A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

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?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are kind of a lot of things authors complain about. That’s understandable. Writing is hard. Editing is hard. Publishing is hard. Promotion is hard. Plots get tangled like those Christmas lights some of you have already gotten out. You get mediocre reviews, or bad reviews, or no reviews. You upload a cover and it ends up all shifted over to the bottom right and there’s an unexplained clipart anteater getting in the way of the title.

Writing is an overwhelming psychologically and emotionally demanding occupation. It’s easy to forget to stop freaking out over the latest plot-hole or formatting disaster and be thankful for how far you’ve come, sometimes.

If you write at all, you have something to thank God for. He gave you a passion, a talent, a mode of creative self-expression. It doesn’t matter if you’re amazing at it or get any recognition for it—you have a beautiful thing. You can paint pictures with words. That’s an art and a gift. Enjoy it, nourish it, and thank God for sharing part of his creative power with you. That’s no small thing.

I don’t introduce myself as an author. But people who interact with me enough times typically find out, eventually, that I’ve written and published several books. And they’re always excited to hear it. Unfortunately, being a bit of a Negative Nina, by the time they start asking me about it I’m already sort of shaking my head. Well, I’m really stuck right now. That new book was supposed to come out months ago. No, I just self-publish. Yeah, I’m pretty frustrated with the whole thing right now.

“Wait, you write books?”

Yeah. I write books. And that’s awesome. But I take it for granted. That’s kind of how things are. The amazing things in your life tend to get buried under all the piles of tedious, mundane, frustrating details. It’s easy to forget you’re triumphs and blessings and move right on to stressing over the next hurdle. If you write books, that’s not a little thing. That’s something that people put on their bucket-list and many never get the chance to do.

So, this Thanksgiving, stop and make yourself a list. An authorly gratitude list. Think about all the things you learned, the drafts that became whole new creatures through editing, the covers that turned out so satisfyingly evocative, the people who read your story and loved it. If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you’ve probably hit some rough places. But God was faithful, and you lived. You grew. Great things happened.

Stopping to give thanks for the little things you have will quickly make you realize just how many and how big they actually are. Thankfulness in all areas of your life will reset your thinking and prepare you to take a leap of faith.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Rainchill Cover & Blurb Reveal

So, remember that, uh…thing that chased Halcyon for several grueling blocks at the end of Lightwaste? Well, you haven’t seen that last of it.

Dronefall Three, Rainchill is finally in the process of being released. I’ve hit several delays, as usual. I realize I keep telling people “It’s coming out this month,” and not making good on that promise. I’ve got many hundreds of thousands of words worth of novel manuscripts at this point in my career, but I’m still completely baffled by how some debuting indies actually release their books on an exact date which they tell the world a year in advance.

Actually, I don’t really know how anyone plans anything a year in advance.

But I will say now, you’ve got less than thirty days to wait for Rainchill. It’s coming! So, I think it’s about time I’ve released the back-cover blurb and the cover. Take a look:

The Official Rainchill Blurb:

Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Halcyon Slavic’s brush with the hostility of mainstream society has left her scarred and wary. As the darkness of winter slowly lifts, she only wants to continue her drone-sniping in secret. But dark places are disappearing all over Budapest, and District Three Point Five can’t be spared. Soon, they’ll be under the same oppressive drone-grid Halcyon came to escape from.

In the midst of the stir, a monster of another kind emerges behind Three Point Five’s back. A canid robot takes the Enclave’s eyes from the sky to the streets. And before they can be certain what it’s come for, it’s made its first kill.

The drone-snipers are forced to face a new reality. Three Point Five is changing. Chaos lurks around every corner. The police won’t lend their aid. And the Christians are stalked by their most deadly threat to date: They’re called hellhounds.

Now, the cover isn’t actually the Official Final Cover, but this is more or less the design and the feel you’re going to get, probably plus a couple of small changes. But I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer, so here it is.

Rainchill is book three in the Dronefall series, and I’m excited to announce that, due to recent reconsiderations, it will be the third of six Dronefall books. Yes, I’ve been telling you five all this time, but as I write book four, I’m realizing that I’m going to need more room, so I’ve expanded. The Dronefall series is now plotted as a sextet.

I can tell you want hints about the content of Rainchill beyond what you’ve got. I’ll be cryptic, but I see no reason to keep any rumor-fodder from my theory-loving readers. Here are some whispers you may have heard:

·         Somebody ends up with a major injury

·         A couple of characters prove to have…complex loyalties

·         The first fatality of the series occurs

·         It becomes apparent that the dynamics between a certain two characters is going to be dangerous in the future….

