A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Well, The Stardrift Trilogy is now available to the public. Spread the news. You can buy the books on Amazon Barnes &Noble, and on Abbott Press Bookstore. Read it, review it, enjoy it if you can! Seven years in the making, and it's finally here!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


There was a worrisome fluttering and clanging and then silence. Presently, the seabird’s head appeared at the other end of the shelves. Without a thought, Dahskay sneaked up on it and caught it before it could fully emerge. She pulled it out gently despite its clawed feet clinging to unseen anchors behind the shelves. She tucked in the enormous wings and held it firmly against her side.

  “You got it!” whispered Cahathel in amazement, rushing to open the door.

  She glanced nervously down at the bird’s long, ponderously hooked bill as she carried it to the exit.  It didn’t threaten her with it. It just blinked and gazed steadily ahead.

  Just outside the door, she crouched down and let go of it. It fussily rearranged its wings and turned walking into the wind a couple of steps. Before it took off, it looked back at Dahskay through clear gray eyes.

  As the enormous spread of wings climbed away into the stormy sky, Zaarrveck muttered, “Strange, most of them have dark eyes.”

Learning from Novels: Agatha Christie's "The Seven Dials Mystery"

There’s a reason Christie is such a big name in murder mysteries. I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge whodunit junkie, but her work stands out brilliantly from all that I’ve read. The Seven Dials Mystery follows the mysterious deaths of two young men on the grounds of Chimneys, a huge estate being rented out be the protagonist’s father. The clues are a missing alarm clock, an unfinished letter, and the last words of one of the victims as he dies.
  Christie’s red-herrings are particularly good. She knows all about playing on a reader’s assumptions. The main character is engaging, and well-developed. I would never name a character “Bundle”, but, to each their own.
  There are an awful lot of characters introduced in the first couple of chapters of the book. It’s a good thing when a mystery has a lot of suspects, but I would complain that they were dealt a little fast, and there are a few that blend together. Most of her characters, though not described extensively, were given one or two distinguishing marks that made it possible to file them, mentally. The story starts with a prank involving eight young people, and I found myself juggling their names and faces for a while, worried that I would be expected to remember every one. Actually, only one or two of them were important to the story.
  Another thing that I found confusing was the fact that the main character wasn’t introduced until after all that. She wasn’t even one of the people present at the beginning. For a while, I didn’t know who I was supposed to follow around.
  I would rant on about the plot developments being flat out unfair to the reader, but, looking back, it was all quite clever. The worst of it was Bundle was barking up the wrong tree the whole time. You naturally assume that the main character is pretty close to getting it write near the end of the novel—but how it all turned out was nothing like what she thought.
  I really enjoyed reading the book. I’ll be reading more Agatha Christie as soon as I get my hands on it.

Friday, August 7, 2015


On the other side of the door, she stopped short and stared. The chamber’s ceiling was as high as that of the exterior hallways and it was punctuated by skylights shaped like elongated teardrops streaming from the highest point in the vaulting. Stormy blue-ish light flowed down from these windows and lit the soaring labyrinth of shelves and cabinets that kept the temple’s some twelve-million documents. The air was cool and felt like it somehow came from outside. There wasn’t a sound to be heard.

Avoiding Cliches: Don't Do The Prophesy

And don’t take my titles too literally, either. The prophecy is a very standard device in sci-fi and fantasy, particularly. It’s really not a bad thing in itself, and I used it in the Stardrift Trilogy and am using it in The Art of Lightplay, the fantasy I’m currently writing. Like practically all clichés, the prophecy can go from a predictable bore to a satisfying thrill with a little twisting.
  Authors have different ways of handling prophecies. Some write them, without context, in the beginning of their book, before chapter one. Some don’t bring them up until the plot is already moving. Some show the prophesy being told for the first time in the beginning of their story. The placement makes little difference. Do whatever you want.
  People get particularly lazy when it comes to the actual writing of the thing. Here’s where things get really predictable if you’re not careful. Things to watch out for:

·         Make sure you use natural-sounding language that matches the way people speak in your story. Please don’t use, or attempt to use Elizabethan English if you have no reason to.
·         Unless the prophesy was written by a poet—preferably one who had no idea they were writing a prophesy—please don’t rhyme it. Why would it rhyme?
·         Don’t use the term “Chosen One.” Think of something else.
·         Don’t have an old woman say it.

