New Book Soon

My first fantasy adventure story is coming soon. I’m looking for pre-publication readers, also known as Advanced Review Copy readers, to give feedback. It’s my hope that each ARC reader will also post an honest review on Amazon when the book is published. If you’re interested, sign up at this link.

Gates of Fire and Ash – Blurb

Gates of Fire and Ash is an adventure story set in a world limited to medieval technology after an ice age destroyed modern civilization centuries ago.

Royar Abele escapes the brutality of his father and brothers at the age of twelve when his rare ability to communicate with dogs wins him a place in the Army’s elite hundteam school. Now, sixteen-year-old Royar and his trusted dog, Felmer, are ready for their new lives as scouts.

But, he never dreamed their first mission would determine the future of the country and its people. They and their teammates deal with vicious animals, treacherous humans and deadly weather, but worst of all they face the horror and death that is the Gates of Fire and Ash.

Will they succeed where so many others have failed?


My Blog Sucks

sucking-babyFor the few that truly read this blog, I’m compelled to explain that I’ve decided to “improve” it. For the hoards that follow, but don’t read it, well, you don’t give a hoot.

I’m in the process of consolidating my online work into one location. To start, I’ve imported several dozen posts I authored as a contributor to Edgewise Words Inn.

Over time, I hope to organize the posts by logical categories and will eventually provide a table of contents based on the categories. Please excuse the inevitable screw-ups I’ll make–I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.


Feed me Seymour said Audrey II

little_shop_of_horrorsMuch like Audrey II in the Little Shop of Horrors I have a craving. While my craving isn’t human flesh, it does grow more intense as it’s fed.

My craving is feedback. When I finish a bit of writing that I’ve struggled over, I want to be fed: Did you understand his motivation? Was her coyness overplayed? Can you see where I’m going with this? Or, any one of a hundred alternative inquiries. In the end, they all boil down to: Did you like it?

Then I rewrite the piece, and it starts over again. My almost infinitely patient Alpha Reader A.K.A. wife had suffered through my addiction for more than a reasonable period when she finally had enough. “I’ll read it when you’re done. Leave me be until then.” She didn’t mean “done” as in published. She meant “done” as in “I” think it’s done. Don’t be so sensitive, I think, but I say, “Yes Dear.”

Feed me, Seymour—even the Dentist hasn’t been enough. So, I send the first chapter of my WIP to a Beta Reader client, and a literature professor to boot, and ask for her thoughts. She gives me insightful comments based on the chapter; however, they feel off as if she were reading a different story. Oh well. It’s not her genre, I tell myself.

Okay, I can do this. I quit cigarettes, ergo I can quit anything, I tell myself. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my repeated attempts to quit cigarettes failed for decades until I had a spinal cord injury and spent several months in hospitals. But that’s a different story.)  I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.

I am giving up the instant feedback craving. Because I’ve learned, I don’t truly want it. It is distracting. Positive responses are nice for a moment, but the feeling quickly subsides. Negative responses seem more meaningful at first blush but end up wasting your time focusing on things you probably would have revised without the feedback.

Is there a moral to this story? Sure, there is. Don’t seek feedback until you’ve vetted your work thoroughly. Once you’ve done that, do it once more after letting it rest a bit and reading it as you would as a beta reader and then revise again. Then you may seek feedback from third parties. Analyze the feedback and apply what feels right and throw the rest in the trash bin. Don’t keep feeding Audrey II.

I know. I won’t do it either.

David P. Cantrell © 2016.

Creativity is Strange Part 2

fog-08This is the ongoing evolution, or is it a revolution, of a short story that wants to be more.

The Gates of Fire and Ash started out as a lark. A fun concept prompted by a fellow writer. Five thousand words Rachel said. Being a woman it seems odd to say fellow, but that’s English.

Three weeks ago, I posted about my struggles with Chapter 14–I can’t believe it’s been that long–I could blame my one-fingered typing brought on by a spinal cord injury for my slow production but to be honest, I was, at best, a three-fingered typist before the injury.

The truth is my story is fighting me.

The original goal of explaining the evil crowen in Chapter 14 was usurped, and Chapter 13 was revised to do the job. Chapter 14 got our travelers settled in Road’s End and foreshadowed the Fire Cloaks that absorbed Chapter 16. Chapter 15 provided a bit of comic relief (I hope).

