Writing

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." ~ Thomas Mann

What I’m Doing

Time for an update! It’s been a different and unusual kind of year for our family after losing my husband and the boys’ dad last summer, lots of feelings to deal with while trying to find our new normal, establishing new traditions while reflecting on and honoring old ones. I’m quite proud of how our family is transitioning to the new route.

For now, I am working part-time where I used to long ago. But one of my immediate goals is to grow my editing business and provide stellar service to many more clients. (You’ll want to visit the page for Eagle Eye and learn about all the services available.)

I have some fantastic plans for my Eagle Shadow series in the future, but…patience, patience. My current creative project is a Southern Baptist comedy book. My inspiration for this project is a secret only a few people know! But suffice to say (or is it ‘sufficeth to say’ or ‘suffice it to say’? Not gonna research it now. Pick your favorite.) you’re gonna just love Pastor Eugene Romans and his colorful congregation. I have been attending a writers critique group since last fall, and so far they have loved what they’ve heard of it. Their great comments and laughter at all the right parts have been encouraging me—or shall we say egging me on. It’s been a great experience as well to hear their creative works read aloud and to learn how to critique. It makes us all better writers. I highly recommend that all authors find such a group.

I’ve also had the opportunity to read a lot more books than I’ve had in recent years (books of my choice, not for homeschool prep). Some of my favorites have been: a couple Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (you see me advancing in age-level as I go!), Lake Wobegon Days, The Secret, rereading The Jackrabbit Factor, and I’m currently on my way through Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. My two most favorite and life-transforming books I’ve read this year (for obvious reasons) are: Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander and Talking to Heaven by James Van Praagh, both #1 New York Times bestsellers. What amazing books about the ‘other side’.

And recently, my boys and I realized a bucket list dream when we spent two weeks touring London and Paris. For purposes of this blog, I will just mention a couple of our literary adventures: the Treasures of the British Library exhibit where we saw the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, and many other historical writings dating to the 300s A.D., and the famed Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris where we squeezed through tight hallways lined with tons of books and saw the tumbleweeds (writers-in-residence) at work. It was truly a wonderful gift for us to have this opportunity together and to make better memories than last year at this time of year. We came home with a bigger-world perspective and new resolve going forward. Till next time…

“Into Your Thought” by David Davis

A Valentine’s gem from David “Harley” Davis

If I send you a flower

You can throw it away

But the thought will not wither

Only linger

 I could send you a timepiece

And by your neglect stop its pace

But not forevermore

The thought will keep its own time

Vintage key and letterI could send you a note

And by your hand alone

It lay crumpled in waste

But the thought lay indelibly there

I could send you my heart

And unrequited it breaks

And no thought to heal

And I perish evermore.

“I’m Calm” — Tribute to David “Harley” Davis

Stay in the BoatThe world lost a great poet, photographer, and artist this year when my husband, David “Harley” Davis, passed away in July from complications resulting from leukemia. How I miss his talent and creativity, his uncanny ability to find and bring home the unusual and rare antiques, and introduce the rest of us to ideas and worlds we never knew existed. While going through his many treasures and writings this summer, it was especially touching for me to come across poems he’d written that I’d never read before, including this one, a message directly to me from eternal worlds. What better way to pay tribute on my blog, I thought, than by sharing his own words, written October 3, 2014 from his hospital bed, at the beginning of his treatments. These words have been a secret treasure to me these last few months, but it’s time to share them with others now. I’ll let his own words take it from here:

 

“I’m Calm”

 

I’m calm as a summer morning

A time when dews distill

On ground alert with creatures

That graze on a distant hill.

 

I’m calm as whispering heather

That sing in a highland breeze

I’m calm as a crystal lake

With images that mirror me.

 

No greater peace have I then

Where angels came to tell

I’m calm as a summer morning

When Father found me well.

 

Fear not this sad refrain then

Time goes ever on

Beats warmly rich responding

Our hearts are ever calm.

 

No love is lost forever

No psalm is silent sung

No bells go unnoticed

When they ring together as one.

 

I’m calm to see my Master

Embrace him, linger there

I’m calm to see my mother

And enjoy her perfect fair.

 

I’m calm as a summer morning

Feet dangle in celestial foam

On heavenly beaches lapping

A familiar din back home.