Well, there you have it. There’s more to come on the subject of Rainchill, and the Dronefall series in general within the next several weeks before publication. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

  And also, if you’ve read any of the Dronefall books, or have any intention of doing so soon, I highly recommend you go here and sign up for my email list, and the free Guide to the World of Dronefall that comes with it. The guide is just my little attempt to help you get oriented in the rather complicated world where Dronefall takes place. There are a lot of forces in play, and the guide is a resource I created so that you can have all the facts in one place. It’s bound to enrich your reading experience.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Then Autumn Took Hold...

It always happens sometime around the end of August. I’ll be standing in the sun, smelling the new-mown grass, the sunscreen and the corn pollen and then suddenly…I recognize something in the slant of the sunlight. And in the middle of the close summer heat, something deep inside me whispers, “Oh boy, here it comes.”

And the mercury rises and falls and rises again, but there’s no stopping it. Fall is coming. For me, it’s one of the things that makes the merry-go-round of the year all worth it.

So, the equinox was on Monday. Specifically, it was at 3:50 am Eastern Daylight Time. That means the sun crossed the celestial equator and day and night were of equal length. Closer to home, it means my favorite season is officially underway, the leaves are allowed to start changing now, the air should get cool and crisp and start to smell like woodsmoke and spices and wet forest floor. And suddenly I feel like I’m ready to take on the world.

I don’t know the science behind that last seasonal change, but I don’t seem to be alone in the sentiment. Fall seems to be a favorite among creative types, particularly. I’ve got all kinds of plans to look forward to. Here’s an abbreviated to-do list:

·         PUBLISH RAINCHILL ALREADY!!! This is a requirement.

·         Finish writing Nightstare. This might be my NaNoWriMo goal.

·         Lay out the main events for the rest of the Dronefall series

·         Blog regularly (ehem.)

·         Write some short stories

·         Write some poetry

·         Work more on plot and character development, improve my craft, etc.

That’s just for my writing-life. I have other goals too. Like restarting the exercise regimen I dropped for no reason in June, and focusing more on my art, and my woodburning, and finishing recording that Irish tin-whistle CD, and planting bulbs, and GOING ON VACATION. It all sounds fun to me.

I sincerely hope everyone reading this is looking forward to Fall as much as I am. Set some exciting goals for yourself today and get to work on them. And then go outside and look around for the magical thing that’s starting to happen out there.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Christian Speculative Writers: Your Mission Matters

Don’t underestimate the power of this genre group. You probably do. I did. I have to admit that even though I am a diehard speculative lover not to mention an almost strictly speculative author, I only recently realized why it was so important.

Fantasy, science fiction, and futuristic genres are still somewhat neglected in the Christian market. The vast majority of modern Christian fiction still falls under “women’s fiction.” I feel like I probably rant about this all the time, so I won’t go into it again. All I’m going to say is that God created us with vast imaginative powers, and they were never meant to be limited to creating the love-interests of our dreams and stopping there. We’re made for so much more.

I don’t think it’s any accident that some of the most powerful and popular books and series of all time have been speculative fiction. The stories that draw masses of people tend to be the ones that expand our world to new horizons. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia…there is a reason those fandoms are huge. People are magnetized by the idea of worlds beyond what we know.

I think there may be a little resistance in some Christian writers and readers toward getting too creative with our fictional worlds. This is natural. It can be uncomfortable mixing the deepest truth in the universe with our own imagined realities. And yes, this is a unique challenge of Christian speculative fiction. But it certainly isn’t an insurmountable one. It is possible to create an entirely different world from what we know that doesn’t contradict any element of truth. But it takes and author with God-given wisdom and creative stamina to accomplish it.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, maybe you’d better start writing. Because Christian spec-fic is important. Here’s why:

Society has a lot of lies it’s really fond of, if you haven’t noticed. Once of these is the idea that God is small. They want to make him like all the other gods. One of many. There’s one here, one there, a different one on this island, another in that village. But the Judeo-Christian God was never and is not a local deity. They also keep saying that we’re going to grow out of him. They’ve been asserting that for a rather long time. But he’s not a god of the past. No matter how drastically the world evolves—flying cars, laser weapons, interstellar travel, nuclear war, come what may—he’ll still be the same God as he was when he hovered over the waters.

So, what does this have to do with spec-fic? Everything. This is the underlying implication in all Christian speculative fiction. You may be in a galaxy far, far away. He’d be there, and he’d be the same. You could be in another world, where reality only vaguely paralleled ours, where society was unrecognizable, where fantastic beasts roamed free under any number of moons or suns and the truth of Christianity would still be the truth. Everything can change, but God remains the same. He has no reason to adapt.