I could go on, but I would rather move on to talking about ingenious ways to twist it. I wouldn’t advocate throwing the whole prophecy device out of literature. People like prophesy, for some reason. And in a time when people are beginning to think history is just a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, I think it’s inspiring to know that the human spirit still wants there to be a greater destiny.
  So, ideas for manipulating the cliché to surprise people. First of all, let me say that the best model for prophesy in literature comes from the bible. The original “Chosen One” prophesy—the oldest in the world, originated there. If I wasn’t a Christian, the accuracy and detail of biblical prophesies would be one of the things that freaked me out.
  Great ideas inspired by biblical prophesy:

·         One of my favorites—the reoccurring fulfillment. The major prophesies in the bible are rarely fulfilled just once, on just one level. Some of the old testament prophets appeared to be referring to their own lifetimes—and later, Jesus Christ would fulfill them again—and in the future, some will occur yet again.
·         The blind prophet. Like I mentioned above, sometimes prophets may even seem to be referring to their own personal circumstances—but later, something cosmic happens that sheds new light on their words.
·         Occasionally, what people believed to be poetic wording turns out to be quite literal. Other times, what people expect to be literal actually implied something else
·         Sometimes, a prophesy is presented as a story. This happens constantly in the bible. The reader isn’t even told that the event—typically a true story—is going to have significance later on—then it does.

Prophesies are good ways to keep a reader guessing. They serve as foreshadows, and riddles. If the wording is more abstract, or symbolic, the reader really doesn’t get it until they look back on events. That won’t keep them from trying. And just like in real prophesy, the trying is half the fun.
  So, enjoy writing prophesies. But remember, they take mental effort. Writing a story about prophesy being fulfilled is almost as strategic as writing a murder mystery. Give it the time and thought it needs to be epic.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Dahskay slipped suddenly from the gentle hand of dreamless sleep. It was funny how every time she had awakened from any amount of sleep on this mission, she always expected to be in her room. What was even stranger was the fact that it wasn’t her room at the OAOF on Clilltar. Not even the girls’ dorm on Finzar, but her childhood home that she imagined she would see when she opened her eyes.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Creating Atmosphere

One of the greatest absences I sense in modern novels, poems, and short-stories is atmosphere. When did we lose it? Where did it go? And…why??? I don’t know that I could answer any of these questions. All I know is it’s gone, and I want it back.

   So, what exactly is this lost element, atmosphere? Atmosphere is the underlying mood or tone of a piece of art. It’s what flavors and colors a scene, or a moment, making it more than the sum of its parts. In film, the soundtrack, lighting, set, and movement of the characters are powerful contributors to atmosphere. In paintings, the composition, palette, and focus play parts. In music, the instruments, dynamics, articulation, and tempo make all the difference.

  Atmosphere really exists independently of subject-matter. A good author can take a scene in which the same characters are present, doing the same things, but make the reader feel any number of ways about it. The magic is in well-chosen details.

  The atmosphere of a scene is a combination of physical and emotional elements. Look at the scene through the eyes of your characters in reference to what their currently going through. If your main character is walking down a beach, whether they are waiting for a boat that they are confident will arrive soon, or one that they’ve heard rumors may have gone down earlier that day.

  Supposing it’s the exact same beach, the exact same time of day, and under the exact same weather conditions in both scenarios, what makes the difference? The main character’s focus, and the narrator’s descriptions set the atmosphere in this situation. Here’s the narrative for the more positive scenario:  

  He kicked along the shore, bouncing pebbles into the springy, flashing wavelets. For a few minutes he watched the minnows scatter, vaguely aware of the jeering laughter of the gulls as they took off with each other’s fish bones and trash. When the rumble of a boat faded in, he looked up, shading his eyes against the blazing sunshine. That wasn’t them, but that one scudding in off the hazy horizon could be.

And the more worrisome scene:

  A few paces from the docks, he stopped and scanned through the tethered boats. Gulls screamed through the heavy air as one by one, all the boats in the bay docked. The sun glared on the agitated water, but the horizon was dark and the incoming craft seemed to emerge from behind a dark blue curtain. Another boat droned in. His eyes snapped to it. No. That still wasn’t them.

  Some of the details are the same. Some differ. The things that stayed in both scenes were described differently. In the first scene, he idly kicked stones and noticed minnows—in the second, he got right to the point, searching for the boat. The “springy, flashing wavelets” of the first scene became “agitated water” in the second.  First, the horizon was merely hazy. Second, it was a mysterious barrio between him and those he waited for.

  Try writing some scenes like this. Try writing the same scene—possibly even one with the same dialogue—and putting it in a different context. Use the atmosphere to convey the feelings of the scenes differently.