 

At last the stars are sparkling

And brighten my heavenly shore

I’m calm and await my darling

And will love thee ever more.

Creative Accountability Group

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

I have been part of an online creative accountability group for two months. Each day we post our goals for the day regarding writing, art, and filmmaking endeavors, with each person addressing his or her own type of creativity. At the end of the day, we report how we did. We also share work, offer critique, and cheer each other on. The best part? The group consists only of the members of my immediate family. We know what each other is working on, and it’s a delight to share details in an exclusive group of those we trust. Sure, our critique may sometimes be subjective, but it is the steadiest critique we receive. It can be a strengthening, empowering process to have those closest in our lives, who are also knowledgeable in what we’re doing, to be the first to vet a project before it moves on to other non-biased panels of experts. But mainly, our group effort was born out of a need for more accountability and accomplishment. And it has worked to that end. We have each made more progress in two months than we had previously done.

If you want to start such a group, use whatever medium works for you. We use the Facebook private inbox feature. Although we currently live in the same house, we wanted something that felt “official”, yet we wanted it to be simple enough that we would likely stick with it. Accountability is vital in the creative fields where much of our work is done alone. Look for a person or group wherever you can find one, on or offline, and don’t discount those closest to you. You don’t even have to be working on similar projects to gain the benefit of reporting your progress to another.

“Whiplash”–Disturbing or Inspiring?

Clapboard & cinema reel

As Oscar season approaches us again, I want to draw attention to a fine movie that was nominated last year for best picture, an independently made film that had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive critical and box office acclaim. “Whiplash” is the story of a young, talented drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), studying at a music conservatory, and his merciless mentor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), whose methods of drawing out the best in his students venture into abusive territory (think Simon Cowell with singing contestants, except add blood). Although audience members may sway back and forth between respect and annoyance, and dare I say, amusement at Fletcher’s extreme personality and methods, I know of several people, myself included, who report that the movie ends up inspiring the creativity in us. We need that toughness, I think, to bring out what simply cannot be discovered in us with just family and close friends telling us, “You’re great. You’re the best.” That kind of biased critique is what leads the unsuspecting to embarrass themselves in front of crowds, or to self-publish books that have not been vetted by the professional world.

I always am in favor of accepting honest and helpful, yes, even brutal critique. Of course, it’s hard, but if you want to be a professional, you will have much harder things to deal with in your career than critique that might hurt. Suck it up and take your medicine!

There is a fine line, though, between helpful critique and flat-out abuse. The kind dished out by Fletcher would break the dreams of the most flimsy creators. I’m not sure that that’s a good thing. Many who might give up under those circumstances may actually be geniuses in waiting who need not only the brutal critique but also some uplifting encouragement. My feelings about Fletcher’s methods can be summed up by addressing one telling scene near the end of the movie. Fletcher famously says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than, ‘Good job.’” I would say that the seven most powerful words in the English language are, “Good job…but it could be better.”

 

Website Recommendations for Writers

Quill pen and letters

Happy New Year to everyone from the Eagle’s Quill! I trust that we’re all making some writing-related resolutions and plowing ahead with them. Let’s get started this year with some website recommendations. These are just a few of the many out there that are excellent helps for writers. These are my personal favorites, and I bet you will gain fantastic insight from them as well.

Novel Writing Help – novel-writing-help.com – “Writing a novel just got easier” they promise on their front page. Yep, it works as they say. Over 200 articles on everything from craft to industry subjects, and all totally free!

Authors Think Tank – foreverwriters.com – They’re havin’ some fun over there. I love how many of their articles draw on well-known books and movies to teach a concept.

Writers in the Storm – writersinthestormblog.com – Another wealth of great how-to articles, something for everyone.

Live Write Thrive – livewritethrive.com – Novelist/editor C.S. Lakin covers the basics and beyond.

Authors Publish Magazine – authorspublish.com – A free email magazine for writers. Sign up for news regarding the latest publishers accepting submissions, as well as writing help and industry news.

Sprint Writers Central – sprintwriters.blogspot.com – Need some accountability and camaraderie with other writers? Use this site to communicate with writing buddies and set some goals for writing sprints. They tell you right on the front page how it works.