We know this for a fact. Christianity can be perfectly compatible with realities beyond your wildest imagination. A hundred years ago, our daily life would have been science-fiction. A thousand years ago, it would have been fantasy. Rome thought Christianity was a passing craze. Rome fell, and here we are, fifty years after landing on the moon.

Society thinks surely if the world as we knew it was turned upside-down, the illusion of Christian truth would dissolve. But looking at history, we know better. Our God is not just god of the mountain, or god of the temple—he’s god of the universe. He’s God of all possibility. If there turned out to be a multiverse, he’d be God of that, too.

And that’s what we, as Christian speculative writers, acknowledge. So, use that fantastic imagination of yours. Explore the far reaches of possibility. God is not small and truth is not fragile. Your sweeping speculative epics can proclaim just that. That’s the amazing mission of Christian speculative fiction. 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Writing for Christ: The Content Question

I’ve got to admit it. I really just write what I want to write. There’s a lot of discussion out there about exactly where Christian authors should draw the line in content. There’s a lot of disagreement. I’m not going to give you a do/don’t list for this. Instead, I wanted to focus on the attitudes and reasons we include some things and omit others.

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut universal answer to this question. So much depends on presentation and context and how well the author can pull it off. But most of all, your reasons for writing certain things into your story is what makes the difference. Here’s where I try not to call it on other authors I read, but sometimes, as a reader, it feels distinctly like the author is just trying to shock, or imitate some popular author’s style, or make their writing “more relevant.”

I think most authors, even non-Christian authors, agree that when it comes to content, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. A lot of readers don’t appreciate graphic gore and gratuitous slashing throughout their reading material. Most humans have a certain threshold for witnessing violence, which is a good thing and should be respected. Pushing this threshold too much is just going to contribute to the amount of trauma and desensitization in the world, which I don’t think is something authors should be doing.

Apparently, a lot of authors, even YA authors, have a little trouble knowing when to stop on sexual content. This is something I don’t expect to see at all in Christian fiction—but it still happens. Why, people? There are certain things that basically never contribute anything to the story, and nobody should ever have to watch. So, can we not? (This is part of the reason I don’t read romance. The other reason is because I find them exceedingly boring and predictable.)
Swearing is one of the items on my personal Rather Long List of Things That Are Stupid and Unnecessary. It isn’t that I haven’t heard every possible variation of the F word in real life. I have. And I still think it’s obnoxious and rude. And I tend to expect a certain amount of swearing from secular media. But I have slightly higher standards for Christian writing. Use profanity in your Christian novel and you’ll earn an instant eye-roll from me. Why? Because you don’t need it and you know it. It is not hard to exclude, and contrary to what some might try to tell you, you will never hurt your art by leaving it out. Do it right, and nobody will ever miss it.

But I’ve ranted enough. Let’s get to the bullet-points.

·         Let’s face it, it’s your story, you alone control the content. Don’t let yourself make the excuse that you story, your characters, or your genre force you to write certain things. You literally have control over every letter that goes into your book. It’s a whole universe at your command. You can manipulate every detail to your liking. You never have to write anything that goes against your conscience. You’re a creative genius, you can find a skillful way to avoid it, and make your book even better by doing so.  
·         You have your own mission. Imitating some other author will never win readers’ favor. If you think you need to include certain things in order to write a masterpiece “in the tradition of” some big-name author, you’re missing the point. God made you unique, and your writing should reflect that. Be true to yourself in your art.
·         You are not restricted by the same constraints as a non-Christian author. Something that I think we de-emphasize too often is that Christians are actually freer than the average Joe. We get to write clean fiction. We are not under the pressure that mainstream authors are. No Christian should ever have to write profanity compulsively. You do what you want. Your audience is going to root for you. He’s not going to one-star your efforts to do what’s right. He’s cool like that.
·         Here’s a mental trick: Think about this. For every gross detail you choose to include in your fiction, there is some better author writing deeper, cooler, more popular books who didn’t include that. Clean content is an advantage. If you forgo it, you’re denying yourself that advantage. Do you really want to do that?
The fact is, your book will never please everybody. There will be people getting offended by the tiniest thing on one hand and people calling you cheesy for not including offensive content on the other. That’s how people are. So, don’t focus on pleasing people. That will be depressing. Focus on pleasing God. If you wouldn’t write it with Jesus looking over your shoulder, don’t write it.
Because, don’t look now, but he’s watching.