Okay, the next chapter, number 17 with a working title of Recon, should be easy I tell myself. Send Dallaya and Royar to gather reconnaissance from a retired guy, Teador, that lives a few miles outside of town so that a major plot point can be revealed. In the meantime, Nantor, a competitor for Dallaya’s affections, will be sent to the docks to show he’s unworthy.

Everything’s going well until our prospective lovebirds stop for lunch and their evil birds of a feather, the crowen, attack. Darn. I’m two-thirds through the chapter, and we haven’t met Teador. But, it’s okay. They’ll get to Teador’s home, get their wounds treated and in the morning we’ll learn the plot point. Nantor can wait until the next chapter.

But, noooo. Teador won’t have it. He insists on joining the quest and Chapter 17 turns into two chapters.

The slog continues. The end is shrouded in fog, and I fear it may be beyond my reach.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell



Creativity is Strange

DiceI’ve been working on a light-hearted young adult fantasy set in a medieval secular world. I’ve chosen to keep magic at bay, but I hint at mental relationships between a young man and his dog, Felmer, that might be magical. There are strange creatures, crowen, donkmarrs, and bruincats plus less odd sheeple and katle–it’s a fantasy.  I’ve been plugging away at writing the short story for several weeks now.

I started with the goal of five thousand words. That goal died a quick death–you need not worry–it didn’t suffer long. In the meantime, the story has evolved to be less about a young man reaching manhood and a young woman finding the importance of integrity in her beau and more about the value of a trusted friend. A friend that cares nothing for accolades, but wants to be treated with respect and fed regularly.

For a few days, I’ve been stumped on the next chapter (14). My rough goal is one thousand to twelve hundred words per chapter. My team of seekers has reached an interim stop point at Road’s End, and I started the chapter with the idea of describing the scene and explaining what crowens are.  A few hundred words in my mind. How do I complete the chapter I asked myself over and over again. Then Felmer demands attention and a few hours later I’m 780 words into the chapter and haven’t dealt with the crowen or set up the next challenge.

I love writing, but I don’t understand it at all.

(c) 2016 by David P. Cantrell

Writing is a Process

My friend, Connie J. Jasperson, shares her ideas about the writing process in this blog and in doing so perfectly captures my feelings about writing. If you’re a writer or a reader, I think you’ll enjoy her article.

#amwriting: learning from the masters: Kurt Vonnegut

Writer’s Contest $$$$

Would you like to test your skills and have an opportunity to win real money? If so, look into this contest for English-language writers from anywhere in the world. Last year there were about 250 entries in total, so your odds aren’t bad. Categories include Short Fiction (1,000 to 1,200 words), Flash Fiction (up to 500 words), Poetry (up to 40 lines, and Screenwriting (up to 20 pages.)  The submission deadline is July 15, 2016, and a small entry fee (up to $20) is required for each entry. All submissions must be original unpublished work. Please read the contest rules and submission guidelines carefully.

Central Coast Writer’s Contest Link – Click here


Italics or What

I had an email discussion with a friend that happens to be an experienced editor and author regarding when italics should be used to indicate a special type of dialogue. Her issue had to do with a telepathic conversation between two characters.

The issue brought to mind books I’ve read where italics were overused (in my opinion) to indicate internal dialogue, called unspoken discourse in the Chicago Manual of Style. But, I’ve also seen it overused for communication over radios, and for messages shared with a reader. By messages, I mean things like e-mails and letters that are presented to the reader as if they were reading the original.

I happen to have temporary (but legal) access to the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style. So, I looked up its advice on the issue. I’m paraphrasing here, but in paragraph 13.41 CMS states that internal dialogue can be double quoted or not quoted at all depending on context or the writer’s preference. Italics aren’t mentioned in the paragraph.

I searched the CMS index for italics and found the typical recommendations to use them for emphasis, titles and foreign words, but nothing about using them to distinguish long sections of prose from normal prose. In fact, paragraph 7.47 advises to use italics sparingly and rarely in a sentence length and never in a long passage.

In the Q&A section CMS gave the following answer to a question regarding the format of text messages in a manuscript:

“A. Unless a designer wants to create a special typography for text messages (as is sometimes done in books for children and young adults), just use quotation marks. It’s never been considered necessary to have a separate style for phone conversations, e-mails, or other types of communication, and texts are nothing new in this regard. The context should make it clear: “how r u,” he texted; “ha ha Daddy I can’t believe you use ‘r u,’” she replied.”


