmas present. Or, cozy up and start the series from book one. You’ll be snowed-in before you know it, and we all know that mean God is telling you to quit stressing and read books.

Get Book One, Dronefall.

Get Dronefall Two, Lightwaste.

GET DRONEFALL THREE, RAINCHILL! (sorry for yelling.)  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Making Scenes Immersive

Good immersive writing is nothing short of pure magic. To be able to conjure up bold tactile images and surround your reader with your story in stereo—that’s what takes good writing to an unforgettable level.

But how do you do it?

Details, Details. I know you get a lot of modern writing gurus warning against too many details. We have a lot of sparse, un-atmospheric, writing out there as a result of people taking them a little too literally. For the most part, you actually do want details in your writing. Details are important for characterization, building a setting, creating suspense, evoking emotions, foreshadowing and hinting, etc. Just be careful with your timing and try to incorporate them into your beats. Don’t be afraid of them. If they really do slow you down your story, you’ll probably be able to tell when you read through it. Only cut what actually needs cut.   

Remember who you are. That is, stay in your chosen point of view character’s mind. Staying focused with your point of view is a major help in keeping your reader in the scene. If you limit yourself to showing the things that your point of view character sees, feels, hears, and thinks, you’ll have a good start to knowing what details will actually help rather than harm the immersive quality of your story.

Keep moving. One thing to be aware of is long exchanges of dialogue without any action beats. I’ve found it’s a good general rule to not let your characters sit around and converse—that is, avoid the Counsel of Elrond. Even if you have a dialogue-based scene, try giving your characters something physical to do, even if it’s just walking down a street. I don’t really know why this works so well, but it does. My dialogue becomes much more natural and interesting if my characters are doing something—anything—besides just talking to each other’s faces.

Stay grounded. Don’t forget your setting at any point. Every scene happens in a very specific physical environment. It’s a certain time of day, in a particular place, with particular lighting and conditions. Keep your characters interacting with it. If it’s a hot day, this will affect what your characters do—how long they can keep running, how many times they pick up their water bottle, probably their tolerance for frustrating tasks. If it’s dark, remember they won’t be able to read subtle facial expressions. (I’ve definitely made this mistake.) These considerations will help your reader remember where they are, and stay there in their minds.

Those are my tips. Writing immersive scenes takes practice, and I’m still learning. But I hope you can improve your own writing by applying some of the tricks I’ve listed here.

Writing Challenge:
Find a scene in your current WIP that feels boring and flat. Take everything out but the basic action and the dialogue and re-write it. If there’s hardly any action, give your readers something to do. You could also experiment placing the same action in a completely different setting. Don’t hold back on details. You can trim them when you’re finished writing the scene. Compare the two scenes. Did it help?