A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Friday, July 31, 2015


They only saw one planet on their way out of the ecliptic. Silita drifted far to the starboard side. Ahead, the stars stared blankly at them, saying quite clearly, “What are you doing here?”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Learning From Novels: Marie d'Agoult's Nelida

Nelida is a romance novel, published in 1846. So why in the world would I be reading it? Therein lies a story. I’m not just a writer, but also a classical music geek. My official celebrity crush is Franz Liszt, a Hungarian pianist/composer. If you are well-read in music history, you know that Liszt was not just famous for being an unprecedented piano virtuoso, but also one of the most scandalous figures of his time as far as his love-life went.
  This novel was written by his mistress of ten years, the mother of his three children, around the time they finally broke up. It was a bestseller in its day, but probably not because it was a great book.
  So, first, I’ll discuss the novel’s problems. One of the most glaring problems is the main character. Not a good problem to have. Nelida, is impossible for me to connect with. I’ll give you a quick run-down of the plot so you know. Nelida is a ridiculously sweet, ridiculously innocent girl who befriends, in her childhood, a gypsy boy named Geurmann. (And everyone reading the book at the time knew who these two characters represented.) After a little incident with trespassing and cherry-stealing, Nelida is no longer permitted to associate with the low-bred Geurmann.
  Years later, Geurmann re-enters Nelida’s life as a successful artist, who has been preoccupied with Nelida’s portrait for the better part of his career. And, of course, they fall in love, but unfortunately Geurmann, despite his outward appearance of graciousness, is no less an uncultured peasant than he was back in the cherry orchard.
  So, here’s the issue: Nelida has no obligation, or reason to accept any of the catastrophes that proceed to befall her. She simply lacks character to stand against any of the injustice and immorality that she is crushed by. In this sense, she isn’t even as good a character as the author, who was a strong-minded individual, if somewhat nasty at times.
  Here’s the thing—your character has to have a motivation that binds them to their circumstances. For Nelida, it really isn’t love for Geurmann—in fact, until the end, you can’t really be sure that she cares for him at all. I certainly didn’t find him at all likable. Even if your love-interest does turn out to be your villain, your main character must have a reason to like them. Nelida proceeds to be walked over by Geurmann and everybody else, not because she’s trapped in any way, but because d’Agoult wants to be sure we all feel good and sorry for her, and know also, that there’s nothing good in Geurmann (Liszt).
  I was disappointed that neither she, nor Liszt’s personalities were portrayed in the novel. Even with the messy, unrealistic plot, it would have been that much more believable if Nelida had the willpower and fierce pride of Marie, and Geurmann had the magnetism and fiery spirit of Franz.
  Actually, I have to admit, in the last few chapters, she did develop Geurmann more strongly, and he was, at that point, recognizable as Liszt’s more irritating side. Also, he was away from Nelida in those last couple of chapters, which was good, because I really just can’t enjoy reading about her.
  I think separating him from Nelida also did something good for d’Agoult’s portrayal of him. Without her cherubic contrast, the author was able to depict him sympathetically. It shows when an author has some feeling for a character as a person. Even an antagonist is a person. If you have respect for their humanity, they’ll be more real.
  Finally, there were two clichés that d’Agoult impressed me by eluding. First off, Geurmann dies in the end. This is a twist, because, if d’Agoult were going to hold to stereotypes, Nelida would have been the one to go. Killing off Geurmann nicely gets rid of the problem, while not doing what we were all expecting.
  The other thing was, Geurmann didn’t actually die in Nelida’s arms. He went into a coma for a day or two. More realistic, less melodramatic.
  Overall, I wasn’t impressed. But I’ve got to say, it was an interesting read in the historical context.     

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't Do The Dress-Up Scene

I might find this cliché less cliché, if I had at some point experienced something like it in real life. Maybe this actually happens among some people, but as far as I know, it mainly happens in dumb novels.
  And even in some not-so-dumb novels. In fact, the example I’m thinking of is from none other than C.S. Lewis’s none other than Space Trilogy. In the third book, That Hideous Strength, there is a scene near the end where the ladies of the story are preparing for…a banquet, or something of the sort. (Frankly, That Hideous Plot really confused me.) They all are dressing up for the occasion in some fantastic clothes, which, though they would probably amaze me if I saw them, always fail to impress me when mentioned in this kind of context. There’s a lot of general oohing and ahhing—you know, like ladies do…about clothes.
  Okay. So I’ve revealed that I’m not a girly girl. My point is, whether or not these things actually take place among more typical humans, how hard-hitting and memorable is this scene? Of course, in Lewis’s version of this scene, they are at the same time talking about other things besides just the gorgeous gowns. If they weren’t, the scene would be absolutely superfluous, and I would be pretty disappointed in Lewis. But, seeing as the scene shouldn’t be completely deleted, what would you do to fix the predictability of it all?
  Predictability is deadly. Readers are bored to death with it. As soon as I see the author setting up for this scene I think, “Okay, here we go again.” The combination of the flurry of sumptuous lace and ruffles, girlish twitter, and perhaps some demonstration of how the characters’ relationships have developed, you really don’t have to keep reading to know what is going to happen.
  It’s important to have unique scenes in your story. The more creative your settings and situations are, the more impact they will have. It’s true. Think about times when you were in an odd place, doing something unusual. You remember times like these. When you’re an author, you have the ability to manipulate setting and situation to your advantage. You aren’t restrained to use anything just because you think it’s typical.
  If you’re going to have a scene where your female characters are talking—hopefully in a way that moves the plot—try something new, something that will engage your readers.
  Try interesting things:

·         Hiding from a freak hailstorm in a telephone booth
·         Doing maintenance on an ancient pipe-organ
·         Walking the rails on a railroad bridge
·         Swimming underneath the docks at a public beach

You get the idea I think. These kinds of scenes will force you to be creative, rather than following the molds of a hundred scenes you’ve read just like this. If more novels had more scenes like this, more novels would be unforgettable.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Rising out of Divizah’s murky atmosphere, dim lights mounted on the wings of some eerie unseen vessel could be seen off the Astronomer’s starboard wing. The ship swiftly veered as the Astronomer turned back up toward the ring system for cover. Suddenly, it sprung from the atmospheric haze and charged after them. It was enormous, but very maneuverable, and it swept forward in the Astronomer’s pursuit with the form of a headless bird.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Six Week Countdown!

From this point on, it’s only a six-week countdown until the Stardrift Trilogy will be available from Abbott Press’s website. That would date party time August 25. At last.

  You know, I’ll probably post the whole story of my adventures in subsidy-publishing once they’re over. For now, I’ll just give you a teaser, saying, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

  In the meanwhile, I’ve got one more thing. In these weeks counting down to printing and distribution, I’ll be posting snippets from the Trilogy here on As the Stars Drift interspersed along with my other posts. Stay tuned.