Have a great writing year, and feel free to share your favorite sites with us in the comments.

“Game of Lives” Book Launch with James Dashner

James Dashner book signing

My sons and I attended another book launch of New York Times bestselling author James Dashner, this time for “Game of Lives”, the third book in the “Eye of Minds” trilogy. He was personable and entertaining as always at the end of what must have been an exhausting whirlwind book tour. He’s been putting out a book a year, a good pace for a career author, and a good goal for me I believe.

He addressed those readers who don’t approve of how Hollywood has changed some of his stories when made in movie form. He wisely separates what he calls “book world” and “movie world” and assured fans that they should just enjoy the movies for what they are, that the books will always be there. Hollywood will never be able to change one word of his books. I was impressed with the concept he has. Writers and filmmakers–we are all storymakers, eager to entertain and provide escapism for the masses.

I speak your language, Mr. Dashner, which is why I was slightly giddy when he said he will love to see me at LDStorymakers Conference next year!

“Locks” a Halloween story

Vintage key and letterToday I welcome 15-year-old guest writer Tristan Davis to the Eagle’s Quill. Here is a short Halloween story he wrote entitled “Locks”. Happy Halloween!

Antique books & keys

9:15 at night, a man enters his house, locking the door behind him and putting the key in its designated spot. Just like all the other locks in his house with keys in their own designated spots. He follows a nightly routine that he has had ever since this house became his, which must have been so long ago that it’s as if it has been erased from his memory.

The house never felt like home. It never felt right. He didn’t know why, but it didn’t really matter anymore. A house was a house, his job was a job, and life was life.

It’s 9:30. After reading the paper and eating a small dinner, at 9:45, he prepares himself for sleep. 10:00, the air feels cold tonight, but maybe an extra blanket will help. 10:30 he is lying awake, 11:00 is the same, 11:30 is darker, and 12:00 comes sleep. Nightmares wake him at times during the night, and the sound of his newspaper crashing to the floor downstairs must have been caused by the wind coming through the window last night…wait. Why was the window open last night? This man never forgets to check the windows and doors each night.

Another day happens. The man enters his house, locks the door, puts the key away. Routine again. Now sleep. Late this time: 10:15. The feelings that come during sleep this time are just nonsensical. Sometimes there is that slight change of the air currents which lets a person know of a presence in the room. So why do the air currents tell him there is something blocking the doorway to his room? Something standing in the doorway. Crossing the threshold. No, he can’t open his eyes now; he has to get the needed sleep for tomorrow’s day. But how, when there is company? How can he sleep when there is a small draft tickling his nose? When the draft feels warm, a gross kind of warm, like breath, and starts to feel exactly like breath that maybe it is?

Okay, he opens his eyes and to his surprise is greeted by nothing. Well, of course.

And then a shadow rushes past and the door slams, and why was the door open in the first place?

Another day and he can’t stop thinking. Of his…dream last night. But he knows it wasn’t a dream, that’s just what he is forcing himself to accept it as.

Back in bed at 10:30. Off schedule again. That never happens. Is he losing his punctuality or his mind?

Well, if sleep won’t come then he might as well sit up and read. Scratch that, the lamp is broken. The batteries were replaced three days ago. Maybe he accidentally bought the kind that are only good for three days. And he didn’t know such a battery even existed until now. Wait, not batteries. Light bulbs.

Another day. Not even a blink of sleep last night. He doesn’t leave the house today.

Another night. Now he is constantly shutting that stupid door that keeps opening. He locks it, hurling the key out the window which was already open, but that doesn’t stop this thing that opens the door anyway.

He is losing track of how many days he’s been in this house since he locked himself in, secluding himself from the outside world. But at this point, he can’t comprehend the existence of an outside world.

It’s getting worse.

The man tries to do the unexpected to see how the thing reacts. He unlocks every lock in the house. Doors, chests, cabinets. Then suddenly everything is locked up again, every key back in its designated spot.

Another time (night, day, no difference now), the man hears footsteps running all over the house.

His hair has grown long. He has a full beard and crazy, red eyes that have crusted themselves open.

Eventually the man has turned his whole house upside-down. He has unlocked everything. He didn’t know what he was looking for. Differences maybe? But how can he spot differences now that his house is in complete disorder?