My conclusion is that italics should be used only for emphasis and then sparingly. Of course my conclusion supports my dislike for long passages of italics. I find them distracting.

I’d love to hear your opinions.


Scales L-HI’ve been writing a lot of short fiction since I joined Edgewise Words Inn. It’s been a good learning experience partly because of feedback from my co-contributors but also from the act of writing itself.

I like writing, it stimulates my mind. I hate writing, it taxes my brain. Let me explain.

I’m forced to one-finger type because of an old injury. I start writing and thoughts come to mind much faster than my brain can direct my index finger. My mind is a battering ram, breaking through gates to reach the damsel of creativity, but my brain misses keys or hits abd instead of and, as a result I see a red underline which raises a battlement to thwart my efforts.

More times than not, the damsel dies from neglect—she’s a fragile creature.

I often find myself staring at my keyboard, but not the keys. I’m in the zone, formulating an idea. The idea bubbles and boils for a time before my finger is put to work. Once the thought is typed I read it, maybe switch things around and reread it. Too often the thought is crap, I delete it and ask myself: what were you thinking?

Still I plug away and now and then a story gets completed, typically after a few glasses of wine. It’s a great story in my mind, actually perfect, so I give up and go to bed.

Daylight and sobriety reveal many flaws that weren’t visible the night before. Incomplete thoughts and other missteps standout like a scarecrow in a plowed field. So, the first rewrite starts. One rewrite is never enough. Ten rewrites seem to be a minimum unless I work with an editor; even then I need at least five rewrites.

The process goes something like this:
1. Write story,
2. First rewrite,
3. Wait a day or two,
4. Second rewrite
5. Submit to editor,
6. Third rewrite,
7. Re-submit to editor,
8. Fourth rewrite.
9. Want to re-submit to editor, but afraid they’ll never work with me again, so I wait a day or two.
10. Fifth and final rewrite because I’m out of time.

Still, I like writing—no I love writing. I love the stimulus and the people I’ve met along the way among other things. I also love and appreciate reader feedback.

Good or bad, feedback is mother’s milk to a writer. It nourishes our inner muse and keeps us at it. If you golf, you know what I mean, it’s the one shot of the day that makes it all worthwhile. If you’re a seamstress, it’s the garment that blends fit, style and skill perfectly. Enough of the strained metaphors you might be thinking and if you shared that thought with me in a comment field, I’d be as happy as guacamole on a corn chip.

My Book is in Rehab

chopping-blockIn July 2014, I took the plunge and published a book on Kindle Direct Publishing. The title was Disturbance: The Vetting. I felt trepidation, but all journey’s start that way. And, I had nothing to lose but my time–I thought. But in fact, I had my self-confidence at risk.

My friends and family liked my book. They expressed joy that I wrote such an interesting story with intelligent characters. Excited, I followed every sale on Kindle and Createspace with dreams of success.

I waited impatiently for the reviews to pour in. Five and four stars were my expectations, but any review were welcome. Alas, the sales dropped off and the reviews from unknown readers stopped at two.

I needed to promote my book I thought. So, I joined Facebook groups formed by like-minded authors. I loved the contact with other authors struggling to get their work in front of an appreciative audience. We were siblings joining hands to defend each other from the greed of the Big Five.

Then reality took a dump on my front porch. A couple of my nicer siblings pointed out that my masterpiece was in need of therapy, intensive therapy at that. I was getting honest feedback. It was what I had hoped to get from my friends and family. Sadly my friends and family know less about writing a novel than I do, or more likely, they were too kind to tell me the truth.

I truly appreciated the informed feedback I received from experienced writers. I don’t always agree, but I always listen.

Disturbance: The Vetting was pulled off the market in January, 2015. At that point, I was about 80% done with the second book that would have completed the story.  I haven’t spent much time on the book since then.

I happily allowed myself to be distracted from the book by becoming a co-blogger on Edgewise Words Inn. I’ve enjoyed the blogging experience and learned from my co-bloggers, Connie J. Jasperson and Lee French.

Today I finished the rewrite of my first book’s Chapter 7. I had previously incorporated editorial comments into the the first through seventh chapters and I had thought I was making progress. But I’ve now ripped 1,190 words out of Chapter 7’s original 7,726 words. I feel great about it. Chapters 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 should get ready for the same treatment. Then it’s on to part two.

I feel empowered and refreshed. A friend and mentor told me to set a story aside for awhile and then look at it with fresh eyes. I think I’m finally seeing the wisdom of her advice.