One night, he sees it. The thing is standing right in front of him. Like a person. It is a person, a man who looks unlike anything he had ever seen. Long hair, crazy eyes, and a bullet hole in his forehead. The ghost looks so extremely angry that he would kill someone just to take out his anger.

GET OUT! The ghost is yelling. GET OUT!

The man’s ears are melting, at least he feels like they are. GET OUT! The same words are echoing throughout his brain. His ears are painfully ringing. He is getting cold. He tries to escape his house, but the front door is locked. The key has a designated spot, but it never crosses his mind to look there for it. Maybe the key isn’t even there anyway. Maybe it’s somewhere in the rubble of his house. Or the door is unlocked and he doesn’t have the strength to turn the knob. GET OUT! His head might explode. He crawls his way up to the attic, shutting the door behind him. No time to lock it. The attic reeks of dead bodies. He is focused on only one thing right now. He shuts his eyes as hard as he can while the ringing in his ears continues, takes the gun he grabbed, points it at his forehead, and pulls the trigger.

Everything is gone. The feeling of freedom overwhelms him. He is not a helpless animal anymore, just a ghost. He floats around his attic and realizes he is still in his house. He wanders around, finding that everything is back in order. Everything is locked again and the keys are where they should be. He’s finally alone. Nothing will harm him.

Then he hears someone fumbling with the front door. A man enters, locking the door behind him and putting the key in its designated spot.

Need Help Getting Motivated Creatively?

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.” ~ Thomas S. Monson

Isn’t that a marvelous quote? Doesn’t it just make you want to go create something?

At our house creativity often strikes in the middle of the night. Not sure why, except I have read that creative people tend to be night owls. Here’s my son burning the midnight oil doing filmmaking in the backyard studio.

Burning the Midnight Oil

My husband has done some of his best painting during all-night sprints, and I would venture a guess that 90 percent of my book writing is done between midnight and 2 a.m. Whenever the mood strikes you, don’t resist! Creativity rules!

Focus on Poetry: “The Elk”

The icy, cold gray post-holiday winter season can be made so much more warm and beautiful with a cozy blanket and a powerful, gracefully written poem. To that end, I bring you “The Elk”, a brand new, original poem by my husband David Davis, who goes by Harley Davis. It’s a fine example of using alliteration and lilting rhythm to conjure up a serene, wild setting and a frozen, magical moment in time. I love how the final stanza brings the reader into the ‘now’, almost making one wonder, did it really happen or was it a dream?

 

Bugling elk in Yellowstone

“The Elk” by Harley Davis

The breaking of crusting snow
and the chill of rushing wind
the clatter of brittle leaves below
I pulled my wrap tighter in.

The frozen moisture of my deep breath
obscures my stealth uneasy walk
it forms a veil upon my chest –
like a winter scarf where warmth is not.

I steal around the weathered wood
too close as a snag takes my arm
now gray from days it has long withstood
in the woods near my grandfather’s farm.

The snag gives a snap and me a start
and a jabbing finger is the thump in my chest
adding threat upon threat to my now racing heart
and angst in this challenging quest.

Yet I find the majestic creature there
and my deep breath is held within
while a snort from the beast parted the air
as a loud unpleasant din.

He raised his massive head my way
I raised my lens to meet his glance
and shuttered to think would spook him away
and lose my stealthy wooded chance

to capture the beast and there mount him
on the wall in the hall of my home
but I shifted my weight on a weathered limb
and at once stood in the deep woods alone.

He sprang into life and targeted me
as the clattering shutter fired on
the view in my finder of him running free
as my words condensed on the air, “he’s gone”

I put two fingers between my teeth
and placed my tongue the way I was taught
the shrill whistle arose beneath
and stopped the beast where he did not

advance deeper into the thicketed wood
and spoil my last and rarest and best
I took aim again and frozen stood
brought the lens slowly down on his chest

and fired the trigger that shattered the air
with shutter-clatter that day in the wood
when I stole the creature’s majestic heir
the image is silent but the memory was good.

That memory now hangs in the hall on the wall
of my cabin near the home of my kin
the beast still reigns and bugles his call
inviting me to come back again.